Koolio

Thoughts & news on technology…well, mostly

It’s official: HD-DVD is dead…Blu-ray is the victor


bd-hddvd-logo.jpgToshiba officially put the last nail in the HD-DVD coffin – today, Toshiba announced they will cease HD-DVD player production and replication. They will phase out HD-DVD by the end of March 2008. Warner Bros. decision to go Blu-ray exclusive this past January was one nail in the coffin. The second nail was delivered by the retailers (Best Buy, Netflix, and Walmart). After these two it was only a matter of time before Toshiba raised the white flag.

As most of you know, I was an early supporter of HD-DVD but when WB went BD exclusive, I was ready for this format war to end so we can all unite under one HD format. Do I regret my decision in buying an HD-DVD player? Heck no. I bought the Toshiba HD-A1 for it’s excellent ability to upscale SD DVDs to 1080i and looked at HD-DVD as a ‘bonus.’ The HD-A1 was also appr. $300 cheaper than the Denon DVD-2910 that I was contemplating on buying.

Anyways, we’ve already gotten an announcement from Universal Studios (one of the two HD-DVD exclusive studios) stating that future titles and catalog titles will be released on Blu-ray disc. Although Paramount hasn’t officially announced anything it’s obvious they will support Blu-ray (again).

Now, let’s hope the BD association starts lowering the prices of players and movies. The next battle for BD will be against HD movie downloads/rentals.

[via Format War Central]

Filed under: Blu-ray, HD DVD, Home Theater, Movies

Blu-ray Deal: Buy 2 get 1 free


Amazon is having a buy 2 get 1 free deal on select Blu-ray titles. There are approximately 180 titles that qualify – just make sure you view each genre (action & adventure, drama & family friendly, etc.) by clicking on the tabs on top of the page.

I bought Black Hawk Down, House of Flying Daggers, & Underworld: Evolution for $38 ($12.66/title) – a pretty darn good deal.

The price varies so if you’re buying a lot of discs make sure you divide your purchase into separate orders. For example, all $15.95 discs in one order and all $23.95 discs in another because Amazon gives the cheapest disc to you for free.
Not sure how long this deal will last so buy ’em if you can!

Filed under: Amazon, Blu-ray, Deals, Home Theater, Movies

AppleTV HD video review round-up


promo_appletv_box20080115.pngThis week Apple finally released version 2.0 of the Apple TV software that was demo’d by Steve Jobs at this year’s MacWorld. This is a big deal because it finally makes the Apple TV a lot more functional – adding the ability to buy and/or rent movies (SD or HD) and TV shows. However, the one question I had was, ‘just how good is the HD video quality compared to Blu-ray/HD-DVD?’ Answer: it’s surprisingly good…ranking #2 – right behind Blu-ray/HD-DVD.

It’s def worth reading the reviews as they have screen shots comparing AppleTV, Blu-ray/HD-DVD, HD Cable, and standard DVD:

I haven’t had time to rent an HD movie on mine, yet, but I’ll post a review of my experience when I do.

Filed under: Apple, AppleTV, Digital Movies, HDTV, Home Theater, Movies, Reviews

HD-DVD & Blu-ray: Buy 1 Get 1 Free at Best Buy


hd-dvd_logo_resized.jpgBest Buy is offering a buy 1 get 1 free deal on HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs. And, yes, there are some good movies that qualify for this offer.

blu-ray-resized.jpg
FYI, I was in a Best Buy store yesterday (Watertown, MA) and there were no advertisements for this offer so this offer may be online only. If you need the discs before Christmas, just buy online with in-store pickup – that’s what I just did.

