HD-DVD Launch


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Well today is the launch of the first next generation video format HD-DVD.  Best Buy broke the street date and sold some players yesterday and the day before, but today is the offical date.



There is only one player available right now and that's the Toshiba HD-A1.  The player is priced at $499 and includes an HDMI cable, and also acts as a decent upscaling DVD player from early reports.  The player supports only 720p and 1080i HD resolutions and cannot output a 1080p picture even if the movie supports it.


The available HD-DVD titles that have been released today are


The Last Samurai
Serenity
The Phantom of the Opera
Million Dollar Baby


Here are some user pictures

Serenity HD-DVD:
The image “http://www.strangereaction.com/imagehost/albums/userpics/10020/Serenity1.JPG” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.



1080i Upscaling



Some guy outside of Best Buy
The image “http://www.soulfulsunday.com/IMG_2457.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.


For an extensive discussion and hands on reports you can check out this thread on the AVS Forums.


Extra Notes
These first releases DO allow an HD signal (720p, 1080i) to be passed over the component output, HDMI is not necessary.  However, the player does have the copy-protection mechanisms built in, so later on down the line when movies turn on the copy-protection you WILL need to use HDMI and hook it up to an HDMI-equipped television that supports HDCP.
This post was edited by Omar on 4/18/2006 10:41 AM
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Some reviews have been coming in with some professional opinions of the Toshiba HD-A1.  These are:

HDBeat
DVD Town
High-Def DVD
CNet

All the reviewers have pretty much the same opinion

Positives

Awesome picture quality.  The colours are very deep and bright with the best blacks around.  There's absolutely no compression artifacts or weirdness during fast motion.  And the detail found in the extra resolution can be a sight to behold.  Extra menu features are quite slick with the ability to change chapters or other settings without interrupting the movie being a new convenience not found in current DVDs.

Negatives

Long loading times.  One review measured the time to pressing power to watching the movie to be between 45 and 60 seconds.  Once the movie was started though there is no extra lag or long loading time for menus or chapters.  The player supports only up to 1080i resolution and not the full 1080p resolution.  This isn't that big of a deal right now since there are very few sets that can handle 1080p.

Overall

All of the reviewers liked all of the new features that the HD-DVD player offered.  Most of the complaints involving the player itself revolve around the size of the unit, the difficulty of reading and using the remote (it's not lit, and there are a lot of buttons), and the initial loading time.  The major complaints stem from the technology in general, if upgrading to HD is worth it if you don't have a large tv, what the format offers over cable and satellite streams, and the general uncertainty regarding the format wars in general.  All the reviewers WANT to recommend the player based on its own merits but have difficulty doing so, simply because of all these external factors.
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I'm posting this from a blackberry
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I'm not sure HD-DVD is going to take off. I'm not planning on getting one at $500 when I bought my perfectly good (and hardly used thanks to xmbc) DVD player for 1/5th the price.
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Also, I think there is only a marginal improvement from the DVD to the HD-DVD format. It's not like it was for VHS to DVD. The DVD format introduced some fundamentally crucial features over VHS:

VHS to DVD

  • it was digital so there was no loss in signal quality over time
  • navigational improvements; you can skip, use the menu to browse (no need to rewind!)
  • the DVD is more compact than a VHS tape
  • significant increase in video quality
  • support for mult-language, subtitles, widescreen, etc.
  • extra features like deleted scenes, commentary, alternate endings, etc.
  • can be mailed in a small envelope (see Netflix)
  • can be backed up digitally

DVD to HD-DVD (or Blue Ray or whatever)

  • increase from 480p to 1080i HDTV format (tough too tell the difference)
  • more expensive
I think that all the significant improvements were covered in the VHS to DVD format upgrade and the benefits of HD-DVD are not significant enough to matter to the consumer.

I would put my money on high-quality streaming video services for the format of the future.
This post was edited by Erik on 4/20/2006 5:03 PM
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Check out this animated GIF for a pretty dramatic comparison of HD-DVD and normal DVD.  Looking at this picture a tune starts to rumble in my head "I can see clearly now the rain is gone..."

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