Wednesday, June 14, 2006

HD-DVD and streaming media

The two final elements in the home theater (well, excepting the audio system which will have to wait a while) arrived together last night.

First to arrive was the D-Link DSM-520. As I surmised, functionality is about the same as the DSM-320, except for the HD capability and a few extras. The displays are a lot nicer and the remote seems to work better. It has a nice capability of showing media that are on a thumbdrive using its front USB port, which I doubt I'll use, but it's nice to have it. Unfortunately, while you can start MP3s playing and then go do something else like look at pictures, I can't find a way to get back to the "what's playing" display for the MP3s.

The only HD video I was able to find online was in QuickTime format, however, and converting QuickTime to anything else is a bitch. I have a program that can do it most of the time, but not with the most recent codec QuickTime is using -- the file is audio only when it's done. So other than the menus themselves, and a few still pictures, I haven't seen it produce true HD. I'm sure HD video will come along to stream to it in time, though.

Next up was the Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD player. The box itself is remarkably large and heavy, with a style that seems almost retro -- an impression certainly corroborated by the 70s-reminiscent remote control. It's very slow to start up and to load a disc, and there were a few times when the menus didn't seem to be responding evenly -- perhaps just me not being used to it yet, though. There's the clunky feeling of a first release in a new product line, for sure.

And yet, the video quality... it's breathtaking. I swear I'm seeing things better here than I did in the movie theater (and I go to a nice, very modern theater, too). Superlatives fail, and the word "breathtaking" starts to feel inadequate.

So far the only HD-DVDs I own, and pretty much the only released ones that I want to own, are Serenity and Apollo 13. I might rent Swordfish and just watch the effects shots, though. Can't wait for Sky Captain! Will probably also get Sahara when it comes out, and after that... we'll just have to see how the format war goes, and whether I'm forced to get a PS3 for Blu-ray support.

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