No point buying an HD ready screen without suitable ammunition.
So you’ve seen the first examples of plasma and LCD trickery on show at CeBIT, but having the latest and greatest flat panel isn’t going to help you much without the content to push it to its HD limits. Thankfully the next generation Blu-ray and HD DVD media, drives and players were also out in Magnum Force so let’s take a look.
Being a mischievous fellow I made a bolt for NEC. The HD DVD proponent this week merged its optical drive business with that of Blu-ray founder Sony and I wanted some clarification. A charming NEC rep was good enough to enlighten me.
On the QT is the situation is that both companies want to hedge their bets. Until this point Sony has steadfastly refused to consider supporting HD DVD and NEC stuck its nose up at Blu-ray. The new venture (Sony NEC Optiarc Inc.) provides them a way out. Even more interesting, however, was information that neither company really desires to make two separate product lines but is focused on interoperability.
The rep I spoke to said little was expected to come from the merger along these lines until the second generation of devices but unification is once again on the menu. In this journalist’s opinion that equally may or may not happen, but I’m glad common sense is starting to prevail once more.
As for the hardware itself at this stage it is still solely NEC branded and thus sticks to its HD DVD roots. Two next generation drives were on show: the HR-1100 and HR-2100. The first is a basic 2x ROM drive which can also write to DVDs, while the latter will actually burn at 2x to the new media.
NEC was incredibly sketchy about any further technical details but claimed the price of the ROM drive could be as high as 399 euros when it debuts in May. With media also weighing in at around 20 to 25 euros a pop once again it’s going to be incredibly expensive to be an early adopter. NEC also had a demo rig playing HD DVD discs but since its chosen display was limited to a 1024 resolution it rather destroyed the point.
Moving swiftly on I came to BenQ, a Blu-ray fan, and its rather stunning BW1000 drives. This ‘tripe’ writer (spelling problems methinks?) is available in both internal (above) and external (below) versions and not only burns BR discs at 2x but also writes to CDs (32x) and DVDs (12x). This was rather a surprise as HD DVD backers have long harked on that it was the sole format to offer backwards compatibility.
Upon further investigation I discovered this is still technically true but the strong trend I saw not only with BenQ but also from every other Blu-ray backer was to build its equipment with multiple lasers on different wave lengths therefore allowing their products to be just as user friendly as HD DVD. Given Blu-ray’s far greater storage capacities (25GB to 15GB single layer and 50GB to 30GB dual layer) this could yet prove a telling blow.