Continuing our recent theme of polls about home theater hardware, this week we’d like to know if you ever bought into Toshiba’s short-lived HD DVD format.
The great High-Definition Format War is still a touchy subject for some folks. Passions ran very high during those two contentious years. Some people still hold bitter grudges about it and refuse to let go. Frankly, the whole conflict always seemed kind of ridiculous to me. What’s the big deal about having two competing video formats? We have three separate major videogame consoles right now, each with its own exclusive titles, yet no one seems overly bothered by that.
My interest has always been in high-definition video and high-res audio, not in formats or brand names. When HD DVD and Blu-ray debuted in 2006, I enthusiastically bought both. I was just glad for the opportunity to own movies in quality far beyond DVD.
The fact of the matter is that, during the first year, HD DVD had a much stronger launch with a better selection of movie titles, most presented in excellent video quality (for the time – our standards have risen a bit since then), and most that carried over bonus features from DVD. Toshiba’s HD DVD players also came out of the gate with the ability to play advanced picture-in-picture features and connect to the internet.
The Blu-ray launch, in comparison, was hugely bungled. Players cost twice as much as HD DVD, and the first available model (Samsung’s BDP-1000) was a piece of junk that degraded Blu-ray and DVD playback with non-defeatable Digital Noise Reduction. Because the format was rushed to market early to compete with HD DVD, the first generation of players couldn’t do P-i-P or connect to the internet. Worst of all, the initial wave of disc titles almost entirely suffered from crummy video quality and had little to no bonus features. Blu-ray looked like a disaster.
About a year into the Format War, the tide started to turn. Blu-ray got its act together. Both disc and player quality improved, and Sony’s PlayStation 3 put Blu-ray capability into numerous households. Meanwhile, Toshiba failed to draw any other hardware manufacturers to its side beyond Microsoft’s Xbox 360 add-on unit. This was a big problem, because Toshiba’s HD DVD players and the Microsoft add-on proved to be glitchy and unreliable. On the software side, studios gambled on Combo discs (which had HD DVD on one side and regular DVD on the other), but consumers showed no interest in that, and the Combo discs themselves had a high failure rate with frequent playback problems.
By early 2008, Warner Bros. pulled its HD DVD support and the Format War ended. Ultimately, I think this was for the best. Blu-ray has continued to evolve into quality high-end product, and I’m very happy with its current state.
With that said, I don’t regret buying into HD DVD at the time. I still have a Toshiba HD-XA2 player in my equipment rack and a decent selection of discs on my shelf. However, I have to be honest that it’s been quite a while since I’ve watched an HD DVD. For convenience sake, I’ve replaced many with comparable Blu-ray editions.
What did you do during the Format War? Did you pick a side, were you neutral, or did you sit the whole thing out until Blu-ray finally won?