Enjoy the best television in style this Christmas

theofficechristmasspecials.jpgSponsored post

Christmas television is as much a staple of the festive diet as crackers, eating too much and board games with the family.

The viewing is often nothing short of an absolute treat for the eyes and ears as programme makers and schedulers up their game to draw in the biggest audiences.

In previous years, televisions around the country flickered in unison as millions willed Tim and Dawn together in the memorable Christmas specials of The Office or watched Del Boy and Rodney finally make their million and many more viewers still turn on for the Queen's speech after stuffing themselves with turkey.

Tesco Direct Logo.jpgOther unforgettable moments in Christmas TV past include Smithy's race to the altar in Gavin and Stacey while both Only Fools and Horses and The Royle Family have shared a number of poignant, as well as hilarious, moments.

Of course, no holiday schedule would be complete without fireworks in Soapland and the likes of EastEnders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks look to make each year more sensational than the last.

This year looks set to be another visual and aural feast of entertainment, comedy and drama. For the first time ever, the phenomenally successful Downton Abbey will be on our screens over Yuletide. Those involved have remained tight-lipped over the content but it's sure to be a hit with fans. Elsewhere, the Dr Who specials have become essential viewing following the revival of the franchise at the hands of Russell T. Davies, while plenty of laughs are guaranteed with the ever-present Have I Got News For You.

Christmas television is the perfect excuse to splash out on a new television set for your viewing pleasure. After all, the best programmes deserve to be enjoyed in the best possible surroundings. If you haven't already, now more than ever is the time to upgrade to a high definition television (HDTV). You can take advantage of holiday prices and improve what you watch for an extremely reasonable price.

What with the congested fixture calendar from the Premier League being one of the sports fan's highlights of the holiday season, enjoying some classic clashes on the perfect screen will see them in heaven. The Christmas to New Year period frequently produces some of the most memorable, exciting and surprising encounters of any given season and deserved to be viewed in the best possible quality. With the European Championships looming next summer as well, it's an investment with long-term entertainment in mind.

In fact, why not push the entire boat out and scour the market for a 3D television? Though only a minority of programmes are currently broadcast using such a format, that number is continually increasing. Of the current shows, it is again sport that seems the most impressive though with more programmes being made with such techniques in mind, that trend is surely set to spread.

samsung-3d-tv-monster.jpgOf course, one area where 3D technology has already made huge inroads is in films and cinema. Many of the 3D films released this year are available to purchase for Christmas on blu ray and make for perfect presents or family entertainment. The technology to bring 3D television into homes is improving all the time and with more content available every week, many people are eager to experience the next level of home entertainment. If you would prefer to wait however, perhaps until most content is available in 3D, HDTV is still at the forefront of the current level of home entertainment.

It's also important to remember that, no matter what your choice of television set, it simply must be digital, otherwise at some point you will be left tuning in to a blank screen. Analogue broadcasting has been almost entirely phased out and now Freeview is the most basic package required in order to enjoy your favourite shows.

The best television programmes deserve the best platform on which to be broadcast. This year, enjoy everything that's great about Christmas television on the sets that do them justice.

rocketfish wireless hd.jpgPS3 in one room and your HD TV in another? Fear not, for the Rocketfish WirelessHD adapter is here to foil your madcap plans to run HDMI cables through walls and up banisters!

Providing your two devices are no more than 33 ft apart and are HDMI compatible, connecting a Rocketfish WirelessHD adapter to each will let you wirelessly throw 1080p HD content around the house without the need for lengthy cabling. It's also totally compatible with 7.1 audio sources and screens with 120hz refresh rates.

Currently only available to US readers, at $599.99 (circa £365) it's one of the cheapest Wireless HD options we've yet seen.

Via: Engadget

HD isn't exempt from the rash of tomfoolery that goes on every year on 1st April. Here are some of the "stories" you really needn't worry about. reviews Washermen (Extended Gaffer's Cut) on HD DVD:

In order to achieve a maximum level of realism, director Terrence Malick used a single, handheld Casio Exilim EX-Z600 camera to shoot the film, blowing up his prints to a 2.75:1 aspect ratio. This results in some slight motion blur, but with enough edge enhancement and DNR filtering the video isn't entirely unwatchable, especially if you use the polarized 3-D glasses that come free with every HD-DVD purchase. Without the glasses, the image tends to be a mite clouded by pixilation, shimmering, banding, grain, dirt, noise, dust, rain, wind, hail, ice, snow, and several household appliances. With the 3-D glasses, you can't see a thing, which improves the picture considerably.

Netflix, the US online movie rental service, has finally given the HD DVD format the push after announcing in February that it would phase out Toshiba's high definition disc format.

Though the company has been cautious over Blu-ray, it seems there's definitely no room for the other high definition disc format any more, not even archives.

From 15th December, users with HD DVD titles in the queue will get standard definition DVDs instead.

