HD DVDs are going away. But should you buy Blu-ray?

The first half of my title is taken straight from the title of an email I received from Netflix a couple days ago (see end of post for text of the email). In short, as of December 15, 2008, Netflix will no longer carry HD DVDs. Around the same time I got this email, coincidentally, a friend of mine sent me an email about an online sale offering $2 HD DVD movies.

You see, back before we knew the outcome of the HD wars (one year ago), I chose HD DVD over Blu-ray. I got a player and 10 HD DVDs for $174 (well, actually for $124 since Amazon gave me a “we feel sorry for you” $50 gift card once it was clear HD DVD lost). Interestingly enough, now Blu-ray prices are being slashed in the same way HD DVD prices were slashed a year ago.

The last time I checked out Blu-ray pricing on Amazon (my quick and dirty benchmark), the Playstation 3 was still the best deal (with any Blu-ray player cheaper still well into the $300’s but without the bonus of being a gaming system). But now, looking at Amazon’s list of Blu-ray players, the Samsung BD-P1500 player comes in lowest at $204.47.

It doesn’t stop there. Analysts are predicting more price cuts for this holiday season, and a leaked “Black Friday” ad for Wal-Mart shows a Magnavox Blu-ray player for $128. As I mentioned in a post nearly a year ago, the “format wars” matter more post HD DVD death than they did when the term referred to Blu-ray vs. HD DVD. It’s just that now “format wars” refers to Blu-ray vs. traditional DVD vs. streaming/downloadable content.

At under $200 I would consider a Blu-ray player, though my reasoning might seem unconventional. The HD DVD player I bought a year ago is my primary movie player for any disc (i.e., regular DVDs I own or get through Netflix, which is a lot of my media consumption). And its boot time / load time is excruciatingly slow, plus it doesn’t remember where I stopped a movie if I turn it off and back on again.

In other words, it’s a crappy DVD player even if it “upconverts” DVDs and plays HD DVDs. The question is, then, whether or not these under $200 Blu-ray players are dog slow with no memory feature. Hopefully Blu-ray isn’t making the same mistake as HD DVD on this front: releasing a player that feels crappy in every way other than picture quality. I could be wrong, but I think consumers still care about other conveniences too.

Unfortunately, the two conveniences/features I’m most interested in don’t seem to be easily comparable across products. This is where an Amazon deal or a Wal-Mart 4:00 a.m. deal lose out. I may only buy a Blu-ray player after I get to use it in a Best Buy (or wherever), which means I’ll likely be paying a premium.

Bottom line: In my opinion, Blu-ray is only a good buy if the premium over an upconvert DVD player isn’t much ($50ish more, meaning the Blu-ray player is well under $200) at the same time as the Blu-ray player having the same features we’ve come to expect from our movie players (in my case, boots up fast and remembers where I left off).

Does anyone know of a Blu-ray player that fits these criteria? I’ll update this post if I find anything.

*Update* Lots of below $200 deals coming out today, including one player that boasts a quick load time!

See below for the Netflix email:

HD DVDs are going away

Dear Bob,

Effective December 15, 2008, we will no longer carry HD DVDs. At that time, we will automatically replace any HD DVD titles in your Queue with standard DVDs when available. You don’t have to do anything.

Last February, we announced that since most of the major movie studios had decided to release their high-def movies exclusively in Blu-ray, we were going exclusively Blu-ray as well and would be phasing out our HD DVDs.

We’re sorry for any inconvenience. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please call us at 1-888-638-3549.

– The Netflix Team