Home-theater enthusiasts, beware. Almost a decade after DVD reshaped multimedia distribution, two new disc formats promise to revolutionize the industry — and pick up where the VHS/Betamax wars left off. In one corner, there’s Blu-ray, which holds up to 50 GB of data (nearly six times the amount that today’s DVDs can hold), backed by industry leaders such as Sony and Panasonic. In the other corner is Toshiba- and NEC-endorsed competitor HD-DVD, packing 30 GB of storage space. Both use blue-laser technology; both can warehouse entire high-definition films, albums, and video games; and both enjoy widespread Hollywood support. To learn more and to see how the competition stacks up, turn the page.
WIN, LOSE, OR DRAW, THESE ARE THE LATEST LIVING-ROOM-READY PLAYERS CURRENTLY MANNING THE BATTLE’S FRONT LINES.
From: Toshiba, www.toshiba.com
It’s backward compatible with standard CDs and DVDs (and provides picture up-conversion), and it offers stunning HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) video output and ultrahigh-quality, multichannel audio decoding for improved sound.
A sleeker, sexier version of the HD-A1, it sports superior construction that’s custom-engineered to dampen vibration. The unit’s enhanced design also includes stabilizing feet, a motorized front panel, a backlit remote control, and USB ports.
From: Samsung, www.samsung.com
Packs true 1080p (translation: graphically jaw-dropping picture quality) and surround-sound HDMI audiovisual output, plays current-generation CDs and DVDs, provides user-friendly pop-up menus, and even boasts a 10-in-2 memory-card reader.
From: Panasonic, www.panasonic.com
Easily syncs with other Panasonic products, including plasma TVs and stereo receivers; runs all your old CD and DVD favorites; and fits comfortably into most home entertainment centers.
From: Pioneer, www.pioneerelectronics.com
A combination Blu-ray and DVD reader/writer for PCs that’s designed for high-capacity storage (up to 25 GB on a single-layer Blu-ray disc). Have fun recording high-definition content and creating your own mind-blowing movie collection.