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CNET: 10 ways HD-DVD falls short


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#1 of 36 OFFLINE   EricRWem

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Posted April 26 2006 - 02:13 AM

http://reviews.cnet.....=links;feature


Quote:
Originally Posted by CNET's By David Carnoy
Executive editor, CNET Reviews
(April 26, 2006)
For Tom Cruise watchers, April 18 was a big day. Yes, there was something about him having a kid with Katie Holmes, but more importantly for videophiles, The Last Samurai HD-DVD was officially released along with Toshiba's new next-gen DVD player, the HD-A1 and three other discs: The Phantom of the Opera, Million Dollar Baby, and Serenity. Kudos to Toshiba for actually getting a semiaffordable first-generation product out well ahead of Sony and Camp Blu-ray. But as I've said before, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of things to complain about. So, here we go. I've ordered my gripes from mildly bothersome to really irksome. And of course, feel free to add your own peeves.

1. Initial HD-DVDs are just rehashes of the existing DVDs

OK, so it's early in the game. But this is the same complaint that folks had about a lot of early Xbox 360 games--that they're just graphically spruced-up versions of their Xbox counterparts. Hopefully, we'll soon see some HD-DVD discs that actually show off some of the interactive features that Toshiba is touting.



2. Extra features not in high-def

This format is called HD-DVD, so why am I not watching extras in HD? Enough said.



3. Player doesn't do enough

I understand Toshiba wanting to come out with a basic player for a semiaffordable price. Five hundred bucks is a lot, but it's half the price of what Blu-ray players will start out at, and it's not an outrageous figure for those wanting a first crack at cutting-edge technology. That said, the company's step-up HD-DVD player, the HD-XA1 ($799) should have offered a little more in the way of features--instead, it boasts only a motorized front door, some better-looking cosmetics, an RS-232 port, and a backlit remote. How 'bout a little DVD-Audio support? (SACD is probably a no-no, since it's a Sony-backed format.) What about slots for memory cards, so you can show your digital photos at high-def resolutions or play back digital music? And why couldn't those USB ports in front accept thumbdrives filled with digital photos and music?



4. No 1080p output

The high-definition video output of first-generation HD-DVD players is limited to 720p or 1080i, not 1080p, which is currently the best high-def image you can get. With only a handful of HDTVs out there that accept and display a native 1080p signal, what's the big deal? For starters, 1080p is quickly becoming the new de facto gold standard for HDTVs, with 1080p inputs set to become a lowest common denominator for nearly all 2006 HDTVs. But the dearth of 1080p output is most frustrating, once you find out that HD-DVD movies are being mastered in 1080p--but that theoretically better picture quality will remain locked on the disc until 1080p HD-DVD players appear (sometime in 2007, if not earlier). Needless to say, it's a bummer to not get 1080p right out of the gate, especially when first-gen Blu-ray players will offer it. I don't need to be completely future-proofed, but give me some basic protection, please.


5. Component video can be flagged

I almost wrote a full column on this issue alone. The unfortunate fact is that studios can encode their discs with an image-constraint flag that downconverts the HD-DVD's output resolution to 960x540 when played through the analog component-video outputs, which lack the robust digital copy-protection of HDMI. That means discs that are so flagged will display only a quarter of their best possible resolution if you own one of the early HDTVs that are lacking digital video inputs (HDMI or HDCP-compatible DVI). Yes, Blu-ray discs carry the same restrictions, and almost all of the studios have tentatively agreed to not flag their initial batch of releases. But that still leaves early adopters at the mercy of the studio bosses, who can choose to reverse course at any time.


6. Wacky audio

HD-DVD discs allegedly offer even better sound than do DVDs. And while we actually believe this--HD-DVD discs are encoded with the higher-resolution Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital Plus, and/or DTS-HD soundtracks--the player's audio setup is a real hassle to figure out, and we're still not certain we've gotten optimal sound out of the home theater here in our lab. In our review of the HD-A1, we note that, "There's a full-page chart in the manual that details which connections can pass which types of soundtracks, including footnotes such as this: 'Bitstream audio output is possible only when the connected HDMI device has bitstream decoding function. If not, sound is output in PCM (48k) format.'" If that isn't confusing enough, word is that Warner's initial HD-DVD offerings don't appear to have been mastered correctly. As reported at DVD enthusiast site The Digital Bits, if you go from watching The Last Samurai to Universal's correctly mastered Serenity, your speakers may get blown out, because the latter disc is so much louder--a fact to which we can attest.


7. HDMI hiccups

Toshiba didn't create the finicky beast known as HDMI, so we can't totally fault the company for this one, but the fact remains that we've encountered our share of problems while trying to connect the HD-A1 to various HDTVs in our lab. On a couple of occasions, the player simply stopped playing in the middle of a movie, or we got an "HDMI error" message--and a black screen of death--when we switched inputs while the player was running. Blame game aside, we expect that HD-DVD early adopters will encounter their share of connectivity snafus.



8. Sluggish performance

One of biggest disappointments with Toshiba's first-gen player is how slow it is. Yeah, the first DVD players weren't jackrabbits either, but HD-A1 truly chugs--Windows XP loads faster on some PCs than HD-DVDs do on this thing, and certain button presses give new meaning to the word delay.



