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Blu-ray and HD DVD media-- resolution revolution

What's the sharpest video we can get from today video technology? The Blu-ray and HD DVD .

When it comes to high definition video, nothing can compare to the quality and features of movies recorded onto Blu-ray and HD DVD media. Sure, cable and satellite television providers offer some programming that is described as "HD" resolution, but anyone with a decent HDTV and good eyesight knows first hand that all HD programming is not created (and delivered) equally. Compared to cable and satellite HD video delivery, Blu-ray and HD DVD can provide equal or greater resolution at over twice the data rate - insuring that even the most complex, action packed scenes won't turn into an overly-compressed blocky mess.

Of course, the latest HD disc players are much more expensive than regular DVD players. Prices are falling though and the selection of movies on Blu-ray and HD DVD continually expands with new releases appearing every month. The so-called format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray shows no signs of being settled anytime soon, but the second generation of set-top players has arrived including one that is compatible with both disc formats, the LG Super Blu Player. Since the Super Blu accepts both types discs you're pretty much covered.

From an A/V technology standpoint, Blu-ray and HD DVD are more alike than different as both formats support an identical list of video codecs and maximum resolution. The official HD DVD spec mandates support for some additional audio formats that Blu-ray does not, but audiophiles will find either format capable of delivering pristine audio quality that can equal that of the original studio masters.

Where the differences of the HD players become more distinct is with supported features. From the start, set-top players that wanted to display the official HD DVD logo had to include Internet support (usually an Ethernet port), persistent storage (flash memory), as well as a secondary video decoder for picture-in-picture (PIP) functionality.

Official Blu-ray players aren't required to provide any of these features, but that is set to change as the Blu-ray Disc Association recently announced that Blu-ray Disc (BD) players released after Oct. 31, 2007 must support PIP as well as 256MB of flash memory. Internet-enabled BD players will be required to include 1GB of flash memory. Future BD movies that make use of these new features should play perfectly on today's hardware, but naturally, the "older" players won't be able to take advantage of the new functions offered on these titles.

One feature that is mandatory for BD titles and not so with HD DVD is a scratch resistant disc coating. This protective hard-coating on the data side of a BD title all but insures that regular handling won't damage the disc. In contrast, HD DVD discs are constructed in much the same way as regular DVD discs and we all know how easy it is to mar that delicate polycarbonate surface. Scratches and other disc surface defects are all the more problematic with BD and HD DVD discs as the data tracks are packed significantly tighter than regular DVD's. Even relatively small marks can render these HD discs unplayable.

And as with most consumer electronics, the introduction of new disc players drives prices of previous models down. Here are the latest high definition disc players we've seen as well as some relatively affordable "classics". Read on to see how they stack up and don't forget to check out our in-depth reviews for each device.


LG Super Blu Player (BH100) LG's Super Blu Player (BH100) breaks new ground by supporting the playback of both BD and HD DVD discs. Still, the BH100's HD DVD support is for basic movie playback only as it lacks the persistent storage, Internet connectivity, and PIP functionality of "official" HD DVD players. Also, potential BH100 owners should be aware that the player's "FullHD 1080p" output is of the 24Hz/30Hz formats only and not the more common 60Hz 1080p format that most every 1080p HDTV sold today supports.

Toshiba HD-XA2 The Toshiba HD-XA2 is the company's new flagship HD DVD player. Compared to its predecessor (the HD-XA1), the HD-XA2 features a slick new exterior that sheds an inch and a half of height as well as over six pounds in weight. The player still suffers from sluggish startup times but its disc load performance was more than twice as fast as the HD-XA1. The HD-XA2 offers full 1080p output for HD DVD titles as well as upconverted DVDs, and its integrated Silicon Optix Reon VX processor insured pristine HD DVD playback.

Toshiba HD-A1 The Toshiba HD-A1 was the first HD disc player to reach store shelves. While it may seem somewhat dated when compared to its newer, sleeker, and faster siblings, the HD-A1 represents one of the best values for a stand-alone HD disc player. If you want to enjoy HD DVD movies without dropping a small fortune on a player, the HD-A1 is worth considering.

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Samsung BD-P1000 The Samsung BD-P1000 has the honor of being the first Blu-ray disc player sold and it has held up quite well during its relatively short existence. The BD-P1000 supports 1080p (60Hz) resolution output for BD movies as well as upconverted DVD video, and I appreciate the player's integrated media card slots that support many common flash storage formats. I was also pleased to note the BD-P1000's DVD upconversion was well-processed leaving few artifacts on-screen.

Copyright © 2007 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in PC Magazine.Spot by:http://www.pcknowhow.co.nr/ written by:Robert Heron

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