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Even though it's annoying to have two separate high definition disc formats because some studios have chosen to release their movies exclusively on just one of the formats, it's hard to complain about what the competition between HD DVD and Blu-ray has done for prices and for the special promotions that are being offered to consumers.
Both camps offered mail-in promotions where you could select to receive free discs from a list of title when you bought a qualifying player, which proved to be a very successful marketing tool.
Those summer promotions ended on Sunday, and new promotions have taken their place. Here is an overview of what is being offered with the purchase of an HD DVD or Blu-ray player:
Toshiba HD-A3 3rd Generation HD DVD Player
When you buy any model of Toshiba HD DVD player (including the 2nd generation and new 3rd generation models), a Microsoft Xbox 360 Addon Drive, or a Toshiba HD DVD computer (several models of laptops that include an HD DVD drive built-in), you can receive five free HD DVDs from the following list:
- Aeon Flux
- The Italian Job
- The Hulk
- Pitch Black
- The Thing
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- Full Metal Jacket
- The Frighteners
- U2: Rattle and Hum
- Black Rain
This promotion goes from 10/1/2007 until 2/28/2008. For more information, including the printable form, visit the official HD DVD promotional web site "The Look and Sound of Perfect."
The second-generation HD-A2 is still available in many places, and as far as I can tell, there are no critical differences between the A2 and the third-generation A3. Since the A2 is going for $230 on Amazon right now, vs. the A3 which is $299 (list price) and will not be available until November 1st, the A2 would be my pick for the entry-level model of choice.
If having 1080p at 24fps is important to you, my recommendation is the HD-A30, which is currently available at a price of $338. See the links to the right if you're interested in purchasing from Amazon.com (we get a small commission on every sale on Amazon.com through this site).
Of course, if you have a Microsoft Xbox 360 game system in your entertainment rack, then the Xbox 360 Addon drive at $180 is a great deal! It's currently the most inexpensive way to take the high-def plunge and get yourself five free discs in the process.
Samsung BD-P1200 2nd Generation Blu-ray Player
Consumers who purchase any qualifying Blu-ray player (including the Sony Playstation 3) will be able to choose five free movies to receive by mail from the following list:
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
- Wild Hogs
- American Psycho
- Chain Reaction
- The Devil's Rejects
- Flight of the Phoenix
- Full Metal Jacket
- Hart's War
- The Last Waltz
- Omen 666
- The Patriot
- The Prestige
- Stir of Echoes
- Superman: The Movie
This promotion lasts from 10/1/2007 through 1/31/2008. For more information and to download the printable redemption form, visit Blu-ray Savings U.S.A. Edition.
So then, the question is, which Blu-ray player to buy? There are 18 different models from which to choose, including the Sony Playstation 3 game console, ranging in price from $425 (street price) for the Sharp Aquos BDHP20U to the $1000 (MSRP) for the Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD.
Herein lies the problem with Blu-ray players right now. Not all players have the same features, like ethernet ports for online connectivity. Not all are able to play Dolby TrueHD multi-channel lossless audio. Probably the most detrimental of all, none of them that are available for sale right now conform to the Profile 1.1 requirements that go into effect at the end of this month. Those requirements make it possible to enjoy the enhanced features on discs, like those announced by Disney for Finding Nemo, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, National Treasure, and Sleeping Beauty.
Some of the players being sold right now may be able to be updated with new firmware, but no manufacturer has come out and officially stated that they will do so. If they do come out with new firmware, only those with ethernet ports will be able to take advantage of online functionality, so I'd be sure that my chosen player had one. This would also make updating the firmware easier, if all I had to do was choose "update" from a menu instead of having to wait for an update disc in the mail or downloading the update and burning a disc myself.
There are also rumors of more aggressive pricing on Blu-ray players headed into the holiday shopping season. Many analysts are looking to the Blu-ray manufacturers to lower prices to match those of equivalent HD DVD players in order to increase their installed base of players. Without such an increase, predictions are not the most positive for the future of the format.
I haven't bought a Blu-ray player yet, and I don't plan to until the prices come down and the features are present. I recommend that others do the same. However, if you're itching for a player right now, go in with open eyes. The flip side of the risk is that you get to enjoy Blu-ray HD movies now instead of later!
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