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HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray

Publication date: June 2005

Two different organizations have been developing very different technologies for what each hopes will be the next standard for a high-capacity optical disc. Both are the same size as a DVD disc, and they both use a blue laser to increase the density of data because blue lasers have a shorter wavelength than the red lasers used for current DVDs and CDs.

The two formats have different data capacities and are completely incompatible with each other. Each is backed by a different, powerful group of electronics and media corporations.

Why should you care?

Because the cost of high-definition video camcorders is plummeting, Apple's iMovie lets you edit high-definition video, and TV stations are broadcasting in high-def, but there is still no disc format for storage or distribution.

One contender, the "Blu-ray Disc", can store 25GB on each of its two layers for a total of 50GB per disc. The other contender, the "HD DVD", stores less -- just 15GB on each of its two layers, for a total of 30GB per disc. To counter Blu-ray's higher capacity, a three-layer HD DVD with a capacity of 45GB per disc was recently announced. To trump that, a recordable four-layer Blue-ray Disc with a capacity of 100GB was announced. This new Blu-ray Disc can also be written twice as fast as the previous two-layer Blue-ray Disc (at 72Mbps vs. 36Mbps, or 9MBps vs. 4.5MBps). In comparison, rewritable HD DVD media is currently limited to one-fifth of that, at just 20GB.

Blu-ray is supported by Sony, Matsushita, Samsung, Philips, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Hitachi, TDK, Disney, Dell, Apple, HP, and others.

HD DVD is backed by Toshiba, Warner, Universal, NEC, Sanyo, and others.

HD DVD has the support of the DVD Forum, which defined the original DVD formats. This is partly because HD DVDs can be easily manufactured by existing DVD replication plants, with only minor adjustments to their equipment.

Blu-ray is supported by the major computer manufacturers because of its faster recordability and higher capacity (a 200GB disc is in the works). However, Blu-ray would require greater modifications to enable duplication.

Toshiba has already lined up movie companies to release titles on HD DVD, and plans to launch HD DVD players in the last quarter of 2005. They have also developed a two-sided, hybrid disc that lets them put a standard DVD movie on one side and an HD DVD version on the other. Clearly, HD DVD is has been designed to economically distribute movies rather than for use in computers.

With time running out for hope of unification, these two competing organizations have been meeting in the past few weeks to work out a way to combine the formats, hoping they can avoid a format war that would discourage consumers from buying movies on the new discs. We'll keep you posted as events unfold.

Recordable HD DVD & Blu-ray Discs

Publication date: July 2006

This month, Verbatim will ship recordable HD DVD and Blu-ray discs. Single-layer HD DVD-R discs hold 15GB each and cost about $25. Dual-layer HD DVD-R discs hold 30GB and cost about $35.

The competing Blu-ray format BD-R discs cost about the same, but their capacities are significantly higher, at 25GB and 50GB. (Editor's note: as of January 2008, the price has come down to about $15 and $25 respectively.)


Toast Adds Blu-ray Support

Publication date: Sept 2006

When Mac-compatible Blu-ray drives arrive, they will include a full version of Roxio's Toast Titanium with Blu-ray support — something that isn't built into Mac OS X. Blu-ray recordable (BD-R) and Blu-ray rewritable (BD-RW) disks can hold up to 50GB of data, making it easier to store large files. In comparison, a CD holds 700MB, and a DVD holds 4.7GB of data. Mac-compatible Blu-ray drives should appear on the market before the end of the year.


Toast 8

Publication date: Feb 2007

Roxio's Toast 8 ($80) adds some remarkable new features, including TiVo support, DVD-Audio support, audio mixing features from the now-defunct Jam, better DVD-video authoring, automatic disc-cataloging, recovery of data from damaged discs, the ability to use a Blu-ray disc as if it were a mini hard drive, and more. (Blu-ray recordable (BD-R) and Blu-ray rewritable (BD-RW) disks can hold up to 50GB of data.) This is the most impressive upgrade to Toast we've ever seen.


