Dear Diary: Blu-ray or HD DVD?
EH writer Rebecca Day gives an exclusive peek into her personal journey through the Blu-ray/HD DVD format war.
Blu-ray or HD DVD
January 18, 2008 by Rebecca Day

When I got this assignment, the idea was to compare watching movies on Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, the two competing high-definition DVD formats. At the time, both were posting impressive gains, and instead of choosing one format over another, I bought a combination player that would play both discs. During the short course of the project, the content picture shifted, and now we—like many curious consumers—are wondering how the Blu-ray/HD DVD battle is going to shake out. Here’s how our experience went down.

January 2, 2008
After studying, saving and waiting altogether too long for a high-def disc player, I am now the thrilled owner of a BH200—LG’s second-generation combination Blu-ray/HD DVD player. All those HD DVD, Blu-ray and regular DVD discs I’ve accumulated over the past couple of years won’t stump my BH200, because I’m compatible with all of ’em—and with CDs to boot. Who cares if I paid more than I would have if I’d bought separate stand-alone Blu-ray and HD DVD players? I can play back both discs from one, space-saving box.

January 5, 2008
I’m depressed. It’s the kind of malaise that sets in when you’re afraid that yesterday’s prized purchase has become obsolete before you’ve even taken it out of the box. On my way out to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I read that Warner Home Video, previously agnostic when it came to the HD DVD/Blu-ray battle, is dumping HD DVD and converting solely to Blu-ray. Warner was a major player in the supply of HD DVD content, and I’m afraid I might have paid a very large sum of money for a player that will ultimately have only one type of disc to play. My peers in the press are already sounding the death knell for HD DVD, and the folks at Blu-ray backer Sony—forever smarting over the VHS/Beta battle—are positively giddy over Warner’s snubbing of HD DVD. My media friends, meanwhile, are consoling me. “At least you still have a Blu-ray player,” they say sympathetically.

January 10, 2008
I’m not throwing in the towel on HD DVD yet. I paid too much money for my combi player and am still in denial (but not too much in denial to notice that HD DVD’s flag-waver, Toshiba, did not introduce any new HD DVD models at its CES press conference, and the HD DVD Promotional Group canceled its event at the show altogether). After all, HD DVD still, for now at least, has Paramount (including DreamWorks, Nickelodeon and MTV Films), which pulled a similar move last summer, when it ditched Blu-ray for HD DVD.

January 11, 2008
I devoted today to the Blu-ray/HD DVD face-off. I have discs of Planet Earth and Flags of Our Fathers in both formats, and now that I have a combi player, I can determine which produces the better experience. At least, that was the plan. Fact is, after viewing the same scenes on discs of both formats, I’d be hard-pressed to declare a superior format. They both deliver a terrific picture—not exponentially better than standard DVD but definitely a step up—and each disc offered the same supplemental features. I may have noticed some slight banding on the HD DVD side on blue skies in the Planet Earth desert scenes, but maybe I was looking for it. My friends wouldn’t have noticed a difference.

January 13, 2008
HD DVD has always touted the inherent Internet connectivity of its format as an advantage, so I pulled out a NetGear HomePlug kit I had and plugged one adapter into the back of the LG player as described in the setup instructions and another adapter into my router. The two would find each other automatically, the NetGear instructions promised. My TV showed an Internet connection icon, which I assumed meant we were online, but when I tried to access the Web-enabled features on the HD DVD version of the movie 300, I got a message that read “error: 417,” followed by instructions to go to the Warner Home Video web site for tech support.

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