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High-def movies will soon reach the mass market thanks to Wally's World

Reports came in late last week of Wal-Mart planning to stock inexpensive high-definition disc movie players for under $300. The retailer reportedly is ordering 2 million players produced by Great Wall Corporation in China, with parts developed by Taiwan’s Fuh Yuan and Japan’s TDK, in a $100 million deal.

Although the news was initially pegged as a huge boost to the HD DVD camp, closer examination and more accurate translation of Chinese reports indicate that the players for Wal-Mart are “Blu-ray (or blue light) HD DVD” players, adding an extra layer of confusion to the matter. Both next-generation optical formats use blue or violet lasers, so unless the player is to be compatible with both HD DVD and Blu-ray, the exact nature of this low-priced will be unknown until we get official English confirmation.

Wal-Mart spokesperson Mellissa O’Brien would not comment on the apparent deal between the retailer and its Chinese manufacturing partners, but did offer to Home Media Magazine, “[Most] of the shoppers asking about and purchasing either Blu-ray or HD DVD are already pretty savvy technically about both — they are the kind of consumer that absolutely wants the very best and latest in quality that's available. It's not quite yet a product the average shopper is attune too, but we anticipate that will change very soon as prices continue to come down.”

The release date of the player is just as widely speculated upon as the price. However, reports cite the manufacturer’s plans of fulfilling the entire 2 million unit order by the end of 2008 point to a release likely within a year’s time.

Toshiba recently dropped the price of its entry-level HD DVD player to $399, making a low-cost high-definition player for under $300 look extremely plausible. Blu-ray hardware maintains a higher price point in the market, with Sony planning for a $599 standalone player coming this summer.

Currently, the cheapest Blu-ray Disc player is in the form of the PlayStation 3, which until recently, allowed consumers to buy into the format for $499 with the 20GB console. Sony is now offering only the 60GB model, citing overwhelming consumer preference.

For Xbox 360 owners, the least expensive way to watch HD DVD movies is with the add-on drive which retails for $199. The drive also works on high-end computers, giving home theater PC owners another cost-effective option.

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My math may be a bit rusty but..
By zombiexl on 4/23/2007 6:13:38 AM , Rating: 2
If its a 100M$ for 2M players doesnt that would out to their cost being about $50/per unit?

Assume doubling that for shipping cost, storage costs, etc.. I think it is very reasonable to guess that these could be sub 200$ in the near future (Black Friday for example).

RE: My math may be a bit rusty but..
By zombiexl on 4/23/2007 6:14:43 AM , Rating: 2
doesnt that *work*

Sorry its early :)

By Oregonian2 on 4/23/2007 5:31:44 PM , Rating: 1
I would suppose it's perhaps a Blu-ray one, else it'd have to be a LOT cheaper than $300 to matter on an HD. has been selling the A2 low end Toshiba HD player for under $300 for months now.

RE: My math may be a bit rusty but..
By alifbaa on 4/23/2007 7:37:03 AM , Rating: 2
Even at $200, this player more than likely won't play both formats and will completely ignore the more advanced audio formats, so it still will not be anything I'm interested in.

When I can get a true high-performance player capable of all disc formats from DVD to DVD-Audio to Blu-Ray to HD-DVD with HDMI 1.3 and deep color support for less than $400, I'll buy. Right now, there isn't anything on the market that even attempts all this, much less does anyone do so in a way that lends itself to the audio/videophile.

My guess is that these new formats will only begin to make real sense somewhere in late 2009 or early 2010, and then will only be a temporary solution until our internet connections get fast enough to stream and store HD movies on demand from the provider of our choice. That will likely start happening around the same time. I wouldn't be surprised if I never buy an HD format player.

By zombiexl on 4/23/2007 9:01:24 AM , Rating: 2
I really dont see all that much difference (there is a noticible difference, but not worth the cost of most of the released discs at this point IMHO) between my old upscaling DVD and my HD-DVD. So I agree that $200 may still be high, but its a good sign of things to come.

If they truely are only paying $50/unit it makes you wonder how well it will actually work. Last time I checked a decoding chip + laser would be close to that price.

RE: My math may be a bit rusty but..
By elmikethemike on 4/23/2007 9:02:57 AM , Rating: 1
I couldn't agree more, in fact I made a similar comment in another forum

If I have a good HDTV that supports 1.3 HDMI, with a native resolution of 1080P, why in the world would I want to connect a cheapo HD-DVD (or Blu-Ray) player to it? Anyone with half a brain wouldn't spend thousands on a good TV and then skimp on the media that connects to it. If you do, then you're silly. All HD/BR players are not created equal.

