Beta vs VHS – And the Winner Is…

The New Frontier

Unless you are living in the Stone Age, you have probably seen a huge amount of discussion concerning Hi Definition televisions and what they have to offer.  There is no longer the question of “should I buy a Hi-Def set”, but rather “should i buy plasma or LCD?” 

The more pressing question, though, is “Should I buy a Blu-ray player or HD-DVD?”  If you’ve been shopping electronics the last six months you’ve no doubt seen both formats lying around and history repeating itself.  When home entertainment was first conceived, we had to choose between the VHS format and the Beta format.  While most considered Beta to be far superior, VHS ultimately won the battle and is only now pretty much phased out.  So which one of these new discs do you want to replace your DVD collection?  That depends.  I’d have to say both and neither.  Now don’t worry, DVDs will still be in for some time, so don’t throw away your old discs quite yet.  If you have a nice Hi-Def television, both formats look and sound fantastic.  There is a clear difference between 1080 resolution and the traditional 480 that DVD offers.  Blu-ray has the advantage of offering titles from Sony, Disney, and Fox.  HD DVD offers Paramount and Universal.  Both offer Warner Brothers.  There isn’t really a difference in quality, but Blu-ray might have an advantage in the future with a higher potential storage capacity.  HD DVD players, which you can find for just over $200 now, run about half of the price of Blu-ray, but both are coming down drastically to compete.  For a pretty penny, you can even buy a player that does both formats.  My advice, if you must have one or the other, or both, get them with a game system.  The Xbox 360 offers a HD DVD add-on for less than $200 that comes with the movie King Kong.  The Playstation 3 comes equipped with Blu-ray and includes Spiderman 3 and costs a mere $400.  Unlike the Wii gaming system by Nintendo, both of these units are easy to obtain at your local retailer.  Something else to remember: Hi Def discs can cost almost twice as much as regular DVDs.  Let me suggest going to for your purchases as they are much less expensive.  Also, netflix offers both formats for rental.  As I stated before, don’t go replacing your collections yet, as I am pretty sure that neither format will have a huge shelf life.  Just like music has gone the way of the internet, I see movies doing the same thing.  You can already rent Hi Def movies through pay-per-view, but I think in the very near future, services like itunes and amazon will give you the ability to wirelessly stream 1080 content from your computer to your TV without the need of a disc collection.  With space being such a luxury, I think that this could be the wave of the future and the shelves of movies collecting lining your living rooms will be a thing of the past. 

But how about right now?  If you either own Blu-ray or HD DVD already, or are buying for someone who does, here are my top five picks for each.


1) Planet Earth – This Discovery Channel special is spectacular to look at and will probably be the DVD most used to show off your system to friends.
2) Bladerunner – (Five Disc Collector’s Edition) More than you’ll ever want to know about this cult sci-fi classic.
3) The Ultimate Matrix Collection – All three films with tons of extras.
4) Pride and Prejudice – you just brought home Matrix and Bladerunner – prove to your wife that the HD really is worth it with this beautiful movie.  You’ll love the look and sound – she’ll think your extra sensitive.  Win-win. 
5) Transformers – Robots in disguise look amazing in HD. 

1) Planet Earth – available in both formats!
2) Bladerunner (Five Disc Collector’s Edition) – also available in both formats!
3) Ratatouille – You gotta get this new Disney classic.
4) The Fifth Element – The colors are rich and the sound is out of this world!
5) Superbad – So many great special features and tons of fun to watch.