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What is an HD DVD? How is it Different from Blu-ray?


Last updated on March 13th, 2024 at 05:11 am

HD DVD stands for High-Definition Digital Versatile Disc. At the initial stage, it was called Advanced Optical Disc (AOD).

File:HD-DVD.svg - Wikimedia Commons

The disc size is similar to that of the DVD – 12 centimeters in diameter. It uses the same substrate ( internal construction) as a DVD.

The HD DVD technology was pioneered by Toshiba, hoping it to be the next-generation DVD format. It looked set to be so, especially as it received the endorsement of the DVD Forum, the industry group behind the creation of DVD.

HD DVD, apart from Toshiba, had the support of NEC, Sanyo, Microsoft, and Intel.

It also had the backing of Hollywood studios, except Sony Entertainment.

Sony was in the Blu-ray camp, namely Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA). The DVD Forum didn’t endorse Blu-ray. The BDA, however, was confident that the Blu-ray format would survive without the blessings of the DVD Forum.

They were proven right over time.

Main Features of HD DVD

HD DVD Construction and Storage Space

HD DVD has the same construction (substrate) as DVD.

However, it uses smaller pits than that of a DVD. These smaller pits allow for more data storage on the disc.

A single-layer HD DVD can store about 15GB of data. That is three times the amount of data stored on a DVD.

A dual-layer HD DVD provides 30GB of storage space. It allows you to store up to 8 hours of HD-quality video.

HD DVD’s Blue Laser System

HD DVD players use blue-violet laser technology to read the smaller pits. This laser allowed for big-capacity recordings with high-speed data transfer.

HD DVD uses a 405nm blue-violet laser. This is coupled with a 0.65 numerical aperture (NA) lens.

CD and DVD use a red laser with a shorter wavelength of 650nm.

The blue-violet laser can create smaller spots on the disc surface. So, each bit of data takes up a smaller amount of space. The result is more data can be stored on a 12-cm disc.


HD DVD supports MPEG-2 compression. It can also use the more efficient MPEG-4 codec, not to mention Microsoft’s VC-1 compression.


HD DVD offers surround sound support. Among the audio formats supported are Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD.

Video Resolution

HD DVD can support a video resolution of up to 1080p with a bitrate over 36Mbps.

HD DVD Recordable Formats

The following disc formats are available for HD DVD recording – HD DVD + R and HD DVD +RW

iHD Support

iHD is a feature of HD DVD meant to support interactive programming. It is meant to be used with an HD DVD player to connect to the Internet. In this way, interactive content related to the main disc content can be accessed.

Once connected to the Internet, you could purchase soundtracks or play games related to the disc content.

Advanced Content Control

HD DVD allows you to have better control over your disc content. There’s the Menu Over Disc feature. It allows you to tweak setup options on the fly. You don’t have to stop or pause a movie to do this.

Another on-the-fly option is Fast Search. With this function, you can grab scenes or chapters when a movie is playing and go straight to any of them.

HD DVD Popularity and Decline

When it was first introduced, HD DVD was predicted to dethrone Blu-ray. In 2007, the jury was still out on whether HD DVD or Blu-ray would be the definitive HD video disc format. Meanwhile, there were takers for HD DVD. However, HD DVD’s decline was underway.

Video streaming giant, Netflix had an HD DVD rental service back in 2006. It carried any HD DVD movie title as it became available.

However, it discontinued the service in February 2008. This followed the decision of 4 out of 6 major Hollywood studios to embrace Blu-ray over HD DVD.

Also, Blockbuster, the largest video rental company announced that it would only rent Blu-rays.

Additional salt was rubbed to the wound when Warner Brothers announced that it would no longer release any new movie in the HD DVD format.

HD DVD vs Blu-ray

A format war not dissimilar to that of VHS and Betamax raged between HD DVD and Blu-ray. Each coveted the HD video disc market throne. Though on the face of it there isn’t much difference between them, there are areas where they stand apart.

Storage Capacity

The biggest difference between HD DVD and Blu-ray is in their storage capacities.

A single-layer HD DVD has a storage capacity of 15GB, while a dual-layer version has 30GB.

HD video of up to 8 hours and SD video of up to 24 hours can be stored on an HD DVD.

For Blu-ray, it’s 25GB for a single layer and 50 GB for a dual-layer one.

HD video of up to 9 hours and SD video of up to 23 hours can be stored.

Blu-ray has the edge here when it comes to storing longer movies in 1080p resolution. This would also enable more special features to be added in the form of deleted scenes and interviews.

Region Constraint

Users of HD DVD enjoyed a region-free experience as opposed to Blu-ray which is divided into the 3 regions as stated below:

Region A

North America, South America, U.S. Territories, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and other areas of Southeast Asia

Region B

Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand.

Region C 

Asia (excluding Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and other Southeast Asia countries)

But then Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs are region-free.  

Ease of Production

HD DVD has larger disc pits compared to Blu-ray. It can be easily manufactured with an existing DVD production setup with minor adjustments. That’s not the case with Blu-ray.

HD DVD Players

HD DVD players are no longer in production. Still, you can find working units for sale online.

Before we check out some HD DVD buying options, let take a moment to look at what a typical HD DVD player can do.

An HD DVD player serves its main purpose of playing Full HD 1080p video, meaning it can play the video with the resolution of 1920 x 1080 in progressive mode.

But this doesn’t apply to all models. Some will play at a maximum resolution of 1080i only. But any HD DVD player will support the playback of 720p video.

Other than that, it can do what a usual DVD player can do. The only thing it can’t do is play back Blu-ray.

What can a typical HD DVD player do?

Ceihoit HD DVD Player

The unique feature of this HD DVD player is it supports the playback of HD video through flash drives.

With this feature, you can playback almost the following digital video formats:

  • AVI
  • DIVX
  • VOB
  • BAT
  • FLV
  • MPEG
  • MKV
  • MOV
  • MP4
  • WMV
  • RMVB

Popular audio formats like MP3 and WMA are supported as well, not to mention image files – (JPG / JPEG).

Only flash drives with a capacity of 128GB in USB 2.0 mode are supported.

It comes with HDMI and AV cables.

Check out the Ceihoit HD DVD player.

Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD Player

This is an older version of Toshiba’s HD DVD player. It supports the playback of 720p and 1080i video.

Via the HDMI out port, you can enjoy DVD upconversion. It means you can play a regular DVD and get your video resolution improved up to 720p or 1080i resolution.

There’s also the component video (highest analog video resolution) output option should your TV not support HDMI.

Check out the Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD Player.

Xbox 360 HD DVD Player

In the HD DVD vs Blu-ray war, Microsoft decided to take the HD DVD side. It came up with an external USB-powered HD DVD playback device that also supported DVD playback. There was no facility to play Xbox games with it, however.

The H D DVD drive had a remote control to control video playback.

Check out the Xbox 360 HD DVD Player.

HD DVD Movies

As mentioned earlier, no new HD DVD movie releases exist. Still, you can find some good HD DVD movie titles online.

The Complete Matrix Trilogy: (The Matrix/ The Matrix Reloaded/ The Matrix Revolutions)

Check out this quick list of HD DVD movie titles.

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