And if you don't have an new or expensive HDTV, there's no point in owning an HD/BR player to begin with.

Whatever the case is, these players are going to be cheap in quality and slow. I'd be surprised if they even support HDMI at all.

RE: My math may be a bit rusty but..
By masher2 on 4/23/2007 9:18:07 AM , Rating: 5
> "If I have a good HDTV that supports 1.3 HDMI, with a native resolution of 1080P, why in the world would I want to connect a cheapo HD-DVD (or Blu-Ray) player to it? "

Very few people have such a set...but quite a few have a set that supports 720p or 1080i. On my 720p FP, the difference between HDMI (1.2) and composite is undetectable, even with your nose to the 103" screen. On the 1080p RP, there's a small difference...but you pretty much have to freeze-frame and analyze to see it.

As for HDMI 1.3, the difference between it and 1.2 in reference to HD-DVD or BD will be zero, no matter what set you play it on.

RE: My math may be a bit rusty but..
By awer26 on 4/23/2007 10:46:14 AM , Rating: 3
On my 720p FP, the difference between HDMI (1.2) and composite is undetectable, even with your nose to the 103" screen.

Either you don't know what composite connections are or you are legally blind. Composite combines all video signals on a single yellow wire and even on my 50" 720p set it is horrible.

RE: My math may be a bit rusty but..
By Scorpion on 4/23/2007 11:56:19 AM , Rating: 2
Well I'm going to assume that he probably meant Component. At least I hope he did, because if he intentionally said composite then that is a gross error. :)

By masher2 on 4/23/2007 2:43:04 PM , Rating: 3
I mean component projector doesn't even have a composite connector ;)

By Oregonian2 on 4/23/2007 5:29:06 PM , Rating: 2
I did see a noticeable improvement using a regular DVD player connected to a 720p TV using component cables vs a upscaling DVD player connected through an HDMI connector (to the same TV). There are more variables than just the cable here (different player), but the improvement was noticeable. I'll admit it just may be that the upscaler in the TV isn't worth a hoot, but still.... :-)

RE: My math may be a bit rusty but..
By Jellodyne on 4/23/2007 9:40:49 AM , Rating: 4
> If I have a good HDTV that supports 1.3 HDMI, with a
> native resolution of 1080P, why in the world would I want
> to connect a cheapo HD-DVD (or Blu-Ray) player to it?

Maybe you dont want to bet $1000 on what may well be the next Betamax? Anyway, if the video and audio are both sent digitally via HDMI, isn't the cheapest player on the market going to produce a picture which is exactly the same as the most expesive player, bit for bit? Assuming this new player supports HDMI 1.3 to allow it to ship the full range of HD audio streams of course. Even failing that you're still getting better than DVD audio.

RE: My math may be a bit rusty but..
By zombiexl on 4/23/2007 9:43:00 AM , Rating: 2
The player still needs to decode and at this price may not have the horsepower to do so. But I'd agree that you should still get better quality than 480p.

RE: My math may be a bit rusty but..
By Jellodyne on 4/23/2007 12:19:50 PM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't a lack of horsepower to decode the stream result in full-screen black or massive visual glitches, rather than just a slightly degraded signal? Can a player just skip step in the decode -- like not do motion compensation or deblocking? I doubt it.

In the analog output DVD era, it was true that cheap players produced dodgy output due to substandard output stages. I'm not convinced that the same is true in the HDMI era. Digital is digital. 'The sight and sound of perfect' and all that.

By bplewis24 on 4/23/2007 2:03:00 PM , Rating: 2
HDMI is just referring to how the bits get transferred to the Television. It has nothing to do with cheaper components in the actual unit which do the decoding or video processing.

It is very likely that a significantly (read: hundreds of dollars) cheaper unit is going to either skimp on the processing/decoding chips or other significant features (1080p24 direct, advanced audio support/decoding, analog outs, dvd upscaling, etc).


RE: My math may be a bit rusty but..
By bldckstark on 4/23/2007 12:56:02 PM , Rating: 5
So you are saying, without even seeing the spec sheet, or the player itself, that if it doesn't cost a lot of $$ then it is a piece of crap? Maybe Wal-Mart is going to run up the price to $400, so then maybe you could check it out. You can buy one and brag to your friends how much you paid for it!

I guess I am silly, because I try to determine if something fits a quality/dollar ideal specific to myself, and buy things based upon that.

RE: My math may be a bit rusty but..
By alifbaa on 4/23/07, Rating: 0
By masher2 on 4/23/2007 2:49:24 PM , Rating: 3
> "I want it to have...deep color support...In short, I want it to be worth buying."

