How HD-DVD Works

By: Tracy V. Wilson

Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD

The Xbox 360 HD-DVD player
The Xbox 360 HD-DVD player

Several companies have developed alternatives to the existing DVD standard. For a few years, the two forerunners were HD-DVD and Blu-ray. Competition between the two escalated, drawing inevitable comparisons to the struggle between VHS and Betamax. Here are the highlights:

  • Both formats use blue lasers rather than red.
  • Both have the same options for video and audio compression.
  • Blu-ray offers significantly more storage space -- 50 GB on a dual-layer disc versus HD-DVD's 30 GB.
  • The DVD Forum, which creates DVD standards, approved HD-DVD and has not approved Blu-ray. Toshiba, the primary company behind the HD-DVD standard, has a seat on the DVD Forum Steering Committee.
  • Originally, HD-DVD was less expensive than Blu-ray, partly because HD-DVDs could be produced on pre-existing equipment, and Blu-ray discs can't. HD-DVD players originally sold for around $399, but dropped in price to around $290. Since then, companies have improved Blu-ray player manufacturing techniques. Today, you can find Blu-ray players for less than $300.
  • HD-DVD players hit the market on April 18, 2006, two months before the first Blu-ray player hit the U.S. market in June 2006.

­Along with other companies, Toshiba, Microsoft and Intel sided with HD-DVD. Microsoft released an add-on HD-DVD drive for its Xbox 360 in November 2006. The Blu-ray Disc Association, on the other hand, had electronics companies like Sony (which released the Blu-ray-equipped PSin November) and Pioneer, computer companies like Dell and Apple and entertainment companies like Disney and Fox on its board of directors. Most of the motion picture industry originally supported Blu-ray, in part because the need for new manufacturing equipment might cut down on piracy.


The battle raged for a couple of years before ending in 2008, but at the beginning the outcome wasn't a foregone conclusion. Critics of Blu-ray pointed out that the discs may have more capacity than any movie could ever use, even with special features. Many people initially thought that HD-DVD would be the winner solely because it was less expensive.

Eventually, the HD-DVD format succumbed in the format wars, and today the Blu-ray format reigns supreme in the HD market. How did this happen? Find out in the next section.