HD vs. Blu-ray (2)

I promise I’ll get back to security stuff shortly, but over the weekend I ran into a couple of articles that explain the issues a lot better. So HD-DVD is quite likely going the way of the 8-track – no need to fight the tide (and no, I have no internal info on this at all – I work on Office, not Xbox). Now the real question is what to do next, and when. My options in terms of getting 1080p content in the future are limited to Blu-ray, and downloads. I don’t have enough bandwidth at home to make downloading multiple gigs worth of movies practical, so I’m stuck with the 1080i content I can record and watch coming from the dish – which isn’t bad at all.

As far as Blu-ray goes, we all know that timing is everything when it comes to techno toys. It really stinks to buy something and then have something much better come out next week at the same price. Or you can wait forever and not enjoy the technology. But Blu-ray has some interesting issues just at the moment – seems that it was rushed out without a fully developed spec (seems this happens a lot, and we’re not without sin in this area), and that it’s shifting rapidly at the moment. An article at Audioholics sums it up – basically, there’s the 1.0 spec, the 1.1 spec, and the 2.0 spec, each with associated marketing buzzwords to confuse us. Basically, one of the reasons I’m most annoyed that Blu-ray won out is that I already own an HD-DVD player that’s equivalent to Blu-ray 2.0 spec, which I can’t buy yet >8-(

Video Business has an article here that explains the issue in terms of which available players support which spec – for example, the Samsung BD-P1400 can be had for a reasonable cost right now, but it only supports the 1.0 spec, can’t be upgraded, and it isn’t guaranteed that you can play all future movies with it – there have been issues with this already. Buying a 1.0 spec player seems like a Bad Thing™. Personally, waiting for a 2.0 spec player seems like the right decision – hopefully, the spec will have settled down and there won’t be a 2.1 or 3.0 anytime very soon. However, it seems like you can’t buy any of these at the moment. Options there are to get a PS3 – but I already own an Xbox, so that’s expensive when I already have more games than time, or there’s a couple of players coming out RSN, like the Panasonic DMP-BD50 – looks nice, but you can’t buy one now, and everyone seems to think it will be expensive (~$700). There are a couple of 1.1 spec players that are upgradable, but these are currently $629 at Amazon. Still too much. I can almost build a media center PC with a Blu-ray reader for that price, which would do a lot more and can be upgraded when I feel like it.

Looks like the 2.0 spec will start getting common around the summer, but I expect them to remain expensive for a while. I think I’ll add an external hard drive to my DVR, and watch movies off the dish until this settles out and prices drop – and the Xbox does a _great_ job of up converting. My prediction – I predict that they’ll find that while the format war didn’t help adoption that the biggest blocker is going to be price. I’m also looking forward to when there’s enough bandwidth commonly available that I can just download these things. Why worry about scratched discs when I can just stick stuff on a media center box, and pipe it anywhere in my house I like?

Comments (6)

  1. Rosyna says:

    Actually, you are guaranteed to be able to play all BD movies on every BD player. Irregardless of whether the movie uses Bonus View or BD Live. These things only apply to extra features and do not apply to the main feature. The main movie will always be playable. There is no risk that new movies won’t play in your BD 1.0 certified player.

    There are already at least two BD Live titles out there. Saw IV and War.

    [dcl] The article I cited disagrees with you:

    “Many early adopters have assumed all along that older profile players still play newer profile titles and the lack of additional features will not be an issue.  This assumption of compatibility has not been proven in practice and the reality is that BD-J and BD+ are still evolving in complexity and BD+ copy protection already caused some player problems with newer titles when it was rolled out. “

    I have not investigated the issue myself, and cannot determine for myself whether you or the article are correct. Regardless, I personally see no need to buy anything below the 2.0 spec (unless the box can be upgraded), so I’ll be waiting to make a purchase until a 2.0 spec reader reaches a price point I’m happy with. You’re certainly welcome to make different purchasing decisions.

  2. Rosyna says:

    Actually, that article doesn’t disagree with me. The BD+, BD-J issues had nothing to do with the spec version. Both are mandatory for all BD 1.0 players. There were just some implementation bugs. Since those users that bought the players were guaranteed they conformed to spec, the manufacturers are responsible for replacing/fixing the players as they are considered “broken”.

    [dcl] Yes, but this is a big hassle, and an indication that you’re adopting something too early. To me, this says that it is a good thing to wait until it is better baked. An impending near term feature upgrade is another good reason to wait. I’m also wondering, like many others, whether the rumors there could be a BD reader for Xbox coming might be true – I already own the expensive part of the hardware – a reader plugged into USB shouldn’t theoretically be much more than a BD reader for your PC, which is currently $179. Again, I have no idea what we’re really doing on this – not my department – but it does make sense.

    The issue was with BD+ and seems to have been resolved. BD+ and BD-J were set in stone from the very first BD 1.0 spec.

    [dcl] Thanks for clarifying.

    Also, “Why worry about scratched discs when I can just stick stuff on a media center box, and pipe it anywhere in my house I like?” is largely a non-issue with BD. BD requires mandatory hard coating on discs to prevent scratches. Reports from Netflix users say BDs they get are in much better condition than DVDs and HD DVDs they got were unplayable if they had even a minor scratch on them (the hard coating on BD prevents scratches from occurring, even when using steel wool).

    [dcl] I never had any problems with rental HD-DVDs myself that couldn’t be fixed by cleaning it with my t-shirt. There’s a bigger issue here – first is that if something is on a disc, it can only be at one place in my house at a time. If I have it on a media center PC, I can watch it on any TV, any of my PC’s, etc. There’s also a cost, convenience and environmental factor. Assuming fiber-optic speeds, I can download a HD movie in about the time it takes to go get the popcorn and drinks upstairs. There’s no plastic box or disc to make or dispose of – reduced distribution costs should show up in reduced consumer costs, and reduces the waste stream. Why wait a day or two for Netflix or Blockbuster to send something via snail mail, when I can just get it when I want? The storage cost in hard drive space, which keeps dropping, is around $2, and when I don’t want it any more, recycling bits is easier and more environmentally friendly. Plus, they’ve quit putting anything I consider an extra in most of the DVD boxes.

    The catch for me is that it may take a while to get fiber optic to my house, and there’s a lot of truth still to the old saying that one should never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of discs (was floppies). Even so, I’m pretty close to being able to download a whole HD movie overnight, so I can do a little better than snail mail right now.

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  4. I’ve been looking at BD players, and there is one resounding pattern: man they are slow to load a disc. By slow, I mean, “the wife is gonna get annoyed” slow. The PS3 has tons of grunt, so the perf issue is a non-issue. So I’m going to wait a little while to see if the perf issues go away.

    [dcl] I think your wife is more patient than mine 😎 Now I’m really gonna wait!