What is High-Definition DVD? High-definition DVD is a generic term for the next generation of DVD technology, which can burn more information onto the same size disc as your current CDs and DVDs. Like a DVD, it can be used for either video or computer data. But you'll need new hardware to play a hi-def disc on either your TV or your PC.
Why should you care? Because the quality of a hi-def DVD movie greatly outpaces that of a standard DVD, displaying images in real HDTV resolution. Users report that the picture is stunning, though the quality increase may be lost on those who aren't videophiles.
Similarly, the ability to put more data on a single optical disc is good for computer users. Backups can be burned to fewer discs, requiring fewer disc swaps and generally being less of a headache to use. However, since DVD is only now becoming popular for program distribution, hi-def probably has a decade or more to go before finding a use for commercial software.
There are two competing formats of hi-def DVD: Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Much like VHS and BetaMax, they are incompatible, and eventually only one standard is likely to "win," although both should theoretically output video at the same quality and resolution. The jury's out on which will be the victor: Momentum swings from one side to the other every couple of months. Some observers feel that neither may end up winning: That hi-def DVD may soon go the way of laserdisc. Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, read on to see what you need to know about the two competing formats.