Don’t Believe the Hype, Why HD-DVD Players Suck the Big One

toshiba hd a1Hands-On First Impressions: Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD Player at The Man Room: Welcome to the most confusing mismarketed over-hyped and jumbled new technology in years. High Definition DVD! Ohhhh, ahhhhh, ohhhhh.

Ok, so I was there with the best of them this year at CES and boy were they hyping this HD-DVD stuff. Blu-ray too, but since today’s the big HD-DVD launch we’ll stick with them for the time being.

So why does HD-DVD suck so bad? Well thanks to The Man Room’s early coverage, and the first review I’ve seen yet of the first generation Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD Player, we get this little nugget directly from the Toshiba’s manual:

“HD DVD and DVD video disc creators have the option to include copy protection instructions in their discs that prohibit the output of some standard video or high definition video (original 720p or 1080i or up-converted 480i or 480p) from the COMPONENT OUTPUT jacks. If such instructions are present in the disc you are playing, you must use the HDMI OUTPUT jack to view the disc in a high definition format and the COMPONENT OUTPUT jacks, if activated, will output video only in 480i or 480p resolution.”

So let’s see, not only am I a sucker for spending (how much? $500+) on the player, but now when I bring it home it can’t even play my movies on my 43-inch plasma Pioneer HDTV, THAT I BOUGHT LAST YEAR! So, I can either watch HDTV from HBO, etc. on my HDTV TiVo. Or I can rent regular DVDs, which look pretty darn good. Or I can go out a buy a brand new $5,000 plasma to go with their crappy HD DVD player.

Now in fairness, Hollywood is more to blame with regards to these poor decisions on HD-DVD but Toshiba and every other manufacturer who has decided to support HD-DVD seems to be going along for the ride.

Forget about the disaster format war between HD-DVD and Blu-ray and who will survive, etc. Take this advice directly from The Man Room:

“So should you rush out and buy an HD-A1? With a looming format war on the horizon the best bet is always to wait on the sidelines until a clear-cut winner emerges. I encourage ManRoom owners with deep pockets and urges to own the latest and greatest to at least wait until we spin a real HD-DVD before taking the $500+ plunge into an unproven format.” Well said.

As for me (and remember, I’m an early adopter folks) and the rest of the world with our crappy plasmas from last year, I think we’ll just wait a while on this one. Certainly there is a lucrative market out there with over 100 million U.S. households currently with regular DVD players but sorry Toshiba, I don’t think it’s going to as lucrative this second time around. People hate hearing that after buying a new HD-DVD player that they won’t be able to… well… watch HD-DVDs.

Want more evidence that this HD-DVD thing is going to be a fiasco? Just check out Blockbuster’s decision today to not carry HD-DVD titles in their stores. You will only be able to get them as a Blockbuster Online customer.

Until the DVD manufacturers can unequivocally state that HD DVDs will play in full high res HD glory on all HDTV’s then good luck to you sparky!

Editor’s note: Restrictions placed within discs’ instructions by studios will affect all HD-DVD and Blu-ray players. That’s part of the deal of having next-gen devices that are smart enough to follow the wishes of the content publishers.

PCWorld – First Look: We Test Toshiba’s First HD-DVD Player
Reuters – High-definition DVD finally in stores

Filed in: Industry Buzz