The Blu-Ray Dilemma

(CBS)
I just tested a product that I love, but there's no way that I'd recommend it unless you have more money than you know what to do with. The product is the Panasonic DMP-BD10 — a very nice Blu-ray high-definition DVD player. The picture quality is incredible, especially if you're watching DVDs encoded for Blu-ray on a 1080p high-definition TV, but even standard DVDs look a bit better because of the way it "up converts" the resolution.

However, there are two major problems. It's overpriced and there isn't yet a single industry wide standard for high-definition DVDs.

As anyone who follows the high-def DVD market knows, there are two competing standards — Blu-ray and HD DVD — and, with one exception, players designed for one format don't work with discs encoded for the other format.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, LG announced a $1,199 hybrid drive that supports both formats, but that's only a stop-gap measure. What consumers need is a single standard where every high-def DVD player is able to play every high-def DVD.

Until that day comes, I'm reluctant to recommend any high-def player, especially one that costs north of $1,000. The Panasonic drive costs about $1,300 — which is more than 45 times what I paid for my standard-definition DVD player.

Right now there are more companies in the Blu-ray camp than there are supporting HD DVD, but until there's unanimity, it remains unclear as to which, if either, standard will prevail.

The good news about the Panasonic player is that Blu-ray movies look incredible. Unlike broadcast, cable and satellite programs, both Blu-ray and HD DVD support 1080p — the highest resolution of any high-def TV. When I used it to play "Ice Age" on a 1080p LCD TV, I could see every hair on every animated animal. Even the FBI warning looked good.

I don't have an HD DVD player at home, but from what I've seen, HD DVD is also very stunning. I don't care which standard wins, as long as consumers have a clear road map.

As much as I love high-def DVD, my advice is to wait. I hope the industry will eventually agree on a single standard, but even if it doesn't, prices will come down dramatically, although they may never be as cheap as that $29 standard DVD player I bought at a drugstore last year
  • Larry Magid

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