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Blu-ray vs HD DVD

Blu-ray and HD-DVD are two formats that competed to become the next generation high-definition DVD format to replace standard DVD. Yet again, a format war left the poor confused consumer stuck with a seemingly impossible choice. This time, however, consumers were wary of being burnt and neither format was particularly well supported until Blu-ray was declared the winner early in 2008.

The table below outlines the main features of each format. Features with a yellow background are the same for both formats. Note this this table was current as of February 2008, which was the last time it really mattered.

   HD DVD  Blu-ray
Capacity: 15GB (single layer), 30GB (dual layer). Prototypes have been demonstrated up to 45GB, the theoretical limit is 60GB. 25GB (single layer), 50GB (dual layer). Prototypes have been demonstrated up to 100GB, the theoretical limit is 200GB.
Compression: MPEG-2, AVC MPEG-4 and VC-1 MPEG-2, AVC MPEG-4 and VC-1
Max Resolution: 1080p 1080p
Backers: Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo, Memory-Tech, Microsoft. NBC Universal, Viacom (Paramount and Dreamworks). Sony, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita (Panasonic), Mitsubishi, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, TDK, Dell and Thomson Multimedia. Disney, Fox, MGM, Warner Bros.
Compatibility: Backwards-compatible with standard DVD. Backwards-compatible with standard DVD.
Advantages: First to market.
Backed by Microsoft.
Cheaper to produce in the short term.
Much greater storage capacity.
Re-writable discs can record and playback at the same time.
Sony owns Columbia Pictures and recently bought MGM. It also has PlayStation 3 on it's side, which plays Blu-Ray DVDs.


Why Did Blu-ray Win the War?

It is worth noting that, like the VHS/Betamax war, this war was not really decided on the technical merits of each format. It is certainly arguable that the best format won but it is widely believed that other factors such as marketing and company politics were more important.

Carl Gressum, a senior analyst at London technology consultancy firm Ovum, was reported by CNN as saying "They didn't manage to bring on board some of the China vendors, they didn't bring (on board) the retailers, they've failed to develop in the European and Asian markets".

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