Do you have an old VCR gathering dust in the garage? How about a laser disc? Or Betamax? If you do, it might be time to think about clearing some space for your DVD player, because the battle for next-generation video format supremacy is about to hit your living room.
There are two competing technologies vying for your support, one with a fancy name, the other with an acronym you’ll recognize. They are essentially the same thing; compact discs with greatly increased storage capacity, but it seems likely that only one of Blu-ray or HD-DVD will survive.
Blu-ray – Named after the blue 405 nanometer laser used to write and read information on them, Blu-ray discs look exactly the same as the CDs and DVDs we have now. Supported by Apple, Sony, Dell, Samsung, Panasonic, Phillips, Pioneer, LG-Electronics and Mitsubishi, Blu-ray is the format of choice for the world’s largest electronics companies. The video game industry for the most part is also on board, the most notable example being the exclusive use of Blu-ray by the Sony PlayStation 3. They are faster and will be able to store more data (50GB) than HD-DVD competitor (30GB).
HD-DVD – They look the same as the old discs and use the same blue laser as Blu-ray. So the factor that could drive the market towards HD-DVD is backwards compatibility. All HD-DVD players will still be able to play regular DVDs, which is sure to appeal to those who have built up a large collection. Also on the side of HD-DVD is the film industry with Universal, Warner Brothers, New Line and Paramount showing support. Coupled with the support of the major players in the IT industry – Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo, Microsoft, Intel – it’s an HD-DVD game to lose.
So why switch from DVD? Both formats guarantee picture and sound quality that is much better than the current standard. In terms of online movie rentals, Netflix and Blockbuster Online now rent both Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs for the same price as regular DVDs. Another potential benefit to users is increased storage space. Some companies charge extra for shipping the special features, claiming increased shipping costs for a second disc; a practice that would be eliminated if everything came to one.
So if you don’t currently have a Blu-ray or HD-DVD player as part of your home theater system, you’ll soon be asked to make a decision. And when you do, be sure to choose carefully; there’s a one-in-two chance you’re buying nothing more than a very expensive piece of electronics history.