Guest Post: The Reality of HD-DVD

I have seen the light! After reading Jon's blog post on the current situation with HD-DVD and Blu-ray, I decided that as a smart consumer buying movies in HD-DVD right now will save a lot of money in the long run. I already owned an Xbox 360 and didn't yet have the HD-DVD drive. After seeing what the price was on the drive over at Fry's I decided it wasn't something I could pass up.

Wednesday, I made my trip to my local Fry's Electronics in Downers Grove, IL. Sure enough, I found Fry's had plenty of Xbox 360 HD-DVD drives stacked up in the 360 section, all marked at $39.99. After picking one up, I proceeded over to the HD-DVD section of their movie department. To my surprise, the HD-DVD section was about as big as the Blu-ray section. I picked out a selection of good movies and proceeded to check out. The total price of a HD-DVD drive plus 7 movies? $126.27 after taxes. While finalizing the details of the transaction the clerk noted that Fry's had run a promotion a few weeks earlier where many of their HD-DVD movies were priced as low as $5.99. That's certainly something to keep an eye out for.

HD-DVD Player: The Xbox 360 HD-DVD player

Blu-ray Player: Sony Blu-Ray Disc Player (Model BDP-S300)

Why this Blu-Ray player choice? It was the cheapest Blu-Ray player available at both Fry's and Amazon. Honestly, if I were going to buy a Blu-Ray player, I would buy a PS3 instead, but they are more expensive than a basic Blu-Ray player. Amazon was chosen to compare prices since they have most products, and generally have reasonable prices in my opinion.

Looking at those prices, there is an obvious choice for someone looking to get into HD movies cheaply. You'll notice though, that there is an additional deciding factor, those titles not yet available on Blu-Ray. As far as I can tell, Spy Game and Sneakers are not yet available on Blu-Ray. So the totals for Blu-Ray are for 5 movies instead of 7.

Now you're probably saying "BUT! You can only use the 360's HD-DVD Player on the 360!". This isn't exactly true. Yes the player is designed for the Xbox 360, but it also works with both Windows XP and Windows Vista. It requires a driver download from Microsoft after plugging the unit in via USB, but after that it is recognized as a standard HD-DVD player.

Now comes the first (and most troublesome) problem. How do you play the HD-DVD's? By default, Windows Media Player 11 does NOT support playing HD-DVD's. After doing some research, I found there are a few options. First, you can get either WMP 11 or the open source alternative, Media Player Classic to play HD-DVD's through registering special addons for each. Second, was the option I tried to begin with, PowerDVD. I already owned a copy of PowerDVD and figured they had to have come up with a way to play both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. After some research I found that the current version supported Blu-Ray, but not HD-DVD. It seems Cyberlink (the company behind PowerDVD) dropped support when Toshiba gave up the HD fight earlier this year. Cyberlink now only supports HD-DVD playback within PowerDVD Ultra version 7.3. I did find however, that a third party patch exists to patch the ability into PowerDVD 8. It uses files from an early beta version of PowerDVD 8 which did support HD-DVD.

How to Re-Enable HD DVD Playback in PowerDVD 8 [link to: http://www.digital-digest.com/articles/PowerDVD_8_Ultra_Enable_HD_DVD_page1.html]

The final point I'd like to make is the one on copy protection. While using PowerDVD to play my HD-DVD's I discovered my Dell widescreen LCD does NOT support High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), so I cannot use it to play my HD-DVD's since it is hooked up via a DVI connection. The work-around for this is to 1) get an HDCP compatitible monitor or 2) use Analog VGA (HDCP doesn't apply). I chose the second route and simply moved the window over to my secondary LCD monitor which is hooked up via VGA.

As you can see, it took a little work getting HD-DVD's to work on my Vista Ultimate PC. 95% of the work was getting the player to play it. I could have used my Xbox 360 to play the HD-DVD's, but I wanted to get it working on my Vista PC after I found out it was capable of playing them.

So yeah, there are some conditions and work if you want to use the (now) cheap 360 HD-DVD player. You can't use it by itself, it has to be hooked up to an Xbox or PC. A lot of people have one of the two so I find this to be a bit of a non-issue. The 360 HD-DVD player is by far the cheapest option if you already have an Xbox 360 or PC. Standalone HD-DVD players will cost you a little more, but no where near what even basic Blu-Ray players will run you.

After getting a player working though, you'll love the price difference. Sure a lot of new movies won't be coming out on HD-DVD, but there are lots of older movies that were brought out on it when it was supported. Lots of stores still have tons of stock and are lowering the price to the floor to get rid of it. This is an easy way to upgrade to HD without breaking the bank. I would recommend it for anyone with a passion for movies that wants to live a little cheaply.

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3 Response to Guest Post: The Reality of HD-DVD

October 2, 2008 at 8:18 PM

does it matter at this point? by the time bd takes over, downloads will be fully entrenced


October 3, 2008 at 8:44 AM

I tend to disagree heavily, have you ever met I don't know your parents ? or I guess my parents. They will never in their entire life times watch downloaded high def content. they love having the physical discs as much for a collection as just for watch them. I think the vast majority of the non tech community is the same way. Digital downloads as a movie format is a long way off. While the tech community loves it, the general public haven't caught on and won't catch on for sometime.

October 7, 2008 at 11:19 PM

(yes this is the author of the article)
Personally...I still love having a hard copy for movies and music. I only recently (read: this past summer) bought my first music in digital form as a result of my iPhone 3G purchase. I haven't yet bought a movie in digital form...only rented. For games I've been buying digitally for a while...primarily on Steam. That is because I have confidence in Steam...and I have been trying to get game publishers to put their stuff on Steam. That is a matter of convenience. Steam knows which games I own so I can always just redownload the games. It also makes it easier to transport games across formats...there's no need to reinstall the game. I agree that older generations (I am 29) will still cling to hard copies more...but there's quite a few tech people today that still love their hard copy. Games I prefer digital if it's Steam or Stardock. Music and Movies I still prefer a hard copy.

And I believe "ia" is a link seeder. What was the point of posting the link? It links to a useless domain parking site. The guy probably owns the domain that is for sale on that site.

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