Samsung is ready to release its first dual-format Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD player in time for the year-end holidays.

The company, which has been a strong backer of the Blu-ray Disc format, said its BD-UP5000 player will launch in mid-December. The machine was first announced in April, when Samsung said it would be available in Europe and North America by the end of the year.

There's no official word yet on the price of the machine, but a handful of online stores are taking preorders. The BD-UP5000 is currently on Amazon's UK site for £485.09 – the online retailer says it's “order now and we'll deliver when available”. In the US prices ranging from $780 at to $1,100 at

The release of the player will rekindle talk of the format battle between Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, which was at full volume a year ago but quietened down over the course of 2007. Consumers have largely shunned both formats and disc sales have been poor, so it remains to be seen if the new Samsung player will invigorate the market.

In the US, HD DVD has won some support thanks to low-cost players from Toshiba, the main backer of the format. In Japan, Blu-ray Disc has been winning out due to the strong support of major consumer electronics companies like Sony and Panasonic.

Samsung will become the second company to launch a dual-format player. South Korea's LG Electronics launched the first at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

At the same event, Warner Home Video unveiled a hybrid disc that was supposed to mark an end to format headaches for consumers. With one side for HD DVD and the other side for Blu-ray Disc, the Total Hi Def disc is supposed to be able to play in all players, although the format has yet to reach the market.

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