Get a Blu-ray/HD DVD media center PC for $749 shipped (plus tax)

I'm no fan of Windows Vista, but I absolutely love Windows Media Center (which comes baked into most versions of the operating system). It turns your PC into a full-fledged DVR, one that supports multiple TV tuners, requires no TiVo-like subscription fees, and pairs very nicely with HDTVs.

Hewlett-Packard has a pretty killer deal on the Pavilion Slimline s3300t, a compact but feature-packed media center with a surprise inside: a Blu-ray/HD DVD combo drive. That's right: for $749.99, less than the price of a hybrid high-def DVD player, you can get an entire media center PC.… Read more

Blu-ray buyers suing Samsung for defective players

Samsung was the first to market with a Blu-ray player, but it hasn't exactly been a smooth ride. Home theater enthusiasts will undoubtedly remember the brouhaha over the first Blu-ray player, the Samsung BD-P1000, which was blamed for the initial lackluster video performance of Blu-ray (although, we always thought the fault lied more with poor movie transfers, rather than the BD-P1000). More recently, we've blogged the entire slate of firmware fixes Samsung has released to correct compatibility issues with certain discs on its entire line of Blu-ray players.

Apparently those firmware fixes aren't enough for everyone, as … Read more

Five reasons you shouldn't buy a Blu-ray player yet

With HD DVD looking more and more like it's on the ropes, it would seem like the ideal time to commit to Blu-ray--right? Not so fast. There are at least five reasons to stick with your good old-fashioned DVD player--at least for the next few months. (And, as always, there are some key caveats and insider secrets for those who can't resist pullling the trigger as soon as possible.)

1. Nearly all current Blu-ray players are obsolete: The Blu-ray standard is still evolving. Most models currently available use the original Profile 1.0 standard, while some newer models … Read more

Keeping it real: What's up with the continuing allure of physical media?

I've always thought it was strange that so many people who bought VHS tapes rarely watched them. And then a lot of them bought them again on DVD! They needed to own Sex in the City, The Godfather, or the Star Wars trilogy, but never even broke the seal. Maybe they buy them as keepsakes, to remind them how much they loved the film or TV show, but don't actually need to see it. Or they watch it once and that's all they need. Big multi-disc box sets can be daunting, I bet half the ones sold … Read more

HD DVD's ship is sinking fast

When Warner Bros. announced it was becoming a Blu-ray exclusive studio, most observers of the format war agreed that it was a mortal wound for HD DVD. The only remaining question was, how long is HD DVD going to last? Well, according to the latest NPD data (as compiled by Bill Hunt at The Digital Bits), not very long. During the week of January 5 to 12--the first week the market had to respond to the Warner announcement--Blu-ray absolutely trounced HD DVD in hardware sales, grabbing 92.53 percent of the high-def disc-player market. That's pretty ugly for the HD DVD camp, but it only gets worse. The most damning aspect of these numbers is that they do not include the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on drive--only standalone players. We previously thought HD DVD's only road to victory was by selling tons of cheap standalone HD DVD players, so the fact that relatively expensive Blu-ray players are starting to sell makes it seem like this format war has been officially declared over--by the consumers.

Of course, Toshiba slashed prices on its HD DVD players just a few days after this data ends… Read more

Firmware fixes on deck for Samsung Blu-ray players

Blu-ray may be coasting to a format war victory over archrival HD DVD, but it's still got some mopping up to do in the meantime--namely, improving player compatibility with some of the more popular movies already available. Samsung has begun rolling out firmware upgrades for all of its players to address issues that have plagued some users when watching Blu-ray versions of such favorites as Ratatouille, Spider-Man 3, Live Free or Die Hard, Blade Runner, and Pirates of the Caribbean 3. According to Samsung, the updates will be available as follows: … Read more

Can anything save HD DVD?

HD DVD is almost certainly dead in the water. The surprise move of Warner to move to exclusive Blu-ray support has sunk any hope the HD DVD group ever had for winning the format war. What's more, there are rumors that the last two HD DVD studios--Paramount and Universal--are both planning a similar defection. So, can anything save the format now?

It seems pretty unlikely. If Universal and Paramount stay exclusive to HD DVD, however, it's possible the format could survive in the short term. Of course, the moment one or other of those companies leave, … Read more

Why Americans don't buy DVD players that record

The recording DVD player. These have been popular in Europe and Asia but have fallen flat in the U.S. Most companies don't even bother to put much effort into marketing them in this country.

The same phenomenon will likely hold true for recording Blu-ray and HD DVD players.

Makato Ebata, CEO of the consumer business group at Hitachi, gave us an explanation in a recent interview. Cable TV penetration is far higher in the States than Asia or Europe. With cable, the same show can appear on a channel several times. In Europe and Japan, you need to … Read more