HD Movie Releases This Week

Filed Under: HD DVD, Media - Movies - Games

HD DVD New movie releases this week
We have 4 new HD DVD releases this week, and nothing from the Blu Ray BD camp.

The HD media war is really heating up, both sides need new and better content.

All from Universal, we have:

Billy Madison
Dante’s Peak
The War
The Wedding Date

These are all older, previously released movies and they aren’t that spectacular. The War looks worth checking out, especially if you’re a Costner fan.

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Dish Network HD Channels

Filed Under: HDTV Local, Cable, Satellite

Dish Network HD ChannelsI have been looking for a better HDTV offering for broadcast tv, and I have found that DISH has the best coverage. They finally got their new HD lineup up and running.

There are four packages available.

DishHD Bronze and DishHD Silver
Animania HD
Family Room HD
GamePlay HD
Discovery HD Theater
Equator HD
DISH Network PPV in HD
Film Fest HD
HDNet Movies
Kung Fu HD
Monsters HD
World Cinema HD
HDNews
Rave HD
ESPN HD
ESPN2 HD
NFL Network HD
Rush HD
WorldSport HD
Gallery HD
HDNet
HGTV HD
TNT HD
Treasure HD
Ultra HD
Universal HD

With Bronze you get 80 standard-def channels, with Silver you get 200 standard-def channels.

Bronze is $49.99 per month
Silver is $59.99 per month
__________________________

Move up to Gold and add:

National Geographic in HD and 40 more standard definition channels.

Gold is $69.99 per month
__________________________

The Platinum Package takes the Gold package and adds:

HBO HD
Showtime HD
Starz HD

Platinum is $99.99 per month

__________________________

Add your local HD channels, where available, for 5 bucks per month.

Dish currently is running a special for new HD customers:

Save $200. You get $20 off per month for 10 months, and get the Starz moviepack free for 3 months.
Plus you get a free upgrade to an HD receiver.

That brings the prices down to:

$29.99 for Bronze
$39.99 for Silver
$49.99 for Gold

That is currently the best deal for HD television.

Visit Dish to find out more.

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Toshiba HD-D1 and RCA HDV5000 HD-DVD Players

Filed Under: HD DVD

Toshiba HD-D1 HD DVD Player
Toshiba HD-D1 HD DVD Player

RCA HDV5000 HD-DVD Player
RCA hdv5000 hd-dvd player

Just to make sure everyone knows, these units are exactly the same as the Toshiba HD-A1. The HD-D1 is black instead of silver, and the RCA model is simply a rebadged unit.

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Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD Player

Filed Under: HD DVD

toshiba hd dvd player hd a1

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:

Excellent Image
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.

Useless Remote
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.

Clunky Interface
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:
Toshiba’s Specs
HD-A1 FAQ at AVS
DVD Town HD-A1 Review
AVS First End User Reports

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InFocus IN76 Play Big DLP Projector Review

Filed Under: Front Projectors, Home Theater Reviews

InFocus IN76 new DLP projector

Well, the release for the IN76 is upon us. I have been eagerly anticipating this machine since I first saw pics of her. I am an InFocus fan – I prefer their DLP machines for my HT.

Audioholics is cranking out some great review coverage lately, and the cherry for this week is this preliminary look at a pre-production IN76 Big Play 720p DLP machine. (Thanks guys!)

It looks like this machine may be the trick to beat in this price range. Great performance and good looks to boot – ain’t she a beaut?

Basic info and specs:

  • 1280 x 720 native resolution (true HD)
  • Pixelworks processing which reportedly handles 1080i a bit better than Faroudja
  • HDMI (2 available if you use the M1DA input for HDMI), component, S-Video and Composite connections
  • Both HDMI inputs are HDCP compliant (not found in the review – this info came from elsewhere, see below)
  • Quiet design
  • Limited rainbow artifacts
  • Good color calibration out of the box
  • Sealed optics
  • Medium throw – 100″ screen, mount the PJ 11-14 feet back
  • Fixed offset – 100″ screen, mount the PJ with the lens 7.5 inches above the screen (mount closer to ceiling for cleaner install)

Datasheet (PDF)

Picture Quality
HD Broadcast Material
“Colors were nicely saturated and there was plenty of detail in the HD images. Contrast appeared excellent, and the black levels were very respectable – in fact, blacks were some of the best we have seen from an InFocus projector (InFocus is rating the contrast ratio on the IN76 as 3000:1). Overall, it was a very impressive image with the typical “WOW” factor you get when blowing up an HD image to the type of screen sizes that front projection makes possible.”

