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Great picture and sound quality, plus relatively low prices, have made digital videodisc, or DVD, players, among the most successful consumer-electronics products ever. The vast majority of U.S. households have one or more DVD players. Prices have dropped so low that they're now sold seemingly everywhere--even in supermarkets and drugstores.
But conventional DVDs may soon seem quaint as high-definition (HD) content becomes the norm. The first HD players are now on the market, following delays caused by technical issues and competition between the two incompatible formats, HD-DVD and Blu-ray. Toshiba has launched its HD-DVD players, Samsung has introduced a Blu-ray player, and Sony is due to follow with its Blu-ray players. But as with most new technologies, initial prices are high: $500 for Toshiba's low-end model and $1,000 for Samsung's first Blu-ray device. All but the most passionate videophiles might want to wait for prices to drop.
There's another even more compelling reason to wait for the dust to settle: HD-DVD players won't be able to play movies that support the Blu-ray format, and vice versa. One of these formats might not survive, and if you back the losing candidate, you'll have paid a lot of money for obsolete technology.
Panasonic, Sony, and Toshiba are among the biggest-selling brands of DVD players. Virtually all new DVD players are progressive-scan models. When used with a conventional TV, these players provide the usual high DVD picture quality. …