This is what I'm taking issue with. I've bought two $1000+ DVD players that were both well worth what I paid for them. None of them had "deep color support"...and neither of them played every audio and video format under the sun. So what? I buy a DVD player to play DVDs, and play them as well as it possibly can.

Thinking that a player with HDMI 1. automatically gives you "deep color support" is a fallacy anyway. To get expanded color depth out of prerecorded discs, you'd need a new chipset as well, capable of interpolating the color information thats not on the discs.

RE: My math may be a bit rusty but..
By TomZ on 4/23/2007 9:02:08 AM , Rating: 2
If its a 100M$ for 2M players doesnt that would out to their cost being about $50/per unit?

Items sold are not priced based on cost + fixed markup - they are mainly sold at the market value of the item, which includes the value of the product to customers as well as the pricing of their competitors. So if the market value of the units they produce is $300, then they will earn a $250 markup.

By zombiexl on 4/23/2007 9:13:09 AM , Rating: 2
I understand that and I wasn't saying the price was based on cost, I was saying its possible for them to undercut every player on the market.

Honestly who is going to pay $299 for a noname walmart brand when a toshiba can be had for not much more.

If the trend continues there will be many branded sub $300 players on the market by the end of the year.

By thatguy39 on 4/24/2007 1:15:58 PM , Rating: 2
very observant... now whether it is what it appears to be, time will tell. but wow.... do you think they could be making those players at 50 bones a pop? if thats true, those Chinese are somethin.

It's a HD-DVD player
By BigLan on 4/23/2007 11:25:54 AM , Rating: 2
If it's made in china, it's going to be HD-DVD. The BluRay backers aren't allowing BD players to be made in China because they're worried that cheap knock-off players will come out. Toshiba, on the other hand, partnered with the chinese to get the price of players down sooner.

Anyway, if this is actually a bd player I'd be very suprised. It's also going to be a very big boost for the HDDVD camp.

RE: It's a HD-DVD player
By borowki on 4/23/2007 1:47:05 PM , Rating: 2
Seems to be the case. The press release mentions how these "blue-light" DVDs can be mastered using existing equipment. It also compares the new player to ones costing $500, manufactured by Toshiba among others.

It would have to be better than $300
By OddTSi on 4/23/2007 2:39:51 PM , Rating: 2
You can get the Toshiba HD-A2 for $310 at Amazon, so these Chinese ones would have to be less than $300. Maybe down at $250 or even less.

By Oregonian2 on 4/23/2007 5:32:56 PM , Rating: 2
Price has gone up, used to be $299 at a couple months ago.

Here we are again
By TheRequiem on 4/23/2007 3:11:47 PM , Rating: 2
Here we are again, going back and forth from HD-DVD to Blu-Ray, this is getting dumb. The market needs to pick a format and be done with this. Wal-Mart is not a dumb company, so why in God's name would they support HD-DVD?? This makes no sense to me and I don't think this story is validated correctly. It could be anything they are trying to do, hell, it could be blu-ray players for that cheap because nothing and I mean NOTHING is specific about this. There are already hd-dvd players for around $300 everywhere and still can't touch Blu-ray in week to week sales numbers. Even if they DO launch 2 million HD-DVD players, which seams to be an innappropiate market maneuever anways, but if they do... it will hardly scratch the surface. There will be another 2 million PS3's shipped by the time these come out anyways. Just seams dumb, dumb... DUMB to me.

RE: Here we are again
By cubby1223 on 4/24/2007 12:27:27 AM , Rating: 2
This is where my Microsoft conspiracy theory fills in the gaps in your thoughts. I think Toshiba is losing money on the $399 player, let alone trying to drop to $300.

So Microsoft (who has a strong corporate link with Universal) helps fund dirt cheap, crap quality, reduced functionality hd-dvd players to push out onto the market in mass.

No other manufacturer is going to touch hd-dvd players, as there is absolutely no profit in building a competing player to this $300 model. So what's left for the high end? None other than the xbox 360 elite with hd-dvd add-on! It's the perfect win-win situation to destroy blu-ray and the PS3 - with only a pennies to lose if the deal flops!

Cheaper DVD-ROM Drive
By zombiexl on 4/23/2007 7:08:10 AM , Rating: 2
There has been someone on ebay (do a quick search for SD-S802A) selling an HD-DVD (replacement) drive (drive only) for 80+20 s/h.

Considering this can be put in a PC with some (easy to find) special cables... I think this is now the cheapest option for PC Based Home Theaters.