Brightness
“In terms of brightness, the IN76 falls into the “brighter than average” category. InFocus rates it at 1000 lumens, but we have learned to take ALL manufacturer brightness/lumen claims with tremendous grains of salt. We are big advocates of brighter projectors, as so many people we talk to want to go with screen sizes of 110” diagonal or greater, and many home theater projectors are not really suited for screen sizes much beyond 100”. Based upon what we saw here, I would say that the IN76 would be good up to screen sizes of 110”, but not much beyond that. ”

DVD Performance
“DVD clips looked very good, with the same richness of color and contrast we noticed on the HD clips. Due to the fact that we had the IN76 for just a limited amount of time, we didn’t spend a great deal of time evaluating scaler/deinterlacer performance. Unfortunately, since so many systems we see these days end up having the scaling or deinterlacing done by the source (a cable box, a satellite dish receiver, an upconverting DVD player, etc), we feel that the internal scaler/deinterlacer is becoming less important to the overall performance of the piece from a real world perspective.”

In Comparison
Compared to the Panasonic PT-AE900U, another 720p machine but of the LCD variety, the IN76 did very well.

Notable image differences
The Panny 900U has a bit less SDE (Screen Door Effect) due to it’s Smooth Screen technology. However, due to this technology the picture is quite a bit softer.
The Panasonic test unit did not have uniform color across the screen.
The InFocus IN76 showed deeper blacks, better color saturation, and better depth giving the image an appealing 3D look.
Darker sequenced scenes looked smoother on the Panasonic, due to graininess of the IN76’s dithering noise.
In a nutshell, the image smoothness was superior on the Panny, but the InFocus unit had better contrast, deeper blacks, and the 3D pop.

Conclusion
“The InFocus IN76 seems to have exactly the right features at exactly the right price point. It makes a great entry level high definition projector for someone who wants DLP technology and an excellent true 720p HD image without breaking the bank. In comparison with the LCD competition at the price point, we feel the DLP based IN76 to have a superior image in most regards plus what we have found to be a more reliable technology. While the picture of the IN76 is not quite as bright or as smooth as what can be found on higher end DLP projectors using the larger Dark Chip 2 or Dark Chip 3 DMDs (including Infocus’s own SP-7205 or SP-7210), it is also considerably less expensive, sexy looking, and very quiet to boot! Since the unit we had to evaluate was a pre-production model, we look forward to taking another look at it when the actual production models start shipping. If we find any performance differences at that point, we will report on them here!”

This unit is now shipping, and I am looking forward to more info and reviews. I may just purchase one of these myself, I’ve been suffering from acute upgraditis for a couple of months now.


InFocus IN76 Play Big DLP Projector Preliminary Review

For more info, check out the IN76 thread at AVS forum, where Bob Williams, engineer at InFocus, is answering consumer questions. This is where I found the dual HDCP compatibility info above.

InFocus IN72/ IN74 / IN76 User Guide (PDF)
InFocus IN72/ IN74 / IN76 Reference Guide (PDF)

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Screen Innovations Visage Projector Screen Review

Filed Under: Home Theater Reviews, Projector Screens

mirage projector screen now called screen innovations VisageLast summer we caught wind of the Mirage Projector Screen from Screen Innovations, that filtered out ambient light, allowing us to see our projected image in a non-light-controlled environment.

Well, the product is now final, with the new name of Visage, instead of Mirage. Interesting change there, I guess they didn’t want it to seem like a projector screen, but not really.

Our buds over at Audioholics got to check this thing out, and it seems to work as billed. However, the bills part is the problem – you’ll need to cough up around 4 grand to sport this 92″ model under your HD goodness.

“The new breakthrough screen uses a patented high contrast filter that covers 60% of the screen surface. This enables the projected image to be reflected by the screen while at the same time absorbing ambient incidental light from other angles produced by windows and room lighting.”

Conclusion:

The impeccable build quality, engineering and over all luxurious design of the screen make it an easy recommendation. We will be very sorry to see the new Visage screen returned to the factory. Watching Nascar on a 92-inch diagonal screen on Sunday mornings was an awesome experience. Going back to a 42-inch diagonal screen will be painful to say the least. The Visage screen is pricey but if you can afford the price of admission get it and you will go where no front projection system has gone before: into the light.

Well, if you can afford it, go for it. If you’re like me and shop with $3k or so projector budget, this thing is a bit out of the question. If I added the $4k to my projector budget, I could afford a light cannon that wouldn’t need this screen. Well, not as much anyway.

I’ve also read that this product has a much more limited viewing angle. So, if you have wrap-around seating, or use projection in a regular living space, this could be a big problem. Still, an innovative product that could push our tech forward.


Screen Innovations Visage Projector Screen Full Review

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Pioneer PDP-5060HD Plasma Review

Filed Under: Home Theater Reviews, Plasma and LCD Displays

Pioneer PDP-5060HD Plasma Flat Panel Review
Cnet found this excellent Pioneer set to be a bit on the pricey side, but if the feature set and quality are what you’re looking for, this could be the ticket.

Features include true HD resolution at 1280 x 768, digital tuner, CableCard, TV Guide EPG, PIP (picture in picture), color temp settings, and setting saves for each input.

