Irony Alert: HD DVD Eases the Pain of Its Death for Owners

HD DVD vs. Blu-rayBack in November, I asked for help in deciding between HD DVD and Blu-ray. I ended up choosing HD DVD via an amazing Amazon deal: HD DVD player and 10 HD DVDs for $174. (That deal is now over, but now there’s an even better deal: HD DVD player and 7 movies for only $132.)

But it wasn’t just the price being nearly half of any Blu-ray equivalent (check out Amazon’s Blu-ray page, where every player is well above $300 with not nearly as many included movies), it was other little things. For instance, HD DVD is region free. This means that any movies bought in Europe or the U.S. can work on any player bought anywhere as well. The same isn’t true for Blu-ray.

And HD DVD technology allows for backwards compatibility with regular DVD players. Most of the HD DVD movies I own are dual format discs. They work on my HD DVD player but also work as regular DVDs in any DVD player (including Blu-ray players). But Blu-ray technology has no backwards compatibility. Another aspect of HD DVD that was superior: all players are required to have network support which makes updates more convenient and allows for some interesting features. Blu-ray, on the other hand, has plenty of players that don’t have network support.

And while the format wars have been raging on, I’ve been using Netflix which automatically sends me any available movies in my queue in HD DVD format. This has allowed me to enjoy plenty of high definition content over the past couple months (and will continue for some time until HD DVD officially dies).

So the less expensive, region free, feature-rich, backwards compatible format was beaten by the more expensive, restricted format. And let’s not forget that no matter how many Playstation 3 consoles Sony will sell (which include Blu-ray), a true DVD replacement will need stand-alone players. This is where Blu-ray has failed big time so far.

Plenty of people are speculating that even if Blu-ray has won the battle against HD DVD, its death isn’t too far off. News is coming out every day of more options that allow for digital content to be delivered straight to the TV with no separate disc player required. This war isn’t over yet. And if Blu-ray dies in the next battle, its expensive, restricted, non-compatible format will die with it.

As it stands, I appreciate what the HD DVD group has done to make its death less of a pain for its users. If it were Blu-ray dying, the same couldn’t be said.

*Update* The Financial Times claims Paramount will drop HD DVD via a clause in its contract that allows the company to switch sides if Warner chooses Blu-ray (which is exactly what Warner did). But now Paramount seems to be denying any such intentions and says it will stick with HD DVD.

  • Jason

    The reality is that you limit the fact that when a better quality product is out on the market we sacrafice the quality of a blue ray disc for the quantity of the hd dvd. and its still to early to say

  • Jason

    Also for the fact that you bought an HD DVD and the fact that is near death ticks you off for the loss of format availability but you should be mad at amazon for selling you a format for cheap. you should be mad at yourself for buying a format that isnt going to last. And since netflix has many movies in HD DVD format only illustrates the attempt to garner market share by distributing the format for market share. but as you can see the media giants have chosen BlueRay. Also Since that HD as you mentioned is available for download many of the people you leave out of your statement are the non tech savvy people who dont watch movies straight from download on to the TV. You also fail to realize that the quality of HD is limited to your connection to your service provider. You miss a complete demographic………

  • Jason, I’m not sure I understand your comment… Which is the better quality product you are referring to and why? Also, the sacrifice isn’t clear to me. And it’s too early to say what? All and all, I can’t tell if you’re agreeing or disagreeing with me.

  • Ah, Jason, your second comment makes your position a little clearer.

  • Chet


    Blu-Ray stand-alone players have sold just as many as HD-DVD stand-alone players. That’s EXCLUDING the PS3 AND at a higher price. That number will likely increase now that WB has made a decision.

    I guess people are willing to pay more for higher quality products after all.

  • Chet,

    I agree that the number will increase post- Warner decision. But you’ll have to provide a source with numbers for your claim of Blu-ray standalone sales (pre-announcement) before I can believe you…

    Also, remind me why Blu-ray is “higher quality” overall (keeping in mind all of its limitations that I mentioned in the post above).

  • Matt

    I also chose HD DVD – but I’m not out of pocket at all. The 5 free HD DVDs you get with the 360 addon puts you in pocket; HD DVD player (works on a compatible PC too) – £100. 5 HD DVDs at £20-25 each – £115 or so.
    You get 5 high definition movies with all the HD DVD extras and you’re in pocket in terms of value. Can’t argue with that.

    Blu-Ray may win the home media and theatre; but Microsoft, Intel, HP still support HD DVD (and Microsoft quite staunchly too). Don’t be surprised if home data-storage and Microsoft starts using HD DVD for the next generation of data and perhaps even home-movie recording.

  • Drake

    Blu-ray is actually superior to hd dvd. I’m not being a fanboy. Hear me out, I have evidence. First of all blu-ray and hd dvd both use the same technology. Blue laser rays that allow more information to be stored on a disc. Also, Blu ray players are also compatible with regular dvds; as in they’ll play dvd’s fine. Blu – ray has more storage capacity on it’s disk. 16 GB in HD DVD compared to 25 GB on blu-ray. This means more movie content can be stored on one disc. No 3 disc sets so you can have “additional” content. in the future… it even means more space for when you want to store something on your disc, and more extra media content and complexity on your movies. It even has a better picture quality, running slightly higher pixel count. Oh and the fact that most blu ray players sold out there are PS3’s means that blu ray functionality is upgradeable any time people ask for something new. Honestly, the main advantage HD DVD has is price, and obviously that hasn’t been enough to turn the tide since blu ray Movies outsell HD DVD movies by more than a 3:2 ratio.

