Sep 10, 2007


Well I sprang for the Xbox 360 HD DVD player. It's hard to make any case for buying this piece of equipment. I typically pride myself on being a laggard when it comes to hardware adoption. This will undoubtedly be a paperweight in 3 years or less. If my Xbox craps out I'll need a new one in order to watch hi def movies. If Bluray wins the HD battle, I'll have little to select on Netflix in terms of new movies. And lastly, of all the technologies out there that people jump on before widespread adoption, the HD DVD/Bluray battle seems to be one that even the most gadget-philic person seems to be taking a pass on.

So why buy it?

Well, for as little broadcast TV I watch, I do watch a ton of movies. Up till now that has been on DVD. So 3 years of HD DVD rentals turns out to be a lot of movies for me. Some people claim the improvement is minor which is just wrong. And some don't want to invest in a dying format (understandable). But I never buy movies. I always rent. So my economic loss is just the $179 player minus whatever value I put in the 8 slightly pathetic free movies I received with it. That to me is a good deal. It's like buying two iPod Shuffles.

Second, Bladerunner is getting released on HD DVD (and Bluray) this year and I just need to be overly prepared to watch all 5 (yes 5) disks.

Third, I have a 1080p TV that is largely going to waste without hi-def broadcast TV being fed into it. I presume most people are signed up for hi-def digital cable and are getting some utility out of those extra pixels. Not me. I occasionally download the hi-def movie from Xbox Live, but I'd like to watch more hi-def stuff, more often.

So how is it? Well it is movie watching heaven. I'm sure there is no discernible difference between HD DVD or Bluray, but there is clearly a difference between those two and DVDs. My subjective assessment is it is hugely better. Maybe with a powerful upconverter on your DVD player you might attain something approaching hi-def. Since I won't be buying one it's meaningless to me.

Either way, the new formats are sharp enough to dramatically improve the watching experience. In the end that has some real utility for me.

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