Poll: Did You Ever Own an HD DVD Player?

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?

Did You Ever Own an HD DVD Player?

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  1. Vernon

    I bought into HD-DVD and am still happy that I did. Blu-ray has won the war but to me lost the battle. I have a few titles on HD-DVD that I have since paired with their Bluray counterpart and still find the HD-DVD ones to be better. My favorite is the first transformer movie. That title arrived first on HD-DVD and I will say that it is better in picture quality that the Blu-ray version. The Bourne Trilogy is the same. I have a Toshiba HD-A35.
    Please correct me if I am wrong, but in my research I found that HD-DVD lost out mainly because Sony (who owns most of the movie studios) force them to stop supporting HD-DVD or face consequences. the only studio that stayed with HD-DVD was Universal. With lack of support from the studios the format had to concede. That left a bad taste in my mouth and bad feeling about Sony. Took a while for me to buy my first Bluray disc and player.
    I currently have a large collection of Blu-ray titles, but I still go back and watch my HD-DVD discs. When the war ended I rushed to Circuit City (I know they went too like the HD-DVD format) and picked up everything they had for $5 a piece. Just picked up a few more recently at my local Trade-It for $2 a piece. It has been a fun ride and I am still on the roller coaster. HD-DVD LIVE OOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!

    • William Henley

      Sony owns Colombia and Tristar, and they never did support HD-DVD. Disney was a Blu-Ray supporter and actually helped develop the format.

      Blu-Ray was pretty much a more open format (it is thought of as Sony versus Toshiba, but its more along the ways of Toshiba vs everyone else). Sony was a major supporter of Blu, and helped devlelop the format, but they were not the only company.

      I see many people in the forums incorrectly stating that Blu-Ray was rushed to the market to compete with HD-DVD. This is not true. Blu-Ray and the Blu-Ray disc association was formed in February of 2002, and HD-DVD was formed by the DVD Forum in March of 2002. Neither format was really rushed to the market.

      • Josh Zyber

        Blu-ray absolutely was rushed to market. Regardless of when the respective associations were formed, Blu-ray was not ready in 2006. The protocols for internet connectivity weren’t finalized. Picture-in-picture features didn’t work. Lossless audio couldn’t be used. Production yields for dual-layer discs were untenable.

        The format needed at least another year’s development time, and would have taken it had HD DVD not launched first and put pressure on the Blu-ray consortium to get something on the market as soon as possible. Hence we wound up with the ridiculous Blu-ray player “profiles,” a half-assed BD-Live implementation that nobody used, and a year’s worth of terrible-quality single-layer discs.

        Blu-ray came out on top in the end, but its launch was a disaster, and that’s entirely the fault of rushing to market before anything was ready.

        • Sam T

          Mr. Zyber I own an XA2 and replaced the laser last year (not very easy for someone with zero electronics repair experience-DOH!). It now appears that the entire drive needs to be replaced. Any ideas where I may find such a part? Thank you for any assistance.

          • Sam T

            Yes sir, I’m in the process of trying to track down the right folks to speak with at Toshiba. I have now been given a couple of other phone #’s. One of which is a (949) area code. This is an area code in So. California so we’ll see how it goes. I will try to keep you posted of my progress for any potential future benefit to you or others. Thank you for your response.

  2. William Henley

    I bought mine right after, oh who was the first company to jump ship, was it Paramount? Anyways, I bought mine right after that. I saw the writing on the wall. So I paid $150 for it, then Best Buy dropped the price and offered everyone who bought one a $50 refund, so I ended up paying only $50 for the player. It came with 3 discs from Toshiba and another 5 from Best Buy, then when Toshiba pulled the plug, movies were suddenly available for under $10 each. I picked up Battlestar Galactica season 1, Heros season 1 and Star Trek season 1 all for $10 each. Many movies were either given to me (by someone on this site) or I was picking up for a couple of bucks each.

    Up until the fire in December, I still fired up my HD-DVD player from time to time. The format had two good things going for it – no region codings and it didn’t matter what framerate you wanted to throw at it, it would play it. Everything else about the format was inferior to Blu-Ray. You looked at a disc wrong, and it suddenly wouldn’t play. You rented a disc, and a single scratch would throw the audio and video out of sync. Many times with Netflix, I would have to send a disc back 2-3 times before getting a copy that was playable. This could have been fixed if companies had of put an anti-scratch coating on it, but they cut corners with disc production. I have actually bought movies on the clearance rack, still in their shrink wrap, and got them home, and they were unplayable because of a scratch that the disc received while it was still sealed.

    I’m not buying another. All the movies I had are now available on Blu-Ray, and I can now pick them up for under $10.

