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The Next Generation of HD-DVD Players

Nov 14, 2006 4:00 PM


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This was supposed to be the year of next-gen DVD players, but slow rollouts on the HD-DVD side and repeated delays of product in the Blu-ray camp have put the high-def DVD movement in slow motion at best.

Sony, which originally planned to deliver its $1,000 BDP-S1 standalone Blu-ray player last summer, has again pushed off shipping plans, this time until the end of the year. The priority for the company going into the holiday selling season is to fulfill the onslaught of PlayStation3 orders. Both versions of PS3—the 20GB $499 and 60GB $599 game players—pack Blu-ray drives, creating the unlikely market scenario of making early videophile adopters wait while the company serves the needs of gamers paying half the price of the standalone players.

When BDP-S1 does reach the high-end video market, videophiles can expect to see features typically found in high-end AV components, including video output at both 1080p/60 and 1080p/24, separate audio and video circuitry, and an isolated power supply. Overall construction is expected to be solid and much sturdier than the standard video game player.

Elsewhere in the Blu-ray camp, Samsung’s BD-P1000 Blu-ray player ($750), the Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player ($1,300) and Philips’ BDP9000 Blu-ray player ($900) are in stores, while Pioneer delayed its $1,500 Blu-ray player to December. Sharp plans to ship its player in the second quarter of 2007. LG gave lip service to its first Blu-ray player at its November line show in Orlando, Fla., but wouldn’t attach a timetable or specs to a product announcement, and the company has scaled back plans for the hybrid Blu-ray/HD-DVD player it announced at the November 2005 line show.

Toshiba, meanwhile, continues to be the flag-bearer of the HD-DVD format, and despite gripes about early production models, the company is already feeding hungry videophiles with second-generation players. Toshiba’s second-generation players include the HD-A2 ($499), which outputs video at 1080i and packs an HDMI 1.2 interface. The flagship HD-XA2 ($999) counters criticisms of first-generation 1080i-only models and steps up to 1080p resolution and HDMI 1.3.

Highlights of the second-generation HD-DVD players include networking and “persistent storage.” The combination of the two offers consumers the ability to download new HD trailers, audio tracks, and features for HD-DVD titles. According to marketing VP Jodi Sally, every HD-DVD player is guaranteed to be able to do Picture-in-Picture. Current titles that take advantage of PIP to add an immersive experience to movie viewing include Constantine, Dukes of Hazard, Batman Begins, and Tokyo Drift.

Sally says that between 150-200 HD-DVD titles should be on store shelves by January. That number could double by summer. According to the Blu-ray Disc Association, 114 Blu-ray titles will be out by the end of the year.



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