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What's hotter than Harry Potter? With the release of the last book and the fifth movie, Warner Brothers is releasing a limited edition mega-set of discs with all 5 movies on December 11th! Get all 5 movies and extras in DVD, Blu-Ray, and HD-DVD formats - WB is one of the few companies who are releasing discs in both Hi-Def formats.
Already have the first 4 movies? Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is available separately in DVD, Blu-Ray, and Combo DVD and HD-DVD, in case you were planning to upgrade later. And all the other movies are available separately in both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD formats, if you want to upgrade later. Check out our Harry Potter section for all the titles and formats.
Since we geeks also tend to be techophiles, why choose one format over the other? Well, that's up to you really. Both have technical merits, and both support a high definition picture up to 1080p resolution. Right now, most studios have taken sides (with the above noted exception of Warner Brothers) and will only produce their titles in their chosen format. Sony, Fox, Disney and MGM are totally Blu-Ray, with Paramount, Dreamworks, and Universal going with HD-DVD. This forces the consumers to buy two different players (or a really expensive dual-format player) in order to enjoy any title in Hi-Def.
Right now, HD-DVD is a little cheaper to get started with the cheapest player being the Toshiba HD-A3 at less than $300 (less than $200 at the time of writing on Amazon via the given link), but this player doesn't support the top resolution of 1080p, topping off at 720p/1080i. If your TV doesn't support 1080p, then it doesn't really matter. A player that supports 1080p like the Toshiba HD-A30 will generally run $100 more. Toshiba is pretty much the only supplier of HD-DVD players.
For Blu-Ray, the cheapest player going barring sales or discounts is actually the Sony 40GB Playstation 3 for pretty much $399 no matter where you look, but don't forget you should get the PS3 Remote - you don't need it, but its a lot easier than using the game controller. Plus, you get a very advanced video game system "free". Several other manufacturers produce standalone Blu-Ray players as well.
In either case, both types will play your existing DVDs, and even "upconvert" them to HD resolutions so they'll look better on an HD display - but not as good as a native HD format disc would.
Not willing to lay down money on a format and fear you've bought the Betamax of the 21st century, and still want to get a bit more from the HD display you already have? Try an Upconverting DVD player. There are plenty to choose from - I've got a Toshiba unit that is also a recorder similar to this model that makes my Lord of the Rings DVDs look awesome still on a Philips 47" LCD 1080p TV. Alas, Frodo fans, no definite word on an HD release yet.
If you don't have a TV that supports high definition, there isn't much for you - keeping with DVDs are fine. They aren't going away soon and they'll play on the new generation.
Back to the Gift Guide...
Doctor Who fans have been flocking to the new series being produced by the BBC, on both sides of the pond - I can now all three series on my local PBS station, BBC America, and the SCI FI Channel. But I love all the goodies that come on the DVD sets - and the third series was just released. You can read a review we did of the set. For a show that the BBC pennied and shillinged to death in the late 80s, they sure do put in a lot of love in the new show.
Oh, and if you can wait for some delayed holiday gifts or some early-year birthdays, the spinoff show Torchwood has its first season released on DVD on January 22nd. However, this is a VERY different show, and is far more adult oriented - not recommended for children at all. For kids, there is the new Sarah Jane Adventures spinoff, but no word on when or if it will reach the U.S.
If you've got a classical Whovian in your life, we have a whole Doctor Who section for all the DVDs available in the U.S. in their production order. Peter Davison was my favorite classical Doctor...
For the more serious SF fan, the cult hit Blade Runner gets yet another release from Ridley Scott, called Blade Runner - The Final Cut, on December 18th, with a 5-disc limited, numbered "Ultimate Collector's Edition" which includes its own Deckard briefcase and all sorts of additional goodies inside. Since it is also from Warner Brothers, its available in DVD, Blu-Ray, and HD-DVD. Also available without the goodies are the 5-disc "Complete Collector's Edition" in Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, DVD 4-disc Collector's Edition, and a DVD 2-disc Special Edition. So many to choose from for just one movie!
Know a Battlestar Galactica fan? Did they forget when Razor was on like me, and find out that they weren't repeating it? Get them the Battlestar Galactica: Razor Unrated Extended Edition DVD (released on December 4th). And for you HD-DVD fans, Season 1 will be released the same day in that format.
Transformers from Dreamworks SKG would be an awesome in either HD format, but this one is only in HD-DVD. For those that haven't gone that road, there is the standard DVD and the 2-disc Special Edition DVD. For the ultimate Transformers geek though, check out the Optimus Prime Voice Changer Helmet!
For the gadget-loving reader, Amazon may have the eBook reader that will finally get the idea to take off with the Kindle. It's rugged and wireless and can download books directly from Amazon.
Lastly, we all know a Trekkie (or a Trekker...)...and Paramount, having recently produced the remastered episodes of the original Star Trek has now put the complete first season on a combo HD-DVD and DVD Set.