The format war is far from over, but HD DVD is on a roll--at least as far as PR is concerned. Last week the big news was both Paramount and DreamWorks becoming HD DVD-exclusive studios, and now Venturer Electronics has announced it will release a budget HD DVD player--the SHD7000--by the 2007 holiday season. There have been several reports indicating that cheaper, off-brand HD DVD players were on their way, but Venturer is the first company to make a formal announcement.
Details are a little slim at the moment, but here's what we know. The SHD7000 has an HDMI port capable of outputting video at 1080i. That's comparable to Toshiba's HD-A2, and as long as your HDTV has decent 1080i deinterlacing, you should still get very good image quality with a 1080i signal (assuming it is of comparable quality to the HD-A2). According to the press release, the SHD7000 also has onboard Dolby TrueHD decoding. The HD DVD spec only requires players to be able to decode two channels of Dolby TrueHD, so we don't know for sure if the SHD7000 will be able to decode multichannel Dolby TrueHD soundtracks (to date, all HD DVD players have handled 5.1 TrueHD decoding.) Like all other HD DVD players, the SHD7000 also has an Ethernet port, so it should be capable of playing networked enabled special features, as seen on titles like Blood Diamond. The press release also states that it will be able to upconvert regular DVDs and play standard audio CDs.
The press release doesn't mention a price yet, but VideoBusiness is reporting a $199 MSRP. On the other hand, poster Robert Spalding over at AVS Forum claims to have received an e-mail indicating the street price will be closer to $150. We certainly can't vouch for that street price--it remains firmly in the rumor mill for now--but a $150 HD DVD player could have a big effect on the format war, especially with the cheapest Blu-ray players still around the $500 mark. We've contacted Venturer for more information on the pricing of the SHD7000 and will update this post accordingly.