HD-DVD

  • 300 ($34.99)
  • Arctic Tale ($34.99)
  • Blades Of Glory ($29.99)
  • The Bourne Ultimatum
  • The Departed HD-DVD ($34.99)
  • Disturbia ($29.99)
  • Evan Almighty ($19.99)
  • Harry Potter & Order Of The Phoenix ($32.99)
  • I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry ($29.99)
  • Knocked Up: Unrated ($19.99)
  • Mr. Bean’s Holiday ($29.99)
  • Ocean’s Thirteen ($34.99)
  • Shooter ($34.99)
  • Shrek The Third ($29.99)
  • Transformers ($29.99)

Blu-ray

  • 28 Weeks Later ($29.99)
  • 300 ($29.99)
  • Are We Done Yet? ($29.99)
  • The Condemned ($29.99)

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Bargains, Deals, HD DVD, HDTV, Home Theater, Movies

Bargain: Toshiba HD-DVD Player for $100


Looks like Wal-Mart will be selling the Toshiba HD-DVD player (HD-A2) for $100 this Friday, November 2 and Best Buy is already selling it for $100 (sold out on their website, though).

Not good enough?  Well, rumor is Sears will be selling the newer HD-A3 Toshiba HD-DVD player for $169 on Black Friday (compare that to Best Buy’s current price of $249).

If you’re thinking about buying an HD-DVD player now is the time!

[via Engadget]

Filed under: Bargains, Deals, HD DVD, HDTV, Home Theater, Movies

Toshiba HD-DVD player for $200


toshiba-hd-a2.jpgHave you been waiting for a cheap but good quality HD-DVD player? Well, your wait is now over. You can now buy Toshiba’s 2nd generation HD-DVD player (HD-A2) for $200 at Circuit City and, starting next week, at Wal-Mart and most likely Best Buy.

I was an early adopter and own the 1st gen Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD player and love it. The picture and sound quality is amazing…assuming you have a calibrated HDTV and a good surround sound system.

FYI, the latest HD-DVD player is the HD-A3 and HD-A35 (3rd gen). You can check out the specs of the HD-A2 and the rest of the HD-DVD players on Toshiba’s site.

[via ArsTechnica]

Filed under: Deals, HD DVD, HDTV, Home Theater, Movies, Surround Sound, Video

How do you determine the video quality of an iTunes TV show?


Does anybody know how to determine the video encoding quality for a given TV show or movie from the iTunes Store (before purchasing)? I’ve tried Get Info but it’s useless.

When the iTS first started selling videos, they encoded them in 320 x 240 (which is similar to the quality you’d get from VHS) but starting around September 2006 they started encoding them in 640 x 480 (which is near dvd quality).  I’ve been thinking about buying some older episodes of Battlestar Gallactica and I don’t want to get stuck with a 320 x 240 video file because they look like absolute shit on a 50″ plasma.

Filed under: Apple, AppleTV, Digital Movies, iTunes, Movies, Video

Apple TV has shipped (for real)


I just checked my order status and I can say with 100% confidence that my Apple TV has been shipped via FedEx with an estimated delivery date of this Friday, March 23. Sweet!

I’m debating whether or not to post un-boxing pics (if you want me to, post a comment!) but I will definitely post my initial impressions by the end of this weekend or early next week so stay tuned!

Update (3/22/2007) My Apple TV was delivered this morning – one day ahead of FedEx’s estimated delivery date.  Nice!  I know what I’m doing when I get home from the office.  😉

Filed under: AppleTV, Digital Movies, Movies, Video

Hands-on impression of Amazon Unbox on Tivo


Gizmodo posted their hands-on experience with Amazon Unbox on a Series 3 HD Tivo and Charlie White says it’s “off to a fair start”…but I’d rather say the execution of the service is less than ideal. The key drawbacks are usability and the one technology we all love: DRM. Here’s the skinny:

  • After renting a movie, it takes up to 15 minutes your Tivo to start downloading the movie
  • You can’t watch the movie until it is 100% downloaded (one person commented that it took 5+ hours for a movie to finish downloading on his Comcast cable connection)
  • If you cancel the download before it’s completed, you’ll have to pay the rental fee, again. So, you’re shit outta luck if your router locks up or your internet connection fails.
  • Good ‘ole DRM…after the movie is downloaded, it will expire after 30 days BUT, here’s the kicker, if you click Play, the movie will expire after 24 hours. Sweet, huh? We can thank the paranoid movie studios for that.
  • The quality of the movies were standard definition. They saw compression artifacts (aka macroblocking) and felt the picture (The Illusionist) wasn’t very sharp. They didn’t say which version they downloaded but I’m assuming it was the “Tivo Best Quality File.”
  • Last but not least, no Mac support.

