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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Home Entertainment

Samsung BD-UP5000: Sit on the high-definition fence

If wars aren't your thing, you'll be pleased to know that Samsung has a solution to the high-definition DVD war that doesn't involve any bloodshed or harsh words

If you're an AV pacifist then the whole next-generation DVD format war will no doubt be as distasteful to you as kicking kittens. Luckily Samsung wants you to preserve your moral code by finding a peaceful compromise. Its new BS-UP5000 will play both HD DVD and Blu-ray without so much as a cross word or angry gesture.

Even more exciting is the news that it will have full interactive support for both formats. This is one better than LG's Super Multi Blue player, which has full support for the Blu-ray Java platform, but isn't capable of the HD DVD interactive system, called HDi.

So, what does this mean for the formats? Well, the bad news for peace lovers is that one of the formats is going to have to die sooner or later. Which one kicks the bucket will depend on a number of complex factors. Dual-format players are good for HD DVD, because movie studios will be more likely to press their discs in the format that's cheapest to produce. At this point, it only costs around £50,000 to convert a DVD plant to an HD DVD-capable one, whereas Blu-ray facilities cost as much as ten times that.

Of course, Blu-ray does still have a slight advantage in the range of movie studios who support the format -- only Universal is boycotting Blu-ray. Sony won't be in a hurry to support HD DVD and it does have an enormous back catalogue of moves to entice people to spend money on Blu-ray discs. There's also the PlayStation 3 effect -- millions of Blu-ray players out there already, although not necessarily owned by hi-def movie enthusiasts.

There has been no official word on the BS-UP5000's price yet, but we suspect having both technologies in one box is going to make this an expensive player. At this point, Blu-ray hardware is still slightly more expensive, so that will no doubt push the price of a combo player up.

So is the war over with minimal bloodshed, or will we wading through the spilt entrails for some time to come? Hopefully this will be the first of many combo players and eventually we'll see a DVD+R vs. DVD-R style truce where both formats are generally well supported. Fingers crossed, anyway... -Ian Morris