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Monday, October 23, 2006

Beta vs VHS: Round 2 for the Digital World

A new BusinessWeek report discusses the latest battle in video players fighting for high-tech, digital savvy consumers. DVD seems to be the popular choice in video media formats for the moment, but others are creepin up. From this article, seems to me compatibility issues may still hinder wider acceptance of these new technologies. And let's not forget the (up to) $1000 price tag on these next-gen players. I'll need to check these out in person, and maybe its the skeptic in me but I don't think the tech is that overwhelming to justify a total switch and repurchase of the many DVD's I have on one of these new formats. After all, I'm still plotting on when to buy my first plasma-screen TV. Baby steps.

Article via BWonline:

The resolution on DVD players is light-years behind what the latest crop of high-definition televisions can do. The next-generation video formats, Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD, have 5 to 10 times the capacity of old DVDs. Ready to switch? Here's the catch: Blu-ray won't work in HD-DVD players and vice versa. Manufacturers have hinted that future players could show both, but for now you'll have to choose sides.

Four of the seven major Hollywood studios support the Blu-ray format exclusively, while only one, Universal, has taken HD-DVD's side. (Warner Bros (TWX ). and Paramount work with both.) Blu-ray discs hold a maximum of 50 gigabytes, HD-DVD,just 30 gigabytes. Advantage: Blu-ray.

Blu-ray players hitting the market, such as Sony's (SNE ) BDP-S1 ($999), are twice as expensive as entry-level HD-DVD models. (All prices are suggested retail except where otherwise noted.) The only Toshiba model with 1080p output, which all the Blu-ray players have, is also priced at $999, however. Toshiba says it will be cheaper to manufacture HD-DVDs than Blu-ray discs, but Blu-ray folks dispute that. Advantage: HD-DVD.

When a new technology first hits the market, you can be sure it will have bugs. Case in point: Samsung's BD-P1000 ($750 from online discounters), which shipped with a bad chip that marred its image quality. (Samsung says it is fixing the problem.) Meanwhile, HD-DVD champion Toshiba (TOJBF ) is already unveiling its second round of players, the HD-A2 ($499) and HD-XA2 ($999, available in December), sporting sleeker profiles, faster startup times, and better remote controls. Advantage: HD-DVD.

It's not all about movies. Sony's PlayStation 3 ($499, available in mid-November) will double as a Blu-ray player. Not to be outdone, Microsoft (MSFT ) is offering an add-on HD-DVD player for its Xbox console ($200, available in mid-November). If the PS3 is a hit, it will help Blu-ray. Advantage: Blu-ray.

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