    BTW, the internet on my player never worked until a system update that came out a month after Toshiba killed the format was released. By that time, most companies had shut down their webservers, so I never got to experience any of that stuff.

    The only thing was that a few of the Harry Potter movies had bonus features that were exclusive to the HD-DVD format. Not sure if they were released on the Ultimate Editions or not.

  3. I bought an Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on at launch. The price was reasonable considering the $499 price tag of the lowest end blu ray player at the time. When the format waved the white flag to blu ray a short two years later, I bought three back up XB360 players at Fry’s Electronics for $30 a piece. I’m still using the original without any issues 8 years later. By the way, does anyone want a copy of King Kong on HD DVD? I have three extra copies.

  4. Justin

    I almost bought an HD-DVD player when Paramount switched to HD-DVD exclusivity. At that point I believe Toshiba was pretty much giving away players with all the free movies offered from purchasing one. But I decided to wait a bit later because I began hearing rumors that Warner might go Blu-Ray exclusive and end the format war. I’m glad I did, although honestly, I wouldn’t have minded since all that HD-DVD stuff was so cheap at the time anyway.

  5. DanK

    I was all-in with HD DVD. Bought just over 100 discs, a lot of which were before the fire sales started to happen.
    My only real disappointment is that, although Warner gave us the option to get $5 Blu-ray replacements (Red to Blue. Remember that?), Paramount and Universal never did the same. For that reason, there are still a bunch of Paramount and Universal discs that I haven’t replaced.
    I still technically have three players (HD-A1, Xbox Add-on, and a dual-format LG drive for my HTPC), I really only use the Xbox add-on anymore. I never did the final firmware upgrade to the HD-A1, and although my dual-format drive still works, it requires a specific “legacy” version of TMT5, which I have, but I haven’t turned on that HTPC in months, either.

  6. Kyle

    I was interested in both but i bought a PS3 first as it doubled as a gaming console. I then waited a bit for some of the releases to drop a few bucks before slowly starting my collection. I never did buy an HD DVD player until the format war was over…though i debated for a while when players started dropping in price. I ended up picking up the 360 add on for around $40 and built up a collection from $5-$8 (sometimes less) discount bins and clear out online sales. I have not watched an HD DVD in a good year or two but that’s mainly due to wanting to watch more recent releases

  7. Marty

    I did have a HD-DVD player and the HD war seem like such a wast of time and greed since it does’t really matter what medium you use to deliver the content. Dual formats would have been fine. After the movie industry decided my investment in HD-DVD should be discarded I was left with bad feeling toward Warner Bros.
    I have never and probably will never by a BluRay player. I ripped all my HD-DVD movies to hard disk and I have purchased BluRay movies and I ripped them to hard disk and play the movies on my WDTV HD media player or steam them from my Plex server. So the physical Disc’s are just for archive purposes.
    And now 4K movies are coming and what will our media choises be? 4k-DVD! 😛 hahaha



  8. A-Weapons

    Basically..the HD-DVD format is ALMOST identical to the Bluray..the ONLY difference is in the audio department..since HD-DVD never REALLY got off the ground..the Bluray got all of the accolades, the increase in Video information, & the increase in audio information..the average Bluray is anywhere from 25GB-50GB, where the HD-DVD is 15GB-30GB..(Hitachi acutally made a 45GB HD-DVD-R, but they’re VERY rare)..i use to make HD-DVDs to BD-Rs..& vise versa & honestly, i see no difference except in audio..it’s like FIOS & DirecTV..it’s the same as far as visually..but the internet is no comparison at all..same thing with the HD formats..both are about the same visually..(Bluray is a little better..BUT BARELY)..the audio is a little more apparent which is the better format..i’ll someday TRY to make an HD-DVD-R with the 45GB disc..(i’ve done the 30GB with the Transformers Bluray..& it was stunning)..some of the newer BD-Rs are 100GBs..(so imagine the info you can put on that one)..More or less..Bluray BARELY beats HD-DVD..it’s like 100 to like 92.5..LOL..but a win is a win..(laughing)..i still use it just to see & compare the clarity of the formats..i haven’t made a BD-R or an HD-DVD-R in a while..but i’m going to get a 45GB & a 100GB..(i haven’t tried a 50GB BD-R either)..it’s unfortunate than Bluray won..i think they should’ve kept both formats..(even if the HD-DVD is the least desired of the 2..there should be competition)..i love BOTH formats..& i still use the HD-DVD format..(even though it’s no longer needed)..Thank you all..Peace..& God bless you & yours..

    A-Weapons..South Bronx, NYC..

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