IFA NEWS: HD DVD fights back with £200 players and big disc releases

If you’d swallowed everything that the Blu-ray Group had to say in its IFA press conference, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the format war was almost over.

Well, when the HD DVD group took to the stage the very next day, it showed no signs of surrender.

The feeling from the HD DVD gang is that price and availability are going to win this war, and to that end it’s announced that 400 HD DVDs will be available by the end of the year, and that new players will be coming out at half the price of the Blu-ray equivalents.

The first of these new players is the Ventura SHD7000. There’s nothing unusual here in terms of features (1080i output and DVD upscaling), but what is unusual is the price – just £200. Expect to see it on shelves in time for Christmas.

Toshiba clearly isn’t going to be outdone by a little-known UK upstart though, and announced a couple of new players of its own. The HD-EP30 is expected to launch at between €349 and €399 (so we’d expect it to be around £300), and will feature 1080p/24fps output, DVD upscaling and REGZA-Link for controlling other Toshiba devices.

The next step-up from the ‘EP30 is the HD-EP35 (pictured), which adds Deep Colour support, and 7.1 high bit rate audio via HDMI. The ‘EP35 is likely to be between €449 and €499, so we expect it to be about £400 here. Both should be launching in October.

The last of the new players to be announced was the Onkyo DV-HD805, which features everything, from HDMI 1.3, to all of the hi-def surround formats and 1080p/24fps. The Onkyo will launch at around €999, so our guess is about £800 in the UK.

All very nice, we’re sure you’ll agree, but there’s no point in loads of new players if there are no discs to watch on them. Luckily then, the HD DVD group has announced tons of upcoming movies, ranging from the Bourne Trilogy, to Blade Runner and the Harry Potter series.

They even have a rather amusing promo video, which features everyone’s favourite trailer voice-over guy announcing that HD-DVD makes movies “more cut throatier” with car chases that are “high speedier”. Chuckles abound.

More seriously, the group is claiming that consoles are not the key to selling hi-def discs. Apparently the PS3 is getting an attachment rate of just one Blu-ray movie, whereas HD-DVD players are achieving an average attachment of four discs. No mention of how many of these attached discs are the freebies that have been bundled with the hardware... Talking of which, the number of free HD-DVD discs that purchasers of Toshiba players can claim has increased from three to five.

The other hugely important point according to the HD-DVD group is that of setting mandatory standards. Every player that is launched has to include permanent storage, an ethernet connection, and picture-in-picture. The Blu-ray group has no such rules, meaning the player you fork out for may not be able to utilise all of the features of future discs.

Unsurprisingly, the argument over disc capacity has been raised again, with the Blu-ray group claiming that their 50GB discs are able to offer more content for the consumer.

The HD DVD group responds as it always has; by stating that the 30gb available on HD DVD discs is more than enough, and that the lower production and purchasing costs of HD DVDs over Blu-ray discs offers more of an advantage.

Obviously, the greatest theme at this year’s IFA is that the format war is far from over.

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