By Kooky Krusher on 4/23/2007 9:06:42 AM , Rating: 2
Some might say "chinese slave labor never tasted so good," and then go about their business and, in this case, I'm not disinclined to agree--to a certain extent of course. I'm happy to be seeing prices markedly decline and availability of media start to increase (trolling through Best Buy, I couldn't help but notice the expanding Blue-Ray and HD DVD sections). This is good for any interested consumers, no matter which format it happens to be. If we see further price cuts as the holidays approach, this tech migration may be less painful than some might think.

all I want...
By cubby1223 on 4/23/2007 2:08:05 PM , Rating: 2
Is an end to the format war. Blu-ray seems to be in the best position to grab victory, so obviously I'm hoping that happens soon.

The movie studios want blu-ray because of the added roadblock to copying, BD+. It's not in production yet, which is why even Disney & FOX have canceled near all of their releases since the "pirates" figured out how to copy the movies back in January.

The only studio really backing hd-dvd, Universal, well I think their decision is greatly influenced by their tight connection to Microsoft (NBC being the middle company to see the connection). In fact, I would bet Microsoft has decent money in this Wal-Mart deal.

In the end, I would be fine with either format, *but*, I want it figured out *now*, and certainly the last thing I want is the deciding factor be who's first to put out the cheap, sh*t quality players. Yuck...

By JustKidding on 4/23/07, Rating: -1
RE: Inexpensive?
By Hare on 4/23/2007 4:54:18 AM , Rating: 5
Relatively inexpensive when you compare to current prices. Remember, dvd-players were also once expensive. New tech always is.

RE: Inexpensive?
By redbone75 on 4/23/2007 6:50:27 AM , Rating: 2
Relatively inexpensive to current prices, but definitely not inexpensive. More affordable, yes, but for a large number of the populace $300 on a standalone player is still a nice chunk of change. Early adopters and enthusiasts are usually the ones that don't mind the large price tags, but the rest of us like to wait until prices hit that magical sub-$200 mark. I, personally, will wait a little longer to see which format will become more dominant, but to be honest I think this will be another +/-R situation where the market adopts both formats.

RE: Inexpensive?
By mars777 on 4/23/2007 7:03:41 AM , Rating: 2
I'd like it to be that way.
But here we have media published on it. And as long as Sony sticks with BD (or others with HDDVD) I won't be able to watch (let's say) XMEN 4 unless i have both players.

RE: Inexpensive?
By AlexWade on 4/23/2007 8:06:19 AM , Rating: 3
Why watch X-Men 4 when X-Men 3 made me gouge out my eyes it was so bad.

There is plenty of content on HD DVD. There isn't much more content on BR. That is partially because paranoid studios like Fox are waiting for BD+ and some studios don't want to dumb down their content for BR. Where is Batman Begins or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Blu-Ray? Warner Bros. is a neutral studio.

Cheap HD DVD will mean lots of people will buy them, which means content will follow. The only studio you need to worry about delaying is Sony. Of course, not cheap HD DVD players will mean Blu-Ray wins by attrition.

One other bonus to the new formats. HD DVD removes all region coding. With Blu-Ray it is an option. That means some movies that Blu-Ray in the US are HD DVD in Europe, which means you can import HD DVD movies from abroad that you might not have been able to get in NA. The same is true for Blu-Ray too, right now.

RE: Inexpensive?
By DocDraken on 4/23/2007 7:40:01 AM , Rating: 2
$300 is cheap for a standalone player! You can't even get a proper quality standard definition DVD player for less than $150 and good ones are around $400 and up, so $300 for a blueray or HD-DVD player is certainly not expensive. At least that's the way I see it and I'm not exactly rich, just a normal university student...

RE: Inexpensive?
By zombiexl on 4/23/2007 8:57:33 AM , Rating: 2
You can't even get a proper quality standard definition DVD player for less than $150 and good ones are around $400 and up, so $300 for a blueray or HD-DVD player is certainly not expensive.

Yeah, but remember these are going to be cheap-o walmart branded players. Using your example these wouldnt be proper players. Of course I've bought a number of top brand DVD players (not APEX, or the like) for under $150, so I'm not sure I agree with you conclusion that you need to spend at least $150 to get a good dvd player.

Right now with some searching you can get some of the cheaper toshiba's around $300 (or so i've heard).

RE: Inexpensive?
By OrSin on 4/23/2007 9:12:44 AM , Rating: 2
$30 dvd work just as well as most of $200 players. YOu get crappy menus ans some can't do divx as well but in general picture and sound is the same.

Now if you you want a great scaler you have to go high, but you tlaking about 5% difference in PQ at most and unless you sitting 3 feet from a 65' in TV and freeze framing everything you can see it. Or at least I can't.

