High Definition seems to be the current buzzword in the technology sector; we have had high definition ready TV’s on the market for some time now and now not only do we have a choice of one high definition playback format to choose from but two, with the introduction of BluRay. To be honest the whole affair is very much like the old Betamax and VHS video war which repeats itself so often in the technology sector as two different formats struggle for supremacy. This war is particularly interesting for those in the computing industry because this technology isn’t only for the video industry but one of the formats will most likely become standard in the PC industry enabling software producers to fit huge amount of data on to a single disc.
Of course both formats have their advantages and disadvantages which is what we’ll be discussing today by looking at both formats individually.
First up we have the HD DVD standard which the DVD Forum decided in November 2003 would be the official HD successor to the established DVD format. This new standard was jointly developed by a group of consumer electronics companies spearheaded by Toshiba.
The technology is based on a blue-violet 405nm laser which is much thinner than the traditional red laser used in DVD technology meaning that as much as 15Gb can be stored on a single HD DVD layer rather than the traditional 4.7Gb.
All HD DVD players are backwards compatible meaning that you can play standard DVD’s on your new player and there are already plenty of players out there as the technology has been established for a relatively long time. A potential downside to this technology is that no games consoles support this standard straight out the box although Xbox 360 owners do have the option to purchase a HD DVD upgrade for their machines separately from the main console.
On the flipside we have BluRay which was only released last year by the BluRay Disc Association which was founded as a contrast to the DVD Forum back in 2002. The group was founded by nine leading electronic companies including Philips, Pioneer, LG, Hitachi and Sony.
The technology is very similar to the HD DVD format in that a blue-violet 405nm laser is used to read the discs however technical differences mean that the two versions are incompatible with one another and so far a system that can read both types of disc hasn’t been released. Blu-Ray does have an advantage over HD-DVD in that it can support 25Gb per layer rather than just 15Gb but this does unfortunately result in an increase in the manufacturing costs resulting in a higher cost player and a higher cost per disc.
Whilst it’s not compulsory that BluRay drives will read standard DVD’s it should be noted that so far the manufacturers have made a point of ensuring that their drives do read the old DVD format. Since this format hasn’t been around for long there are relatively few devices that offer Blu-Ray support. As interesting development which should dramatically increase the chance of Blu-Ray succeeding is that the Playstation 3 includes a BluRay drive as standard so all games designed for this console will be stored on Blu-Ray discs.
Of course technical superiority doesn’t guarantee the success of a format; Betamax was superior to VHS in many ways and yet it failed due to lack of public and corporate support. As to which of the above formats succeeds will primary depend on those two factors as the selection and availability of titles is much more important to the average user than technical specifications such as transfer speeds or disc capacity.