  • Drake

    Woops one more thing. Netflix has the same functionality with blu-ray discs 🙂

  • Matt

    Look a bit further.

    20GB, 30GB and 45GB HD DVDs are out there and 51GB are in development (HD DVD supports up to 3-layers, BR only 2).

    Netflix is irrelevant to me (I’m in the UK).

    Blu-Ray is not superior. They use pretty much identical technology, codecs etc. and almost no studios have plans for BR 2.0.

    There might be more Blu-Ray disc sales; but thats to be expected. There are more titles.
    There are more HD DVD players – and in a recent survey, HDTV buyers are looking for HD DVD players, not Blu-Ray. Well; at least until WB pulled out.

  • Drake,

    I’ve heard the storage space argument before… Is that all I get for giving up region free discs, decent price, and backwards compatibility? I’m not sold.

  • S D Owen

    Panasonic has a prototype 8 layer BD-RW that can support 200 GB of storage. SO BD can support more than two layers. BD is web based Java making it easier to hire content developers. The Java code-base means the a Mac, Window and Linux PC can have access to all functions on a Blu_ray. MPEG-2, HD 264, MPEG-4 with optional support of VC-1, but no studio has used VC-1 on Blu-Ray. Blu_ray has very stiff content protection.

    Microsoft used proprietary, VC-! video. window based technology that would make HD-DVD a Microsoft format.

    Consumers need open standards, neither camp has been good at doing that.

    WB chose Blu-Ray because of strong sales in europe and asia as well as the high quality content protection provided by camp Blu-Ray. Time Warner has been hurt the most by piracy and HD-DVD failed to realize how important this issue was to WB.

    In the end WB needed to make a choice, they chose Blu-Ray, they own a lot of content and Toshiba should give up on HD-DVD and focus on network storage if they want revenge since that is the way the market will go in the next 5 to ten years anyway.

  • Matt

    You say that like I don’t know that?
    Bob makes a good point.

    HD DVDs HDi uses XML and ECMAScript (which is powered by Jscript).Its technology is just as easy to grasp. And if bothcompanies have ignored using an open-source approach; why even make the argument?

    Content protection is always a joke. Its always got around eventually. WB was part of the HD DVD development. If it was really an issue they would have left some time ago.

    Besides, this is about HD DVD owners getting the better deal. Which I do believe they have (and always have).
    As HD DVD comes to its end; we could see massive HD DVD sales to get rid of the remaining stock (only an assumption here, but a valid one nonetheless). In terms of cost for each High Definition movie, the HD DVD users certainly got it better.

  • JenniP

    S D Owen – There are loads of Blu Ray films using VC-1, yes its more common on HD DVD than Blu Ray, and most commonly often on Blu Ray films that were (or at least were planned) to be released on HD DVD and Blu Ray.

    VC-1 may require a royalty to Microsoft but it is a better format than plan MPEG4.

    Personally I’m HD DVD, I love the “Region Free”ness of it, it allows me to get films from anywhere in the world, the interactivity that Blu-Ray is just starting to get, HD DVD has had since the beginning.

    However if HD DVD dies, I’ll just pick up a BluRay player (More than likely a PS3), and buy new films on BluRay instead, until then I’m buying HD DVDs like they are going out of fashion (Which perhaps they are).

  • Richard

    After reading your article, I’m wondering about the title. How is HD-DVD easing the pain for its owners? Though I love my HD-DVD player, my pain is not eased by it being such a great product. Did you mean something else?

    Given how short of a life most DVD players have, I’m not wasting any more money on HD-DVDs that I may not even be able to play in three or so years.

  • Richard,

    I’m likely not spending any more on HD DVDs either. In fact, I haven’t bought any other than the 10 that came as part of my original deal of $174. I’m now enjoying HD content via my player solely through HD DVDs from Netflix.

    My pain was eased because HD DVD is the more consumer-friendly format. Compared to Blu-ray, lower price = less pain. Also, since most of my 10 movies will work as regular DVDs, $17 per movie with a free player isn’t that bad. I’ll be able to use these movies even after HD DVD’s death (hence, more easing of pain).

    The point is, if Blu-ray were the player dying, I would have lost much more money and had a bunch of movies that don’t work on any other standard.

  • Matt

    Why wouldn’t you be able to play them in 5 years? Your HD DVD player will still plug into your TV. Your HD DVD player will still work…

  • Richard

    Makes sense Bob. I’m with you now. I can’t get too upset either about the great deal I got for the HD-DVD player (thanks to you).

    Matt, you must have better luck with electronics than I do. I’ve had to replace many DVD players. Once my HD-DVD playuer is fried, I don’t expect to be able to replace it (or want to unless something drastically changes.)

  • Matt

    Wow; wierd. Never had any problems. We’ve still got the same DVD player we got some 7 or 8 years ago!

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