Given that there weren't a huge number of HD DVDs produced, I'd have thought stocking some of each title might generate some revenue, particularly as it costs no more to ship a box containing an HD DVD than a Blu-ray Disc. It does put another nail in the coffin, though, as if one was needed.

(Via Afterdawn)

Despite it being well over half a year since HD DVD officially had the plug pulled, Toshiba is still remaining faithful to those who bought its players.

The update applies to the HD-A1, HD-XA1, HD-D1, HD-A35, HD-A2, HD-A2W, HD-A2C, HD-D2, HD-A20, HD-XA2, HD-A3, HD-D3, HD-A30, and fixes certain playback issues.

In related news, HD DVDs continue to sell well in the US, probably because they are often to be found at highly discounted prices. While that's no help for anyone wanting new titles, HD DVD players are also great at upscaling and playing standard DVDs.

(Via CD Freaks)

xbox360.jpgAccording to reports, K-Mart has discounted its remaining stock of Xbox 360 HD DVD drives to just five dollars. Some doorstops cost more.

The drive originally cost $199.99 when launched towards the end of 2006, and was then discounted to $179.99. However, since the format war was decided in Blu-ray's favour, many stores have heavily discounted the player.

The chances of getting hold of a new player now are remote.

(Via Punch Jump)

samsung_bd-up5000_dual_format_hd_player.jpgBoth Samsung and LG have announced they're to pull out of the dual-format high definition disc player market before the end of the year.

The moves aren't surprising. Samsung has already axed its BD-UP5500 launch and it doesn't seem to make financial sense to push mainstream products supporting HD DVD.

"Since February this year, we have no longer been producing combo players that support the playback of HD DVD and Blu-ray high-definition discs,'' a spokesperson from Samsung Electronics told The Korea Times yesterday.

"Surely, it is a very tough decision for us to halt the production of the combos, however, we will stop manufacturing the Super Blu series from the second half of this year,'' said a spokesman from LG Electronics.

Losses for each company could be at least 10bn Won (around £5m) though for both companies it was still very much a niche product line.

(Via Korea Times)

xbox360.jpgAlways ready to talk up a piece of kit that it has just stopped supporting, Microsoft has happily told a disgruntled customer that the Xbox 360's HD DVD drive is a great DVD player, readily plays the 500+ HD DVD titles available, and adds an extra two USB ports to the system.

"It allows you to have game discs and movie discs, whether HD DVD or DVD, within the console at one time," said Shane Kim, Corporate VP of Microsoft Game Studios.

Indeed it does. It's worth scooping up HD DVDs where you can find them, though, as Blu-ray is rapidly filling up the shelf space where they used to sit.

(Via Spong)

shuttle_xpc_g5_6801m_mini_pc_high_definition_media_centre.jpgShuttle has introduced its XPC G5 6801M media centre PC with a built-in GGC-H20L from LG.

This means it can play back both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs, as well as sporting a 500GB hard drive, TV tuner with remote control, Wi-Fi, HDMI, 8-channel audio, and Windows Vista.

It packs in an AMD Athlon X2 6000+ processor with 2GB of DDR2-800 memory, and is available now for €1,234 (just under a grand).

Product page

xbox360.jpgHD DVD might be dead, but sales of Microsoft's add-on drive for the Xbox 360 continue to swell, at least in the US and on the Amazon Marketplace.

Mind you, it's available for under $40, so if you're not one of the sellers waiting to get rid of the device, it's a steal.

Meanwhile Microsoft, who discontinued production of the drive back in February, issued what is likely to be the last firmware upgrade for the drive. Internet-connected users will be prompted to install the upgrade the next time they use it.

(Via AVRev and PunchJump)

lg_ggw-h20l_internal_blu-ray_hd_dvd_drive_6x.jpgLG Electronics has cut the retail price of its GGW-H20L and GGC-H20L by approximately one-third in Taiwan, in a move designed to clear inventory of the player/writer internal drives (apologies if the generic use of the term "players" inferred standalone players).

The GGW-H20L drops from NT$26,000 to NT$18,000 (around £430 to £300), and the GGC-H20L falls from NT$12,900 to NT$8,500 (around £210 to £140).

However, it's not clear whether the price drop will be reflected in the UK, and we don't know how much stock LG has remaining.

I can only presume that this kicks into touch LG's February commitment to dual format players. I'd be surprised if LG continue to make standalone dual-format players if they're getting rid of PC drives, but perhaps they will.

(Via Digi Times)

Though nearly everyone has already left the HD DVD camp, the HD DVD Promotional Group officially dissolved last week, marking the absolute death of the format -- or at least, the end of any promotion for it.

Fading away gently, the HD DVD specification remains under the DVD Forum, but the format itself is unlikely to go anywhere now.

