I went by the NEX on Monday and picked up a high-speed HDMI cable to connect our HD DVD player to the new TV. To test it out, I put in The Italian Job. ...WOW... The Italian Job in 1080p High Def is... wait for it... LEGENDARY. I went right to the chase scene at the end with the three Mini-Coopers, the armored cars, the motor cycles, and the helicopter. It was just simply amazing. I mean, you could see the slightest glimmer or reflection in the windows of the Mini-Coopers. It was stunning.
I can hear a couple of you asking yourselves, "Self, why did he choose an HD DVD player over a Blu-Ray?" Well, that's an excellent question. I actually knew very little about the formats before my mom found a Toshiba HD DVD player for sale and asked if I wanted it. I did some quick checking around, and found that (a) the user reviews for the Toshiba HD DVD player were excellent, and (b) the price my mom found it for was fantastic. So I told my mom we'd take it. (She actually gave us the HD DVD player for Christmas - thanks, Mom!).
Since then, I've been reading up a little more on the differences between the formats. The two formats are actually very similar. I expect that like the battle of VHS versus Beta, one of the two formats will eventually "win," and the winner may defy the conventional wisdom on which format should win.
Quality-wise, the two formats are the same. Watching The Italian Job on a Blu-Ray disk would have been just as fantastic as watching it on an HD DVD - they're both 1080p. The key difference between the two formats (besides which big-name corporate label is supporting it) is how much data one disk can hold - 30 GB for the HD DVD versus 50 GB for the Blu-Ray (there are other minor differences here and there, but they seemed pretty inconsequential to me). According to this CNET article comparing the formats, the Blu-Ray players are more expensive than the HD DVD players. I don't know if the price difference is driven by an actual functional capability difference or if it's just because the name brand "SONY." Given that the quality is the same and one is more expensive than the other, my logical self tells me, "$elf, economics dictate that the HD DVD format will prevail over the Blu-Ray format." I mean, who cares about the extra space on the disk? They both hold an entire movie, and I rarely watch all those "bonus features" they put on DVDs anyway, so why pay more money for more storage space that you don't need?
However (comma), if I had to wager a cash-bet on which format would win the Blu-Ray versus HD DVD battle today, then I would put my money on Blu-Ray. Why am I defying my own logic, you ask? I would put my money on the Blu-Ray just based on the number of Blu-Ray disks I see for sale at Best Buy... at the NEX... on Amazon.com... and the obviously huge amount of money Sony is investing in pushing the Blu-Ray format. In fact, this afternoon we went to Blockbuster to rent a movie for family movie night, and they had an entire row of Blu-Ray DVDs for rent, but not a SINGLE HD DVD. Curious, I just googled it and found out that Blockbuster made the decision in favor of Blu-Ray way back in June 2007 - long before I ever developed any awareness or interest in the battle between the two formats. And for the coup de grace: I wanted to get one of my favorite movies, The Fifth Element, in HD... but it's a Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) movie, so it's only available in Blu-Ray. Thbbbbbt! :-P
I won't get upset either way. I'd just like SOMEONE to declare a "winner" so we can get on with it. Even if we eventually have to buy a Blu-Ray DVD player, I've got a big enough collection of regular DVDs that I can continue to use the HD DVD player we have to play the HD DVDs we've bought so far along with our old standard format DVDs.
P.S. I can't WAIT for The Brazilian Job to come out!
Update 2/15/08: See follow-up post for more news on this topic.