95% of the people dont care about all the bells and whisles.
They want big clear picture on thier cheap 42' plasma and a sub $300 HD players will give them just that.

RE: Inexpensive?
By DocDraken on 4/23/2007 9:45:08 AM , Rating: 2
$30 dvd work just as well as most of $200 players. YOu get crappy menus ans some can't do divx as well but in general picture and sound is the same.

Ahem, may I suggest you try a premium player with HDMI on a premium surround and projector system? Most good DVD players don't even have divx. Video quality have been clearly worse on all the cheap DVD players I've tried. And this is on just a 32" TV without scalers. As for sound quality, well they don't even come near the more expensive players.

I know that 95% don't care about bells and whistles (or audiophile sound or high image quality) I'm just saying that $300 is cheap for a player that most likely has better image quality than even a current $1000 DVD-player.

RE: Inexpensive?
By DocDraken on 4/23/2007 9:48:53 AM , Rating: 2
Oops, I think I misunderstood you. Please disregard above post.

RE: Inexpensive?
By DocDraken on 4/23/07, Rating: 0
RE: Inexpensive?
By zombiexl on 4/23/2007 9:49:25 AM , Rating: 2
I've had an expensive denon ($2k) and to be honest it wasnt worth the price for the slight quality difference over a sub 150 sony, toshiba, etc.

Unless you're spending $25K+ on you setup there is no reason to spend that kind of $$$. If you are spending that much, then you obviously have money to burn. Personally I'd rather spend money on something i'll use more often or will make me money. An addition to my house, rental property, etc (not that 25k will be enough for either of those ventures).

RE: Inexpensive?
By masher2 on 4/23/2007 2:52:04 PM , Rating: 3
> "Which "top brand" DVD players under $150 have you bought? "

I had a $139 Oppo for a while that very nearly matched the image quality of my $1K Denon 3910. It was a step or two below on fit and finish, but from a sheer playability perspective, almost a near-match.

RE: Inexpensive?
By Larrymon2000 on 4/23/2007 9:00:59 AM , Rating: 2
150 and up for a decent DVD Player? No, I don't think so, especially since you can get a good one for 100 bucks here, in Canada. I would think that someone on a modest university budget would come to that conclusion.

RE: Inexpensive?
By mackintire on 4/23/2007 9:42:36 AM , Rating: 2
Your eyeballs must be decieving you. I own a 42" panny. and I can tell you that I see interlacing issues, inverse telesync issues and cadence issue. Not to mention the other items like audio replication and color rendering. I'm looking forward to getting a Oppo DV-970HD.

The combination of cadence change and bad inverse tele really looks ugly.

RE: Inexpensive?
By DocDraken on 4/23/07, Rating: 0
RE: Inexpensive?
By Hare on 4/23/2007 9:51:55 AM , Rating: 5
It's especially the sound quality that sucks on the cheap players.

Not true. If you are talking about digital multi channel audio (DD, DTS etc) it should be obvious that your receiver/amp does the processing. The player has nothing to do with the sound quality from the digital out, it simply passes through the ones and zeros.

It's like saying that Mp3's from sound better from Seagate drives compared to Western Digital...

RE: Inexpensive?
By zombiexl on 4/23/07, Rating: 0
RE: Inexpensive?
By JustKidding on 4/23/2007 6:42:20 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks redbone, you made my point more clearly than I. It was a little too late at night when I wrote that. A similar effect was seen in mp3 players, technophiles were early adopters, but it wasn't until prices dropped below $100 that they became commonplace.

Like anyone who wants an high def player
By FITCamaro on 4/23/07, Rating: -1
RE: Like anyone who wants an high def player
By bldckstark on 4/23/2007 1:02:42 PM , Rating: 3
Every different type of an item added to a brand line adds cost. Meaning if you have two different types of players, one has cheap parts and the other has expensive parts, it will cost you more to make them. You have all kinds of manufacturing problems to consider such as parts being changed out and confirming the correct parts are installed. Add to that your assumption that all Wal-Mart items have the same part number and you get a manufacturing nightmare. How do you tell them apart in the shipping department? What happens if your stock gets mixed up and you can't tell the difference between the K-Mart player, the Target player, and the Best Buy player?

Your statement makes no sense.

By FITCamaro on 4/23/2007 3:40:24 PM , Rating: 1
UPCs can be different while product model names and numbers can be the same. A customer doesn't compare one UPC to another but a company tracks products by that number, not its model name. So if there was a mixup in the warehouse, they can easily tell which product is which.

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