The good: Able to reproduce deep blacks; solid feature package; sleek, glossy-black finish; excellent connectivity, including two inputs for HDMI and three for component video.

The bad: Less than perfect color decoding with red push; minor visible low-level noise in dark material; limited to four concurrent inputs, including front panel.

The bottom line: The Pioneer PDP-5060HD offers excellent picture quality, great style, and superior features–its only real downside is that it’s priced more than the competition.

Design: 8
Features: 8
Performance: 8

While the Pioneer PDP-5060HD has slightly more stable blacks than does our reference 50-inch panel, the Panasonic TH-50PHD8UK, the Panasonic has better color decoding, gamma, and grayscale tracking. It is a tough choice between the two, but we give the picture-quality nod to Panasonic.


Pioneer PDP-5060HD Reviews

Via HDblog

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Sony VPL-HS51A Projector Review

Filed Under: Front Projectors, Home Theater Reviews

Sony VPL-HS51A Cineza Projector
The HT addicts over Audioholics have good review of Sony’s Cineza LCD projector, the VPL-HS51A.

I still remember when I first caught the projector bug a few years back, I was viewing them at local dealers. I saw one of the early Cineza models, and I remember wondering why they named it something that sounded like a variation of the common cold. Anyways, on to the review:

Specs
Resolution: 1280x 720 (Yes, true HD)
Native Aspect: 16:9 – an HT requirement
Contrast: 10,000:1
Brightness: 1200 ANSI lumens
Inputs: HDMI with HDCP, component, S-Video, composite and HD15
Lens Shift: 100% vertical, 50% horizontal

As inherent with LCD projectors, this unit has some SDE (Screen Door Effect) when viewed at a distance of 1.5 X screen width. This can be a problem for some, depending on your desired or actual screen size and viewing distance.

“I was also greatly impressed by the vibrancy of the color as well as the detail that showed up throughout the [Madagascar] film. Good examples f this would be Alex’ mane and the abundance of fur and plant detail that was shown throughout the film. It seemed that every scene contained at least one element that looked like it could be touched and handled from the seating position.”

“One other thing I was looking for in viewing HDTV was how well the Sony handled mediocre input sources such as the output from my digital cable box. It seemed to handle both component video and HDMI output from the box without any issues and the 1080i and 720p source material was clean and crisp with no visible artifacts beyond the compression associated with the cable channel. ”

“Just as the Panasonic PT-AE900U I recently reviewed set a new standard for interpixel LCD spacing, the Sony Cineza VPL-HS51A sets a new and impressive standard for black level detail in an LCD projector. This will be a bar others will need to match and the result will be better products for consumers and customer installers to integrate into their systems. At its street price there is some stiff competition, but we can definitely recommend the Sony without reservation. ”


Sony VPL-HS51A Cineza Full Review

Via HDBlog.net

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Sony 60″ SXRD R60XBR1 Review

Filed Under: Home Theater Reviews, Rear Projection

Sony 60 inch SXRD KDS-R60XBR1
Here is yet another review of the Sony 60″ SXRD HDTV. This time up, the HTGuys.

Things they liked:

  • 1080p (upscaled picture)
  • Color representation
  • Sharp detailed picture
  • Very Good Contrast (great job with dark scenes)
  • Good Black Levels
  • Two HDMI inputs

What they disliked:

  • No 1080p input
  • Ugly cabinet. Speakers look like ears
  • ATSC Tuner performed so so
  • Performance with highly compressed content
  • Cost

“We really haven’t been too impressed with SONY’s offerings in the HD area. That is until we saw this baby. SXRD is based on LCoS technology which we really like for its smooth motion and dense pixel placement. This TV builds on these inherent strengths of the technology with SONY’s CineMotion® technology. The SXRD has spectacular color and great detail. It did a great job with dark scenes. When compared side by side with two other TVs (one DLP and another based on LCoS) the SONY displayed detail that the other two TVs missed. One of the best TVs we have seen! The only real complaints I (Ara) had were the cabinet was very big and the speakers stuck out like a sore thumb, there is no 1080p inputs and its a bit pricy at $4,500 US.The TV weighs 113 lbs (51Kgs) and is 21 inches (53 cm) deep. We can not definitively state that the HDMI input supports HDCP. There is no mention of this in the manual or at SONY’s site.”


Sony 60″ SXRD Review – HTGuys

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Toshiba’s ET20 all-in-one 5.1 Surround, DVD Player Projector

Filed Under: Front Projectors, Home Theater News

toshiba et20

Toshiba has announced the all in one ET20 projector/5.1 surround system/dvd player. And yeah, it looks like E.T. to boot.

I’ve never been fond of all-in-one units of any variety, but for some this is request. I guess if you live in a box, grabbing all your gear in one swipe can make it easier to relocate.

This thing is expected to be available next month, I’m curious how it will (under)perform. Not to have a biased opinion, that is…


Engadget – Toshiba’s et20 all-in-one 5.1 surround DVD projector

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