Week of July 2, 2006
Q: What are your thoughts regarding the new HD-DVD and Blu-ray high definition video discs?
-Thaddeus Mark, Castle Shannon, PA
A: HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc (BD) are the two new formats competing to be the high-definition video disc of the future. Each promises to provide much better picture quality than standard DVD. The formats are not compatible. HD-DVD players will not play Blu-ray discs, and vice-versa. (Think Beta vs. VHS again.) You can buy the Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD player for $500. The only Blu-ray player currently available, the Samsung BDP-1000, is $1,000.
I recently saw demonstrations of both. The Blu-ray demo was at a top-notch home theater specialty shop. It used a front projection system and a prototype Sony player, and was led by Sony executives using custom-made demo material. I saw a regular production HD-DVD player with a 50″ plasma TV in a Best Buy store. Both looked great to my eyes. Obviously, the Blu-ray demo was bound to be more impressive given the environment and demo material, but even taking this into account I was very impressed and left with no reason to believe Blu-ray would be anything but incredible in production form.
Given that the demonstrations used radically different equipment, software and surroundings, I did a little follow-up research online and was shocked at what those who own both formats have to say about their real-world experience.
Based on the first round of reports, the HD-DVD format is garnering praise, but Blu-ray is garnering almost universal scorn from reviewers and enthusiasts alike. Reviewer Evan Powell of projectorcentral.com commented of Blu-ray, “The image quality does not measure up to what we would expect from a high definition source, and it certainly falls short of the hype.”
At the AVS Forum, home theater buffs had even harsher comments, some calling it “Blur-ray” or “Blew-ray”. A sampling of their (at times colorful) comments: “There’s no getting around the fact that, at this time, BD is not as good as HD-DVD,” ” I watched one and a half movies when I realized that they look horrible… needs to go to the scrap heap,” “This has to count as one of the greatest AV disappointments I can remember!” “Bottom line is BD in its current form is a turd, ” “I took it back after 2 days…. I just couldn’t justify keeping the Samsung when I considered what I’m getting from the Toshiba at half the price,” “There is no question on this great earth that of the current “boxes” Blu-ray is 100% crap, I went and with my own eyes saw the Best Buy display and it was laughable, who in their right mind would EVER like this?!” “the (Blu-ray) video hardly even looked high def,” “The Best Buy department manager came over to speak to me. He readily acknowledged that the entire staff has been FAR more impressed with the HD-DVDs they’ve seen.” and “Too much money, too little performance. It went back!” You can read these and more comments under the Blu-ray Player and HD-DVD Player forums at www.avsforum.com.
The bad launch does not mean Blu-ray is doomed, as more movies and players are to come, and they are likely to improve. Industry politics and money will play a role in the format war, too. In two weeks- more on HD-DVD, Blu-ray, and DVD.