So far, every movie download service does not offer the equivalent to buying or renting a physical DVD or HD-DVD/Blu-ray disc. Those that want to rent or buy digital movies have to concede one or more things. For example, no surround sound, the 24-hour expiration (which is an insult), etc. There are several people out there who need more than 24 hours to finish watching a movie (I know, crazy, but they exist).

Surprisingly, the only service (that I know of) that offers HD movies for download is the Xbox Live Marketplace but there are also drawbacks to that service.

Well, cheers to another video download service that’s not perfect. Hopefully, Apple will get it right with iTunes and Apple TV…

Filed under: Digital Movies, Movies, Reviews, Technology, Video

Amazon Unbox integrates with Tivo


If you own a Tivo Series 2 or Series 3 DVR, you can now buy/rent digital videos from Amazon Unbox and watch them on your Tivo. I guess that’s a nice option to have if you own a Tivo but I’m curious to see if this partnership will actually increase sales for Amazon. You may or may not know but Amazon Unbox has been generating lackluster results and working with Tivo is one way for Amazon to try and spice things up a bit. Personally, I don’t think this will improve sales all that much for Amazon Unbox.

I’ve had zero interest in this service because I have no desire to watch a movie or TV show at my computer desk. At least, Amazon understands this issue and has created a solution for you to watch those shows in your living room…but it won’t make a dent in Apple’s momentum. iTunes is where it’s at for digital content and I don’t see anything taking its place in the near future.

Now, all that being said, there is one nice thing I noticed about Amazon Unbox: when you buy a show/movie, you get to download it in 3 different qualities. For example, here are the options for an episode of ’24’:

amazon-unbox.png

I hope iTunes offers something similar…like an HD version and a DVD-quality version.

Here’s to another ecosystem for digital shows. We now have: iTunes, Netflix Watch Now, Xbox 360 Video Marketplace, and WalMart. Am I missing any?? *sigh*

Filed under: Digital Movies, DVR, Movies, Video

Review: Netflix Watch Now Service


Netflix Watch Now HomepageWell, I’ve finally given the Watch Now service a test drive. Overall, the service has been implemented very nicely (assuming you don’t mind sitting in front of your computer to watch movies) and is not reminiscent of the hi-cc-up-ing streaming videos nor did I have to wait 1+ hour for the movie to download before playing. While the functional implementation was executed very well the delivery is very poor – I can only watch movies at my computer and the video quality was below average.

Now, onto the review:

Hardware:

  • Pentium 4, 3.0Ghz processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • Windows Vista Ultimate
  • Internet Explorer 7
  • RCN cable modem service (10mbs down/800k up)

Installation:

  • In order to watch the ‘instant shows,’ you have to install Netflix’s video player (which is embedded in your browser). I was able to install the video player without any issues. Installation took about 2-3 minutes.
  • After the player installed, I got a prompt telling me that I had to update Windows Media Player. The update went smoothly and took an additional 10-20 seconds.
  • I was ready to watch my first ‘instant show’ within 5 minutes.
  • Rating: A

Video Playback:
Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Digital Movies, IPTV, Movies, Netflix, Reviews

Netflix Begins Offering Streaming Movies/TV


Last week Netflix began offering free streaming movies last week (named “Watch Now”). They’re rolling out the service to 250,000 members each month (I wasn’t one of them – if you were, post a comment and let me know what you think!) and are expecting to have it rolled out to all members by June 2007. I’ve read Gizmodo’s positive review but I have to admit it seems pretty worthless. Here’s why:

  1. The content is streamed not downloaded.
  2. Since the content is streamed, you can only watch the movies and (presumably) shows on your computer (are you kidding me?).
  3. No Mac support – the service supports only Windows XP w/SP2 or Vista with IE 6+.
  4. The content is in standard definition, only.
  5. The quality of the content can/will vary. Netflix determines the picture quality based on your internet connection and how much their servers are being slammed.
  6. To start, only 1,000 titles are available and according to Gizmodo, the selection is pretty poor.
  7. And, did I mention the movies can only be watched on your computer?

Now, for some of the good news:
Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Digital Movies, IPTV, Movies, Netflix