Poll results: Blu-ray or HD DVD? You say Blu-ray

In last week's Pocket-lint.co.uk reader Poll we asked you, "Is Blu-ray going to beat HD DVD in the high-def format war?" The answer came back as a resounding "yes" with 64% of you rooting for the Sony-led camp.

Your response certainly reflects recent media coverage, all but declaring the format war over with Blu-ray as the victors.

This made us a bit misty-eyed, not just for poor old Tosh battling it out against an 80% market share of competitors, but for the battle itself.

Do we really want it to be over? Isn’t there enough room in the market for two formats? After all, doesn’t the ongoing (and generally fairly amusing) Microsoft v. Apple debate keep things healthy in the personal computing world? Or would a continuation of the split in the industry mean consumers losing out in a divided marketplace?

After seeing the Poll results, we decided to have a quick recap of the whole high def disc story to try and put your results into perspective.

Blu-ray and HD DVD are rival, and completely incompatible, formats. Despite early attempts back in 2005 to get the two sides to work together, the different camps could not agree a standard and stomped off to go their own ways.

Although there seems to be some public confusion about the next-generation of DVD, put very simply, the new HD formats are just a way of fitting more data on a disc, and therefore allowing higher resolution video, better sound quality and more extras to be put onto one disc. The hardware side of the war is just machines capable of reading the new style discs.

HD DVD is a development of the existing DVD technology and can hold up to 15GB of data on a single layer disc and 30GB on a dual layer.

Blu-ray is more a re-working of the technology – a single-layer Blu-ray disc can hold 25GB while a dual-layer versions of the discs that can hold 50GB, there have been announcements of 100GB four-layer discs and Sony has been conducting laboratory work with a 200GB disc.

As far as members go, Team HD DVD is very much on the backfoot – there is just Toshiba, Memory-Tech, Microsoft and Intel followed by Sanyo, HP and NEC who are actually supporting both formats.

The team-sheet for Blu-ray is much larger with giants such as Sony, LG, Samsung, Apple, Dell, Hitachi, Pioneer, Panasonic, Sharp, Philips and TDK among others – 170 members is their latest claim.

Blu-ray has also got the greater support of the movie studios (90%) which obviously means if you want to buy HD movies, then currently opting for Blu-ray means you will get a better choice of films.

But what if consumers want to enjoy both formats? How about dual-format players? Among others, Samsung and LG (both staunchly in the Blu-ray camp) recently released dual-format players (which no doubt pleased the HD DVD folk) although these are obviously expensive and not expected to be widely popular.

HD DVD is generally the cheaper format, and is particularly affordable right now in America following the HD DVD Promotional Group's recent price cuts as part of a Spring promotion initiative – Toshiba's budget HD DVD player can now be bought for less than $300.

So it doesn’t look as though price will be the deciding factor. Previous format wars are said to have been decided by hearts-and-minds rather than cold, hard logic.

One of the reasons MiniDiscs were never embraced by the majority of the electronics buying public has been attributed to the confusion over two rival formats at launch and the much-cited, now infamous VHS / Betamax videotape battle of the Seventies and Eighties was won by marketing – the initially inferior VHS wining over the technically superior Betamax.

There's nothing like gaming to appeal to the hearts-and-minds school of logic and the PlayStation 3 has been a factor in the increase of Blu-ray disc sales – the most recent figures suggesting Blu-ray discs outselling HD DVDs by a factor of more than three to one since the console's release. Rumours of Microsoft releasing a Blu-ray disc drive for their Xbox 360, although subsequently denied, will have no doubt been noted by the early-adopting gaming community.

If you haven’t made your mind up already and you wanted to be particularly cynical about the whole situation (or perhaps, particularly wise) then listen to industry insiders who claim that a decent upscaling DVD product will give you comparable visual results (although you won’t get the benefit of the much improved menus and bonus features) or, the ultimate argument against jumping into the format war is to just hang on until we're all downloading HD-quality films – rendering any new HD-disc playing hardware redundant.

Until the war is won you can be sure that here at Pocket-lint.co.uk we'll be certain to keep you informed of new HD DVD and Blu-ray products as they launch – and of further exciting developments in this fascinating tech struggle.