9. The smaller the display, the smaller the difference

So we compared the The Last Samurai HD-DVD to its DVD counterpart on a Panasonic TH-42PX60U 42-inch plasma. The standard DVD was in our reference player, the Denon DVD-3910 (outputting at 720p), while the HD-DVD was, naturally, in the HD-A1. We flipped back and forth between the TV's two HDMI inputs, and though the HD-DVD image was distinctly sharper and clearly had the edge, the difference wasn't huge. We're pretty certain, however, that you'll see a much bigger difference the bigger you go. As we wait to get a large HDTV back in our labs--say, something along the lines of a Sony KDS-R60XBR1 60-inch SXRD rear-pro or a higher-end front projector--we'll stick by our recommendation that at these prices, next-gen DVD players should interest only those with HDTVs of 50 inches or larger.



10. A dearth of discs

Originally, HD-DVD was supposed to launch with 30 discs, but that number shrunk to 4--and we ended up finding only 3 in stores the week of April 18. Any way you look it, that's a paltry number. By comparison, DVD had at least 30 titles available within the first month of the format's March 1997 debut. HD-DVD backers hope to have around 200 titles--by the end of 2006.

There's some actual hyperlinks in the text body if you go to the Cnet link for further reading.

#2 of 36 OFFLINE   Jerome Grate

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Posted April 26 2006 - 03:58 AM

Thanks to C-NET, certainly some valid points here and the real reason I'm not jumping into this yet. Even with a nice fat tax check coming in, there is no way I'm stepping in to it this early.
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#3 of 36 OFFLINE   MarkHastings

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Posted April 26 2006 - 04:02 AM

The one thing that I'm curious about is with #9...While I assumed that smaller TV's (i.e. 50" and under) wouldn't make a huge enough difference, I am curious about TV's over 50".

I have a 55" and when I watch my HD cable, while certain things like ESPN (and other sporting events) look MUCH better than my DVD's do, some of the other HD broadcasts (mainly the movie channels) don't seem like they offer much of a noticable difference with their HD content.

That leads me to believe that I might not be as "Wowed" with an HD player right now. Well, not that I wouldn't be wowed, but I don't think I'd be wowed enough.
Quote:
some valid points here and the real reason I'm not jumping into this yet
Yeah, as others have also mentioned, I'm still in the "DVD still looks fantastic" mode.

This will definitely be a must have in the future, but I don't think I'm ready for another "Early Adopter" phase of technology when the old is still pretty darn great.

#4 of 36 OFFLINE   Peter Overduin

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Posted April 26 2006 - 06:02 AM

yes...having the 60" Wega that WILL display 1080p...i'll be passing on this till the bugs are out....sound like a lot of the same ones that plagued the first dvd players as well.
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#5 of 36 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted April 26 2006 - 10:15 AM

The 1080p is the only real draw back on that list, everything else is just being picky.

I have no plans to upgrade my display for a least 2 years so 1080p is of no concern at this point and I did not want to wait that long to buy a player and miss out on the fantastic picture quality. By the time I upgrade my display it'll be time to upgrade my player. Besides, how much of an improvement will 1080p give over 1080i? Not much I'm guessing.

There are also 10 (or more) ways HD-DVD suceeds.
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#6 of 36 OFFLINE   Dave_P.

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Posted April 27 2006 - 01:35 AM

Yep, I'll be passing, till some thing get ironed out. Especially the slowness, audio and 1080p issues.

#7 of 36 OFFLINE   Shawn.F

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Posted April 27 2006 - 01:52 AM

Would this guy like some cheese and crackers to go along with his whine?

Yeah, some of those are valid points, but they can and most likely will be ironed out. I haven't picked up a machine yet (took the 360 plunge this spring instead), but I have seen my friend's and we were both impressed (although we both thought the remote sucked).

I. for one, am curious to see an article like this on the debits of Blu-Ray when it arrives. In fact, I have the first gripe: $38 for titles like "Underworld: Evolution" and "Ultraviolet"? What type of glue is Sony huffing these days?

#8 of 36 OFFLINE   MarkHastings

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Posted April 27 2006 - 01:58 AM

Quote:
Would this guy like some cheese and crackers to go along with his whine?
But I would assume (especially a site like CNET) is geared more toward the average consumer. For them, his points are good points for the average consumer to wait. As far as the video/audiophile, those disadvantages aren't worthy enough of not getting into HD.

#9 of 36 OFFLINE   Juan C

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Posted April 27 2006 - 02:09 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn.F
Yeah, some of those are valid points, but they can and most likely will be ironed out.

So for the average consumer, the most sensible approach is wait for the problems to be solved and then - and only then - buy a player. Hopefully, points 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 will be history by next holidays.

