Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD and the Sony PS3 vs. Xbox-360
Paul Rako - January 16, 2008
So my brilliant young protégé Francis Lau from Aerielle sent along this hilarious video mashup of a Hitler movie with BluRay vs HD-DVD format wars subtitles [advisory: very profane subtitles, the audio is the original German soundtrack for the movie]. The point was that HD-DVD has lost. As I always pulled for HD-DVD this disturbs me, I like the cheaper duplication costs and at least some potential for cost-effective burners in our PCs. When Francis sent the movie out he made the quip “Time to go buy a Sony PS3”. I forwarded the movie to a bunch of pals including Todd Murchison, a software guru, gamer and all around Renaissance man. Last year Todd told me that he uses a PS3 as a media server. He said the wireless features alone make it pretty cool. Todd responded with these comments about the PS3:
I highly recommend the PS3 as a media client. I’m in love with mine as an addition to my home entertainment system. It’s incredible hardware for the $400 price mark. For another $100 you can upgrade the hard drive (without voiding the warrantee) to the 160 or 200 GB range.
I run a free media server called TVersity on my PC (if you are using XP rather than a server OS you can stream your media using Windows Media Player) and I wirelessly stream images, music, and video to my PS3 to be played on my big-screen HD TV and surround sound stereo. The streaming media stuff is very handy as I do not need to copy everything I want to watch to the PS3 drive. The latest firmware on the PS3 natively supports DivX, which covers most of my video media, and the rare video in some other format is transparently trans-coded on the fly by the media server.
For those who might be inclined (though I have not done this) you can dual boot the PS3 with Linux, leaving the native OS available for games, etc. Plug in a USB keyboard and mouse and it’s a very powerful Linux PC using your 1080p TV as a monitor.
As for games, well, they are awesome. I can really only recommend the Xbox 360 if you are a beer guzzling frat-boy who is exclusively interested in playing FPS (first-person shooter) games. If, on the other hand, you are interested in a wider range of games (including FPS), curious about the creative odd-ball games that come out of Japan, or purely interested in the absolute cutting edge, then the PS3 is the way to go.
Furthermore, the 360 does NOT come standard with wireless networking. A wireless network adapter for the 360 is a $100 add-on. The PS3 comes standard with wireless networking built in. The 360 does not come with an HD format drive built-in. Again this is an expensive add-on to get an HD-DVD drive and an add-on Blu-Ray drive is not even available! And yet all PS3s come standard with a Blu-Ray drive. Oh, but the 360 is slightly cheaper than a PS3. I wonder why. Oh! And unless I am mistaken, 360s don’t even come standard with a built in HD! Someone PLEASE explain to me why people keep buying these things…
As for the format war, well I for one am quite happy that Blu-Ray won. For one thing, PS3s have an excellent, firmware upgradable (profile 2.0 anyone?) Blu-Ray player built in, so I already have one. I also already own two movies. I got them for demo purposes, but now that it’s essentially the winning format I guess they can be the first two in my new collection. As for Blu-Ray burring tech, there are already BD burners on the market. As for specific SONY HD camcorder features for burning to Blu-Ray, I’m going to go ahead and hazard a guess that it won’t be long before the SONY backed Blu-Ray technology is well integrated with SONY camcorders.
If price is the only issue, well that’s a simple matter of time. We all waited for DVD burners to drop in price. And then we all waited again for blank DVD media to drop below the $1 per disk mark. I would much rather have a similar wait and be left with superior technology and significantly higher capacity media at the end of it, than settle for, and standardize on, a format that is cheap now, but simply does not delivery a big enough increase in capacity.
Ok, I’m done with my pro-PS3, pro-Blu-Ray rant. Now, on to actually watch the funny video…
Todd’s comments about burners were in response to my pal John Dell, a National Semi product engineer, who had responded:
Too bad the Toshiba/HD DVD camp refused to exploit the fact that burning HD DVD’s on standard DVD burners with inexpensive DVD-R/DVD-R DL is a great method to store/play video from an HD camcorder (namely the Sony HDR-HCx series). Blu-Ray does not have a competitive/economic solution to DVD burning and probably will not for quite some time.
Then Steve Williams, tube audio guru chimed in:
Oh, drat these worrisome decisions on what new consumer format to buy! Why are there always two! Guess it must be the free market and all that. I need to relax. I think I will go drop the needle on some nice soothing analog vinyl. BTW, anybody know if "The White Album" is coming out in a 78 box set?….
To which I replied:
Actually format wars and VHS and Beta have nothing to do with a free market, it has to do with the 17-year monopoly granted by the government in the patent system. We would have some pretty crappy color TVs if RCA did not open up the patents and allow everyone to build TVs and broadcast transmitters back in the 1950’s. By having the government select a single winner for advancements that are either obvious or percolating throughout the technical community, the inevitable happens, the big corporations get all the patents, lock others out, and then have these incredibly wasteful battles on the store shelf that costs consumers billions. If there were no patents you know how it would go. The Toshiba engineer would call the Sony engineer and say "Spiral groove with land recording, I like that". and the Sony guy would say "No cartridge to hold the disk, that is really neat", and before you know it there would be one standard and we would all benefit. I am not saying there should be no patents, but the term should be more like 5 years or even less, if the goal is "to promote the arts and sciences".
[Update: more from Todd Murchison here regarding the huge response to this blog and his feelings about game consoles.]