HD war intensifies with $199 HD DVD player

An HD DVD player with a sub-$200 price tag. Who says the format war is over?

The announcement of a new HD DVD player from Venturer Electronics wouldn't ordinarily be news. But the fact that Venturer's forthcoming SHD7000 player may have a sub-$200 price tag slapped on it definitely is.

There's no official mention of pricing on the Venturer website. But VideoBusiness.com is reporting that the Chinese-built SHD7000 will sell for $199. This, says the VB article, would make the SHD7000 "the cheapest stand-alone HD DVD player available today."

Entry-level HD DVD

Of course, judging by the specs of the player this is an entry-level machine. It can only output 1080i, for example, rather than the full fat 1080p HD video squirted out by Toshiba's popular HD-XE1.

Nevertheless, the SHD7000 features HDMI and Ethernet ports, Dolby TrueHD support and, like other HD DVD players, can moonlight as a capable DVD upscaler. For $199 it's a bargain.

The SHD7000 might be making headlines, but the machine itself isn't really important. What is exciting is what the arrival of the SHD7000 means. It means that the HD war (with a little help from Chinese mass-production) is driving down the cost of high-def products. It means we're getting to a point where HD DVD is becoming a more attractive option than Blu-ray because it's half the price.

Toshiba's HD-XE1, for example, had a suggested retail price of £650 when it launched back in March/April. You can now buy it online for just over £400. In contrast, Panasonic's DMP-BD10A Blu-ray player had a list price of around £1,200 at launch and it now sells for £800-£900 via web stores.

Is Blu-ray still king?

Yes, Blu-ray still enjoys strong support on the content side. But the HD DVD group's recent $150 million deal to bag Paramount and Dreamworks exclusivity is an indication that the HD battle still can't be called.

An HD DVD player for $199 is surely a no-brainer? With this strategy, the availability of cut-price HD DVD players will boost hardware sales; more hardware sales will trigger software sales; and more software sales might, just might persuade other content producers that HD DVD is a format worth supporting.

Will we get the SHD7000 in the UK? Unlikely. The Venturer website says that the company is "focused on making the latest technologies affordable to North American consumers." Shame.