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Next Generation of DVDs Revealed at CES 2007

Jan 16, 2007 5:07 PM

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The next-generation DVD race took a curious turn heading into the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. On the hardware side, LG Electronics made pre-show news with the announcement of a dual-format HD DVD/Blu-ray Disc player while Warner Brothers took a similar stand with the announcement of Total Hi Def, a dual-format DVD that can hold HD DVD and Blu-ray Discs.

Both strategies are designed to motivate consumers and dealers to move off the fence and feel safe to invest in the next wave of DVD. The moves come at a time when neither format has gained much traction as product glitches, delays, and overall confusion have slowed the progress of both high-definition DVD formats.

The moves are promising for consumers, but only if the ideas catch on with other and studios. Sony is firmly entrenched in the Blu-ray camp, along with MGM, 20th Century Fox, and Disney. Universal Studios is committed to HD DVD. Other studios, including Warner, have been hedging their bets with both.

Warner’s Total Hi Def disc combines HD DVD and Blu ray layers on a single disc, which can contain single and dual layers for both formats. Warner says the dual-format disc does not compromise the feature set of either format. Discs can include either 15GB or 30GB layers on the HD DVD side or 25GB or 50GB layers on the Blu-ray side. Total Hi Def discs are due out in the second half of 2007.

LG’s compromise solution is hardware-based. The company’s BH100 Super Multi Blue player lists for $1,199 and will ship to dealers the first week of February. The home player packs the functionality of a Blu-ray player including BD-Java interactivity but lacks CD playback and advanced interactive functionality on playback of HD DVD discs. The single-tray player supports MPEG-2, VC-1, H.264, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, DTS, and DTS-HD. HDMI output is version 1.2. The company couldn’t confirm at press time whether the output could pass through the multi-channel lossless formats.

Onkyo and Meridian, meanwhile, helped fill out the palette of HD DVD offerings with announcements of players for 2007. Citing consumer demand for HD content, Onkyo said an HDMI-equipped audio/video receiver would supplement its HD DVD player later in the year. Price and shipping dates were not given.

Toshiba showed its high-end $999 HD-XA2 HDMI 1.3-equipped 1080p HD DVD player that began shipping late last year. The company added a mid-priced player, the HD-A20, which will retail for $599. Shipping to dealers this spring, the HD-A20 outputs in 720p, 1080i or 1080p..

At CES, the HD DVD Promotions Group projected player sales of 1.8 million in the U.S. in 2007. That number is expected to be supported by 300 new titles this year.

On the Blu-ray front, Samsung will deliver its second-generation player in early 2007. The BD-P1200 incorporates the Hollywood Quality Video (HQV) processor, which is said to offer improved picture quality by refining image projection even from non Blu-ray formats. The 1080p player offers 1080i to 1080p HD de-interlacing.

Sharp’s first Blu-ray player will ship in spring at a suggested retail price of $1,199. No further details were available at press time.

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