Can I Play an HD-DVD on a Blu-ray Disc Player or Vice-Versa?

If you have HD-DVD discs, your playback options are limited.

Examples of Movies on the HD-DVD Disc Format

Robert Silva

HD-DVD (aka High Definition DVD or High Definition Versatile Disc) was once a competitor format to Blu-ray both of which were introduced in 2006. HD-DVD was primarily backed by Toshiba. The HD-DVD format was officially discontinued in 2008, but there are HD-DVD players still in use and both players and movies are sold and traded on the secondary market.

For those that own, or run across, HD-DVD players and/or discs, be aware that the Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD formats are incompatible. You can't play an HD-DVD in a Blu-ray Disc player nor can you play a Blu-ray Disc in an HD-DVD player.

Blu-ray and HD-DVD Similarities and Differences

  • Both formats provide up to 1080p video resolution output and are compatible with most Dolby and DTS surround sound formats, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, as well as Uncompressed PCM,
  • Both formats utilize blue lasers to read the pits on discs containing the digitally stored video and audio information that conforms to Blu-ray or HD-DVD format specifications.
  • The pits on an HD-DVD are a different size than on a Blu-ray Disc, which means that the pits on the disc must be read by a laser of a specific light wavelength.
  • The discs used in both formats are the same physical size (CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, and HD-DVDs discs are all the same diameter), but an HD-DVD has a 15GB per layer storage capacity, while a Blu-ray Disc has a 25 GB per layer storage capacity.
  • There are differences in how the audio and video information is placed and read within the physical characteristics of each format. There is also a difference in how disc menus are constructed and navigated.

Blu-ray/HD-DVD Politics

When the two formats were made available, manufacturers didn't want to pay the licensing fees required to use both formats for players. The HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc patent holders (mostly Toshiba vs Pioneer and Sony) put pressure on manufacturers to adopt their format, exclusive of the other. This resulted in a format war where some movie studios and player makers lined up on the HD-DVD side, and others on the Blu-ray side.

Blu-ray/HD-DVD Combo Players

LG and Samsung released a limited number of players (3 in the U.S. market) that could play both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Discs. However, they were withdrawn in 2008 when the HD-DVD format was discontinued. If you own a Blu-ray Disc/HD-DVD combo player by LG (LG BH100/BH200) or Samsung (BD-UP5000) and have HD-DVD discs to play, you have something very rare in the history of consumer electronics.

HD-DVD/DVD Combo Discs

One thing that may confuse consumers with regards to playing HD-DVDs, is that some HD-DVD movie discs have an HD-DVD layer on one side and a standard DVD layer on the other. This means you can play the standard DVD layer in a Blu-ray disc player, but if you flip the disc and insert the HD-DVD side into a Blu-ray Disc player, it won't play.

Warner Bros developed a disc that was Blu-ray on one side and HD-DVD on the other, with the idea of releasing movies in both formats on a single disc but was not adopted by either the Blu-ray or HD-DVD backers.

Blu-ray and HD-DVD Players — DVD and CD Playback

HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc players are able to play DVDs and CDs which don't conform to either HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc specifications. The reason is that manufacturers of both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc players made the decision to make their players more attractive to consumers by including backward compatibility with CDs and DVDs. This was accomplished by adding a focus-adjustable red laser assembly to their players in addition to the blue-lasers needed for HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc.

The Bottom Line

With all the disc formats that provide access to video and music content, it can get confusing as to which disc will play what player. Just remember that HD-DVD discs can't a player on a Blu-ray Disc player, and Blu-ray Discs won't play on an HD-DVD player, except for the few HD-DVD/Blu-ray Disc Combo players that were made in limited numbers discussed above.

If you have a question as to what types of discs can be played on your Blu-ray Disc or HD-DVD player, every user manual for those players should have a page that lists the discs that your specific player is compatible with. By the same token, it should also list the disc formats that are not compatible with your player.

If you don't have access to the user manual or need further clarification, you can also touch base with tech support for your brand/model player, if it is available.