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We Like Our HDTV. But Is HD-DVD Finally On The Ropes?

About a year ago we finally moved into HD with the purchase of a 42″ Sharp Aquos LCD-TV and a Toshiba HD-XA1 HD-DVD player. The HD-DVD player was actually acquired using Continental Airlines frequent flier miles in a program that they offer to very frequent fliers late each year. Of course, we got the HD PVR from Time-Warner as well. Given the fact that my employer manufactures HD graphics equipment it was truly a matter of putting my-money-where-my-mouth-has-been.

Sharp Aquos 42 Inch LCDTV

Sharp Aquos 42″ HD LCD. The first real 1080 set in its size class.

It’s been a year and we don’t regret the move at all. The Sharp TV still holds up well. It was the only LCD available in December 2006 featured was a true 1080p panel, although other manufacturers followed suit a few months later. The pictures are superb and the asking price for similar sets is still high enough that I don’t feel we paid an outrageous “early adopter tax.”


TivoHD: Highly recommended!

The Time-Warner (later Comcast) PVR was another matter. Compared to our beloved Tivo systems it was a complete P.O.S. The user interface was like a 1980s teletext system. We suffered through with it until early August, when my wife gave me a TivoHD for my birthday. All is right in the house again.

Tivo is soooo very much better than the cableco PVRs. I can only think that cable execs don’t use PVRs. Maybe they just don’t watch much TV?

Toshiba HD-XA1 HD-DVD Player
Toshiba HD-XA1 HD-DVD Player: Great pictures! But what about the future?

The HD-DVD player has been very interesting. We get most of our DVDs from Netflix, which supports HD-DVD really well. We occasionally run into DVDs that it just won’t play. It’s a first generation player so it’s far from perfect. But the price was right ($0) and you have to see the picture quality to believe it. It’s simply outstanding. Let’s put this into perspective against cable and broadcast sources.

  • Over the air broadcasts deliver a best case 19.2 Mb/s stream
  • Cable generally receives the signal then reprocesses it to manage bandwidth on their wire, this usually means the quality is a bit less than the same source off-air.
  • Satellite providers do the same thing. It’s called “rate shaping” and it lets them puts maximum channels in a minimum of bandwidth.
  • HD-DVD or Blu-Ray Disks deliver >25 Mb/s

Simply put, you won’t see a better image in your home. Period.

There are those who debate the merits of HD-DVD vs Blue-Ray endlessly but I can’t say I see either side of that argument. At this point the fight has gone on so long that both sides are suffering the lack of market penetration caused by the uncertainty of the format war.

It now appears that Warner Bros Studios is dropping support for HD-DVD. That leaves Toshiba and Microsoft as the two major backers of the format. There’s been a further rumor circulating that Microsoft has been paying the DreamWorks & Paramount to sustain their support for the format. As rumors go this may not be well founded, but you can read about it here.

The big CES show in Las Vegas this coming week is the venue for all the latest gadgetry, and the next front in many a war…this one included.

The DVD format war is blessed by one thing, but sides DRM schemes have been hacked with great regularity. But this makes the fight even uglier. When will technical people learn that one of the universal certainties of existence is that there is always someone smarter than you who will circumvent your finest effort every time.

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