The new HD DVD player from Toshiba has been out for a bit, so we’ve had time for many people to check this unit over. I’ve scoured forum threads, user reviews, technical reviews and less than sufficient overviews of this piece of tech. Here is what I’ve found out about this unit so far:
HD DVD has brought us the next level in Home Theater. The picture from this unit is usually described as better than D-VHS theater, or at least rivaling it. The source material (original film) is now the limiting factor for picture quality, not the media on which we store it.
Great Upscaling of Standard Definition DVDs Over HDMI
Those of us with big screen projection know that upscaling can give new life to standard definition DVDs, and this unit does it with great success. Image quality here is described as on par with or better than the popular Oppo unit.
Audio – Some Problems
There are a few qualms with the audio. First, the test tones are so loud, some have damaged drivers. Use a calibration disk here.
Secondly, some films (a few Universal titles were first noted) do not have the proper sound level, often being too low. This is not a big issue, and certainly not the fault of the player.
Lastly and most importantly, the way audio works on HD DVD is a bit different. The discs are not encoded with DD or DTS but Dolby Digital Plus, and they need to be encoded by a player before being sent to your receiver. This player cannot encode DD, so if you have an older receiver you may have a problem getting surround sound. You will need a receiver that accepts HDMI 1.1, 5.1 analog inputs or DTS via coaxial or Toslink optical connection. Otherwise you’ll have 2 channel PCM.
The remote has various problems and is pretty much unusable. Since most HT enthusiasts have other all-in-one replacement remotes, this shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Output Only at 1080i
This unit’s picture is awesome at 1080i, but garbage at 720p. Toshiba clearly states to run the unit at the disc’s native resolution, which all have been 1080 thus far. However, if your set doesn’t handle 1080i well, it will be a problem.
The Big Screen Difference
If you watch movies on a CRT or non-big screen, you will not see as much of a difference. When viewed on larger plasmas, rear projection and front projector units, the difference is easy to discern. 36″ and smaller unit viewers will probably not fully see the new glory that is HD DVD.
The menus are terribly slow, and the unit takes about a minute to power up and start playing your flick. (This thing is basically a PC in a box.) Toshiba has already released a firmware update to address these and other concerns, and should be working on more improvements now. This is a small price to pay for the Next Gen home theater experience.
Other Miscellaneous Notes
6′ HDMI cable included
Ethernet port for easy firmware updates
Solid construction, “built like a tank”
Will not play SACD
Will play DVD-Audio but only outputs DTS stream
All in all, this looks to be a solid offering from Toshiba. It appears they have done a great job beating BD (Blu-Ray) out of the gate.
Find one for less than $500:
For more info, check out:
HD-A1 FAQ at AVS
DVD Town HD-A1 Review
AVS First End User Reports