HD DVDs looked, for the most part, fantastic on my 46-inch Sony LCD set, which is big enough to reveal the flaws in DVDs – they all look like they’re shot through a thin layer of jelly. “Deer Hunter” in HD DVD looked jaw-droppingly sharp and beautiful. An older movie like “Casablanca,” which has many medium shots, gained a dimension when I could clearly see the glints in the characters’ eyes. The HD-A2 will pep up DVDs a little bit by “upconverting” them to faux high-definition, but for most discs, that only works if the player is connected to the TV by a digital High-Definition Multimedia Interface, or HDMI cable. The cheaper and more common three-lead component video cables won’t do. The HD-A2 doesn’t output the very highest-definition signal, called 1080p. The player is limited to a resolution of 1080i, which is 1080 lines of vertical resolution, with alternating lines refreshed every 60th of a second. The BDP-S1 is a big, handsome box that makes you feel like you’re getting a lot for your $999. It was the quietest player in the test. The remote is easier to use and more substantial than the Toshiba’s. It loads a disc in 30 seconds, just like the HD-A2, and it can output 1080p. Just one niggle: It was sometimes slow to respond to commands from the remote. It also has a possible limitation in that, unlike the HD-A2 and the PlayStation, it does not connect to the Internet. The HD-A2 has an Ethernet jack for connecting the unit to an Internet router. The usefulness of that feature is not clear at the moment, though. Future HD DVD discs could connect to the Internet for special features like online games, and Toshiba may send software upgrades to the player that way. Even so, the BDP-S1 is a fine machine. So both the standalone players are good. Should you get one? If you’ve spent $2,000 or more on an HDTV, I’d say “yes.” Get your money’s worth from your TV set. It’s tougher to say which player to get. I liked the HD DVD player, and the discs had a more consistent image quality, probably because they use a more sophisticated mathematical formula, or codec, to pack the movie into the disc. Some Blu-ray movies showed slight smearing of colors in darker scenes, and “The Fifth Element,” an early disc, was not as crisp as it should have been. But the image quality of recent Blu-ray discs was an improvement, and the format has more support from Hollywood. Triple threat A look at three HD DVD and Blu-ray players: TOSHIBA HD-A2 Price: $499 Pros: Slim, responsive and cheap. HD DVD discs look great. Has Internet capability. Cons: HD DVD has less Hollywood support. Needs HDMI cable to convert DVDs to high definition. SONY BDP-S1 Price: $999 Pros: Well built, good looking. Quiet. Blu-ray disc format may be the winner. Cons: Expensive. Blu-ray disc quality is variable, but improving. No Internet connection for updates. SONY PLAYSTATION 3 Price: $599 with 60-gigabyte hard drive as tested, but there is a $499 model with 20 gigabytes. Pros: Does a lot besides play Blu-ray discs. Responsive. Cons: Noisy fan. Wireless game pad works as remote, but you’ll want the $25 video-style remote as well.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! NEW YORK – The two movie disc formats that are competing to replace the DVD have had a rocky start, with clunky first-generation players and an audience that’s been reluctant to buy them for fear of betting on the losing side. But there’s now a second generation of players out, and in our test of three of them, it’s clear that they left the problems of their predecessors behind. Sorry, consumers, but it’s time to choose sides: Blu-ray or HD DVD. From the HD DVD camp I tried Toshiba Corp.’s $499 HD-A2 player. In the other corner of the ring swaggered Sony Corp.’s BDP-S1 Blu-ray disc player, which lists for $999 but is available for less. As a cheaper alternative, I also looked at the Blu-ray function of a $599 PlayStation 3 from Sony. The HD-A2 is a svelte device that looks very much like a regular DVD player. It takes 30 seconds to load a disc, a little slow but not enough to bore you. The fan is louder than you’d expect from a DVD player, but not bothersome in most entertainment centers.