Putting the HD "Revolution" Behind Us

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

It’s fairly hard to argue that both HD and the Blu-Ray disc (BD) are not successful consumer technologies. In fact, if you want to go out and buy a brand new standard definition television, you probably won’t be able to. It even appears that Best Buy doesn’t offer SD televisions anymore, unless you want to watch The Office on a seven-inch screen. Perhaps you have basic Comcast cable, then you should be getting the local channels in HD as well. Of course, owning an HDTV sure helps.

Finding any high-def naysayers has been difficult of late, as they’ve all seemingly succumbed to the idea that you cannot argue with pixels — 1920 x 1080 is absolutely more than 640 x 480. It’s an undeniable fact. One might as well attempt to prove 2+2 does not equal 4. With all this talk of pixels, we’ve found the most compelling reason for the success of high-definition technology — it just looks better and, of course, it is better.

What about the Blu-Ray disc? Why such controversy over it and why do I constantly get told that people “don’t get it?” I would actually say the main reason is because of its name. When pioneering the technology, Sony was directly competing with Toshiba, who were marketing their HD-DVD at the same time. Of course, Sony couldn’t use the same name, so they came up with Blu-Ray.

Why? Because instead of a regular red laser like DVDs, BDs use a blue-violet laser that has a much shorter wavelength and can thus store more than six times as much data, providing the same phenomenal picture as anything else labeled HD. Had Toshiba’s HD-DVD come out victorious in the format war, I feel they would have met less resistance than Sony has with the Blu-Ray moniker.

Since the advent of Internet streaming, Blu-Ray might appear at first glance to have heavy competition, especially with BDs pricing at $25 or more. Maybe so, but for people who still like buying disc editions of their favorite movies (read: a lot of people), shopping a little smarter will actually pay off.

For instance, at the time of thiswriting, Best Buy (I know, I’m a fan too) is offering the newest Harry Potter movie on DVD for $19.99.  Yeah, DVDs are still that expensive. So the Blu-Ray version must be, what, $35?  Normally you’d be right, but thanks to weekly sales you can get it for a mere $16.99. Shop savvy and save money, my friend. Blu-Ray technology has a host of companies backing it, so don’t count on it going anywhere soon. I’m guessing we’ll see the next generation of HDTVs before that day comes. How does 7680 x 4320 sound?

Well, now that you own an HDTV, are thinking about getting one, or know someone in either circumstance, what are you going to do with the HD capabilities? In short, there are three options — get HD cable, get an HD streaming service, or get a Blu-Ray player. Each of these choices provides a bounty of high-quality options to enjoy the utter beauty that can be displayed on your home screen.

If you’re looking for the cheapest solution, streaming is the way to go. If you’re an avid sports fan or can’t get enough of Gossip Girl, then forking over the money to get those cable channels in HD will be worth it. And if you’re a cinephile, streaming might be able to satisfy some of that HD hunger, but despite the young age of BDs, they offer the most comprehensive collection of high-quality video.

Now that all these otherworldly video (and audio) options seem to be taking off, one might hope we can find some peace from all the newness and take a breather. I for one would appreciate some time to enjoy the fallout from the HD revolution before being forced into something new. For those who remember the Gigahertz Bang (when we went from 500mhz processors to 3.2ghz in the span of a couple years), aren’t you glad the microprocessor can finally take a vacation from all the upgrades (multi-core aside)?

In conclusion, we remember that new technologies emerge all the time — some make it, some don’t.  With every high-def niche seemingly filled, we have to accept what we’ve got.

Jon Schwarzmann is a tech correspondent for Rhombus.



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