(Via Reg Hardware)

lg_be06lu10_blu-ray_hd_dvd_external_drive.pngLG continues its commitment to both high definition disc formats with a dual format external drive -- the BE06LU10 -- which can read and write to Blu-ray Discs and read HD DVDs, all at up to six times speed.

Connecting via USB, the drive is aimed at the backup market, and its portable plug-and-play nature means it's great for users of multiple PCs.

Naturally, the drive also handles standard DVD and CD media.

Available now, price to be confirmed.


Buffalo has announced their first external optical drive able to read and write to Blu-ray Discs, and read HD DVDs.

The unit can read and write to double-layer (50GB) Blu-ray discs at up to six times speed, read HD DVDs at up to 3x, as well as read and write to standard DVDs at up to 16x.

The BRHC-6316U2 (whoa) is fully plug-and-play compliant, and connects via USB. Buffalo's TurboUSB technology enhances performance and the Secure Lock Ware Windows software improves security.

Available from late April with a suggested price of £284.

hddvd.pngOne of the US's largest retailers, Best Buy, is offering a $50 gift voucher to anyone who bought an HD DVD player from them before 23rd February this year. This will amount to over $10m.

The company will mail out the cards to anyone it can identify as having bought a player from their stores. Anyone who doesn't receive the card by 1st May but has proof of purchase can contact Best Buy for the voucher.

From this Friday, customers can also visit Best Buy's online trade-in centre, where they can get instant estimates of the value of their equipment and discs, regardless of where they bought their player. Quite what happens after that, though, isn't clear.

$50 won't get you far towards a new Blu-ray player, but it's a nice gesture even though you do need to purchase something at Best Buy.

(Via Trading Markets)

hddvd.pngJapan's Nikkei business daily has estimated that Toshiba could lose $1 billion this financial year, thanks to the demise of HD DVD.

A Toshiba spokesperson said, "When we have determined of a revision to our earnings forecast for the fiscal year ending March is necessary we will release it as soon as possible."

While Toshiba has already stated that it "will continue to lead innovation, in a wide range of technologies that will drive mass market access to high definition content. These include high capacity NAND flash memory, small form factor hard disk drives, next generation CPUs, visual processing, and wireless and encryption technologies," could there still be the possibility of the company moving to Blu-ray?

Whatever the outcome, losing a format war is pretty expensive.

(Via eFlux Media)

samsung_bd-up5500_scrapped.jpgSamsung has announced that they won't be releasing their second-generation HD DVD / Blu-ray combo player -- the BD-UP5500 -- after all.

Though Samsung have already said they favour Blu-ray, this is the first solid announcement that they're no longer pushing their hybrid players.

Their first dual player, the BD-UP5000, had a few problems and led to some disgruntled owners, so it's probably for the best.

It's not clear whether Samsung will continue to manufacture their first generation machine, though I'd presume a quiet exit would suit them best. Expect much more fanfare about future Blu-ray players from Samsung in due course.

(Via Blu-ray News)

rock_xtreme_770_hd_dvd.jpgLast week we reported that Rock continued to offer HD DVD on its notebook PCs. However, it is now offering customers the option of adding a Blu-ray drive to their machine.

CEO Nick Boardman said, "We're disappointed that HD DVD didn't make it and we value the support Toshiba has given us. Although Blu-ray has technical advantages, HD DVD offers excellent value for money and lends itself well to the PC platform. Sony's marketing and business tactics however, eventually stole the match."

american_gangster_hd_dvd.jpgIt's hardly going to resurrect HD DVD, but in a final twist, "American Gangster", released only on the dead format, topped last week's sales chart, according to Neilsen VideoScan's chart.

It easily beat second-place title "Michael Clayton", however all other titles in the top 10 were on the Blu-ray format.

  1. American Gangster (HD DVD); INDEX: 100
  2. Michael Clayton (Blu-ray); INDEX: 62.24
  3. The Rock (Blu-ray); INDEX: 27.26
  4. Cars (Blu-ray); INDEX: 26.18
  5. We Own the Night (Blu-ray); INDEX: 24.29
  6. Planet Earth (Blu-ray); INDEX: 22.69
  7. Con Air (Blu-ray); INDEX: 21.37
  8. Gone Baby Gone (Blu-ray); INDEX: 19.89
  9. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Blu-ray); INDEX: 19.26
  10. Crimson Tide (Blu-ray); INDEX: 18.28

"American Gangster" was released by Universal on the same day Toshiba announced it was pulling support for HD DVD.

(Via Afterdawn)

Yesterday I reported that Dreamworks remained tied-in to HD DVD — however, today it appears that the studio has finally bailed out and joined everyone else in the Blu-ray camp.

Dreamworks has announced that the scheduled Bee Movie will now not be released on HD DVD.

What isn't clear is whether there were any financial penalties for bailing out. In any case, it looks as it there's no-one left supporting HD DVD now.

(Via Tech Radar)

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