#10 of 36 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted April 27 2006 - 03:21 AM

Quote:
So for the average consumer, the most sensible approach is wait for the problems to be solved and then - and only then - buy a player. Hopefully, points 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 will be history by next holidays.
First gen stuff like this is not for the average consumer, never has been. This roll out is for the enthusiast, the early adopters.
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#11 of 36 OFFLINE   Dave H

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Posted April 27 2006 - 05:46 AM

I have the Toshiba and I think most of the points are nit-picking and minor in the grand scheme of things. The article (obviously) also fails to indicate the positives of the player (besides HD, it has excellent SD upscaling. How many players for $500 can perform great HD and great SD upscaling?).

#12 of 36 OFFLINE   John Milton

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Posted April 27 2006 - 09:42 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron-P
First gen stuff like this is not for the average consumer, never has been. This roll out is for the enthusiast, the early adopters.

Agreed but early adopters still deserve better.

#13 of 36 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted April 27 2006 - 10:00 AM

Agreed, but that never seems to happen.
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#14 of 36 OFFLINE   Brent M

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Posted April 27 2006 - 04:30 PM

I'm usually an early adopter when it comes to this stuff, but I have no desire to get into HD-DVD right now. I'd at least like to see what happens when Blu-Ray finally comes to market and how things play out over the next few months. I certainly don't want to back the wrong format and be stuck with the inferior technology. Besides, there certainly aren't enough good HD-DVD titles out right now(or on the horizon for that matter) that make me feel like I need to rush right out and buy a player. I can stick it out with regular DVD for a few more months or even another year or so until the smoke clears and a clear winner in this stupid format war emerges.
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#15 of 36 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted April 28 2006 - 03:05 AM

I wish Warners had chosen a blockbuster like BATMAN BEGINS or HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE to include among their initial releases (I realize they're coming soon). The enthusiasm for the format would have probably been quadrupled had there been a real "must have" among the first software offerings.

#16 of 36 OFFLINE   Mark Zimmer

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Posted April 28 2006 - 07:05 AM

I'm really interested in seeing what Batman Begins looks like in HD DVD; it was an exceptional DVD transfer but with a ton of dark scenes, where HD DVD really excels.

#17 of 36 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted April 29 2006 - 01:38 AM

I had not had time to read this article, and now having read it, I can only speculate as to the qualifications of David Carnoy as a reviewer of electronic technology. (All of my comments go to the article’s title, Ten ways HD-DVD falls short/ (sic))

1.Initial HD-DVDs are just rehashes of the existing DVDs This goes to the releases not using interactive features—a true geek complaint that has nothing to do with the quality of the releases and also has nothing to do with the supposed premise of the article.
2.Extra features not in high-def A semi-legitimate complaint, but once again it does not really have much to do with the premise of the article (and is nit-picking)
3.Player doesn't do enough OK, a real issue
4. No 1080p output Another real issue, but also one that is a subset of #3.
5. Component video can be flagged Very true, but this issue needs to be directed to the studios, not the hardware guys. And not mentioned is the point that so far the flag has not been implemented.
6. Wacky audio This might well be true, but it is not impressive for the reviewer to speculate: that isn't confusing enough, word is that Warner's initial HD-DVD offerings don't appear to have been mastered correctly.. Are they or are they not? You ought to find out before speculating—a quote from
The Digital Bits
implying there may be a problem is not sufficient.
7.HDMI hiccups As the author points out this is not an HD-DVD issue. So far the guys who have made comments on this forum have not reported similar problems.
8. Sluggish performance Valid point
9. The smaller the display, the smaller the differenceOne wonders where the author has been the last several years. How this is a problem of HD-DVD—or even a problem at all is the question..
10. A dearth of discsA minor problem that will disappear quickly, assuming the format survives.

Point 9 alone is proof enough to disqualify this author from serious consderation.
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#18 of 36 OFFLINE   Holadem

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Posted April 29 2006 - 05:58 AM

He had me until the truly dumb points 7 (well don't disconnect the cable during the movie...), 9 & 10. But ya got to stretch things make a nice round top 10 so...

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#19 of 36 OFFLINE   MarkHastings

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Posted April 29 2006 - 06:23 AM

Are HDMI cables hot-swappable? If so, #7 is a valid point. If not, then yes, DUH!

And again, I think 9 & 10 are important points for your average consumer (which the article is probably targeted at). Those people are probably hearing the buzz on HD and if they don't have large enough sets, you don't want them going into HD-DVD and not seeing a noticable difference. That would just be bad publicity, which the format doesn't need.

In fact, I kind of like that the author mentions the large TV Posted Image - it's like saying "If you don't have the proper equipment, please stay away because you won't notice a difference and I don't want to hear you bitching that you spent a lot of money and aren't impressed" Posted Image

#20 of 36 OFFLINE   MarkHastings

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Posted April 29 2006 - 08:45 AM

Quote:
I wish Warners had chosen a blockbuster like BATMAN BEGINS or HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE to include among their initial releases
The new Matrix release should explain why.

After DVD worked out all of it's initial issues, they started re-releasing titles and people complained about these 're-releases'...then, as the DVD software advanced, people started wanting older titles (with sub-par video compression) to be re-released with better authoring.

So I'd be just fine with the studios holding off on "Blockbuster" releases until the format and technology "settles in". Do it right the first time so we don't have to double dip.


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