High-def players not all equal
By Kim Komando
By Kim Komando
High-definition DVD players and movies are the buzz for video enthusiasts. After all, they deliver much better pictures than standard DVD players. But before you buy a new HD DVD player, it pays to do your research.
There are two high-definition formats: HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc. The formats are incompatible; so many buyers have been hesitant to commit. Perhaps you remember the VHS and Betamax format war of the 1980s?
A solution is on the horizon. LG recently released a player that handles both HD DVD and Blu-ray. At $1,200, it is pricey; however, it won't soon become obsolete. Samsung will also release a dual-format player this year.
Total Hi Def (THD) discs are also coming this year. These discs will contain both HD DVD and Blu-ray versions of a movie. The discs won't be much more expensive than other high-definition discs. High-definition movies cost $30 to $40.
Only Toshiba sells HD DVD players right now. Several companies sell Blu-ray players. Prices range from about $400 to $1,500.
GETTING THE PICTURE
Before you spend this kind of cash, make sure you'll get the best picture. Most players will output 1080p. Others only output 1080i.
Smoother, clearer images are provided by 1080p. The p stands for progressive scan. All the lines of resolution are refreshed electronically in one pass.
In contrast, 1080i is interlaced. Odd-numbered lines are refreshed first. Even-numbered lines are refreshed in the second pass.
To get the highest resolution, most players require an HDMI connection. There are different flavors of HDMI. HDMI 1.3 offers twice the bandwidth of version 1.2. It can support more advanced video and audio technologies.
Pay attention to players' audio features. They all have optical digital audio outputs. This allows you to listen to digital sound in surround.
Only some have analog surround sound outputs. You may need to upgrade your receiver if it doesn't have an optical audio input.
Additionally, there are several types of surround sound. All players are compatible with 5.1-channel surround sound. You may have a 7.1- or 8.1-channel surround system. In that case, make sure the DVD player supports this.
High-definition players will play standard DVDs. But not all will play audio or MP3 CDs.
HD DVD players have Internet support. You can connect to the Internet from the player to access additional DVD features. This is not the case with Blu-ray.
Look for memory card slots and computer connections. You can access pictures, music and videos stored on your computer or memory card.
High-definition players have been around for a year. But the format war has not been settled. For now, the best option may be a dual-format player.
If you're a gamer, Sony's PlayStation 3 ($600) plays Blu-ray. An add-on HD DVD player ($200) is available for Microsoft's Xbox 360.