If you don’t want to spend $500 to $1,000 or more for a drive to play HDTV content on high-density blue laser discs, you now have an option. The AVeL LinkPlayer2 will go on sale at CompUSA on August 1, with a $249 list price. Yes, this is a red laser device that plays standard DVDs, and no, standard DVDs are not HD even though they look pretty good when upscaled to HD resolutions. The key is that this new drive contains support for a variety of codecs that support HD resolutions, including Microsoft’s WMV9 HD, DivX, and MPEG4. As a result, it is capable of playing HD content in 1080i or 720p format.
According to the manufacturer, I-O Data Device USA, Inc., this drive is the top-selling HD drive in Japan. And when you purchase it from CompUSA, you get a coupon for one free HDNet video title. (HDNet is Mark Cuban’s trend-setting network for HD content, and the company has released a number of HD titles on red laser DVDs using WMV9.)
It’s too early to tell if this new drive will have any legs in the marketplace. It will take plenty of marketing and the availability of more titles — though Terminator 2 is already out there — before consumers will start paying attention to this lower-priced alternative to the blue laser warriors.