$500 Blu-ray Drive

Publication date: May 2007

FastMac's internal, tray loading Blu-ray optical drive ($500) reads, writes and re-writes to single and dual layer Blu-ray media at 2x speed. It also reads and writes all DVD and CD formats. It can be installed into Apple's eMac, iMac G4, Power Mac G3, Power Mac G4, Power Mac G5 and Mac Pro. It does not include software, so you'll need either Adobe Premiere CS3 or Roxio's Toast 8 Titanium to write to Blu-ray discs.

If you're willing to spend $800, FastMac has a slimline version that fits into PowerBooks, iMac G5 and Intel, Mac mini, iBook G4 and 17-inch MacBook Pro. It includes Roxio's Toast software.


Mini Blu-ray?

Publication date: August 2007

The relatively new Blu-ray optical disc format now has a Mini version. This 3-inch disc holds 7.5GB of data, and will be first employed in digital video cameras where one disc will hold an hour of high-definition video or two hours of regular video. Verbatim is making the discs and Hitachi will release the first Mini Blu-ray cameras in October.


Blu-ray Picks Up Steam

Publication date: January 2008

After almost three years of efforts by HD DVD and Blu-ray to wrangle support, the competition between these two high-definition optical disc formats has taken a strong turn toward Blu-ray. In our opinion, Blu-ray has always been the superior format, so we're happy to hear that Warner Bros. has switched from HD DVD to Blu-ray, giving Blu-ray 70% of the market. The remaining HD DVD holdouts are Paramount and Universal, and Paramount has an escape clause in its agreement with HD DVD that lets it switch if Warner Bros. switches -- which it did.

Why does this matter to computer users? Storage capacity and flexibility. Writable Blu-ray discs store 50GB on each dual-layer disc, with up to 100GB promised. In contrast, HD DVDs store less and are slower. For more info, see our original report at www.design-tools.com/hddvd/.

Currently, 4x Blu-ray burners are available for under $600. They can burn a 50GB disc in 50 minutes, and can also burn DVDs and CDs at high speed.


Update: Blu-ray Hardware Far Outselling HD DVD

On January 22, Electronista pointed to a report that noted that during the second week of January, "Just over 92.5 percent of buyers chose a device with the [Blu-ray] format while less than 7.5 continued to buy HD DVD equipment." And that doesn't even include sales of Sony's PlayStation 3 console, which so plays Blu-ray discs. Read it here.


Best Buy to push Blu-ray over HD DVD

This is from February 11, 2008 at Elecronista/MacNN.com: "Large-scale retailer Best Buy this afternoon unsettled the HD video industry by announcing that it would promote Blu-ray over HD DVD. The chain had originally claimed to remain platform-neutral but now says Blu-ray will be its "preferred" format and will reflect this choice in its stores. Blu-ray movie players and titles will be given more prominent positions than HD DVD, while store staff are more likely to recommend the new format. The sudden shift is a reaction to customer demand, according to Best Buy president Brian Dunn."


Netflix drops HD DVD, goes Blu-ray exclusive

This is from February 11, 2008 at Elecronista/MacNN.com: "Movie rental service Netflix this morning dealt an added blow to HD DVD by announcing that it would drop the format from its mail-based subscriptions, offering HD movies solely in Blu-ray. While the company will not immediately halt rentals of HD DVD tiles, it will no longer add HD DVD movies to its catalog and intends to phase out the format as discs finish their useful rental cycles. The move is claimed to end the confusion caused by dual formats and will let Netflix push HD video more clearly to its rental business, which is still dominated by DVDs."


Wal-Mart drops HD DVD, goes Blu-ray exclusive

As reported on February 16, 2008 in the New York Times, "HD DVD, the beloved format of Toshiba and three Hollywood studios, died Friday after a brief illness. The cause of death was determined to be the decision by Wal-Mart to stock only high-definition DVDs and players using the Blu-ray format."


Toshiba Concedes Defeat in the DVD Battle

And finally, on February 20, this story from the New York Times: "The Japanese electronics giant threw in the towel on its HD DVD technology, announcing that it would no longer develop, produce or market disc players for the format."



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