Illustration by Christoph Niemann

Waiting for the DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM format wars to end before buying a DVD recorder? Things will get worse before they get better, as blue-laser DVD recorders hit the market over the next two years.

The so-called Blu-Ray recorders use a 405-nanometer blue laser to record 13 hours of TV-or 2 hours of HDTV-onto a 27-gigabyte disc. The recorders currently on the market use a red laser, which has a longer wavelength and thus packs only 4.7GB of data onto each disc.

The trade-off for more storage is compatibility: You won’t be able to play these discs on today’s players (there are varying degrees of backward-compatibility with red-laser technology). Also, for Blu-Ray recorders to play existing DVDs and CDs, they’d need to be equipped with red lasers-and this is by no means a certainty.