Re: Are any of the current HDTV formats worth supporting ...
I bought the new Samsung Blu Ray player about a week ago, and have been using Apple TV since that product came out. I also have HD package from Direct TV.
I don't find any of these formats offer me the ideal HDTV experience.
I've been enjoying the Blu Ray player. Sound quality is excellent on the titles that are available, and picture quality has been superior for the most part on the titles I have watched so far, but quality has been distinctly uneven, with some discs looking fantastic, others just so-so.
My biggest problem with both HD DVD and Blu Ray is how daggone expensive the freaking movies are! I have a very limited amount of time to watch movies. I prefer to buy what I want to see and watch it when I have time to do so and feel like doing so. (have over 600 standard def dvds).
But at $30.00 a pop for blu ray and $20.00 - $25.00 for HD DVD, the software is too darn expensive to make the hardware worth investing in.
Not being hypocritical here; I got the Samsung as an open box special at Best Buy and it came with a $200.00 gift card which I used to purchase the external hard drive I came in to buy in the first place. If not for the gift card, I would not have bought the player.
I am happy with it so far, and it's probably the best way to watch movies right now, but with the software basically unaffordable, I won't buy or watch many Blu Ray discs on it. (I am one of the fortunate few to have a local Blockbuster that just started renting Blu Rays last week, but of course, the selection of titles is pretty limited).
HD via the Apple TV (there is a very limited selection available on iTunes) looks fantastic, just as good on my native 720p plasma as anything on Blu Ray. Sound quality is decent as well, given that it's stereo and not high res Dolby or DTS.
It's the best and most convenient way to watch HDTV IMHO for native 720p sets.
Obviously the biggest drawback is lack of available content and no high res surround sound on what is available. If iTunes ever offers 720p content in Dolby or DTS surround via Apple TV it will pretty much be the end of Blu Ray and HD DVD, except for those who have the newest TVs and are devoted to 1080p content.
Finally, Direct TV HD. Has everybody beat in terms of content in my opinion. Where else can you watch the original Star Wars trilogy AND Blade Runner in HD, not to mention Chinatown and a number of other great films.
The price is pretty reasonable too; $10.99 a month.
Downsides are no high res surround sound on HD Net, limited pre-recording options (HD DVR) making it difficult to watch what I want when I want, and no native 720p output other than ESPN (leaving most of the great movies in the 1080i format).
All in all, the consumer electronics industry has done again with HD content what it has done best for decades now: made a complete cluster F of what should be a very, very, very simple and easy process.
How hard is it to offer 1080p content, with Dolby/DTS (either 5.1, 7.1 or the very latest True stuff), at a reasonable price ($9.99 - $14.99 for newer stuff, just like standard dvd), in a single format that can be accessed either a) through a new blu ray/hd dvd player, b) a media server like an Apple TV, or c) through an HD package like Direct TV or cable?
Instead, again, for the umpteenth time, we have to pick and choose from among the lesser of many evils, and decide which is more important to us: great picture, great sound, or a great price.
Why can't we have one simple device that combines all three????
Is it really that difficult, that impossible, to load 1080p Dolby/DTS encoded content on a server somewhere and offer it as a download for an immediately available $4.99 rental or $9.99 purchase whenever you want it that can be stored on an external hard drive and watched on your TV, PC, iPod or any other device you like whenever and wherever you please?? Of the three HD products I have, Apple TV comes closest to offering this potential 'ideal.'
I guess I will have to keep waiting and hoping that future generations of consumer electronic products finally achieve this CE Nirvana I describe.