A brief HD-DVD review

UrbanT

Distinguished Member
My player only arrived yesterday, so time to play has been limited. With this in mind.....

Firstly, the build quality is excellent. For £400, I can't remember seeing too many SD DVD players that offer this type of build. Rumour has it Toshiba are taking a loss on the initial units to get the players into the market, which would not be a surprise. The draw is very solid and the player has a very weighty feel. One concern was that as this is PC based, and there is a fan on the back, the unit would be noisy. I'm delighted to report that it is quiet and certainly not intrusive.

The picture quality is stunning. So incredibly smooth, and artefact free. That's what hits you really, its just hard to pick fault. The opening scene of Swordfish on DVD (which I started to watch last week on R1 DVD), has banding on the cafe wall. Here, there is none. It just looks right. I managed to load all of the discs that have arrived, and cannot criticise any of them from the brief excerpts I watched. There was one scene in Sahara where a guy is being held prisoner. When you see his face, you see every pore, every drop of sweat, every hair. In Training Day, there are expansive shots of the city, which are sharp right into the distance. And the space battle towards the end of Serenity looks fantastic. I still have a feeling there will be a large number of people who believe DVD is 'good enough', but I really hope the format lives because for sensible money, you have a real slice of picture heaven.

Next has to be the sound. There was simply no time to compare SPDIF to 5.1 DD+ output, so everything I heard was using the 5.1 outputs, so assume it was DD+?. The first scene that hit me, was the initial explosion in Swordfish. It absolutely filled the room, sounding awesome. You also have to remember there's no TMREQ in the 5.1 input on the Tag, but it didn't appear to need it. The control and steering where superb. The biggest test though was Enter the Dragon. I've heard this on several different editions of the standard DVD. No surprise that its a very 'thin' and tinny soundtrack. But this presentation has a much fuller sound, which I would rate 3/10 (on the SD version) to 7/10 on the HD-DVD version. Very satisfying.

So, in summary, for £400 you can buy a DVD player that wipes the floor with anything SD can produce, and we know how much the top of the range DVD players can cost!

So what's the downsides? Nothing is perfect, and that includes the Toshiba. In no particular order:

1) The load up time is slow. I actually find this easy to forgive on the basis that to watch a film on the HTPC, you had to wait for the PC to boot anyway. It probably takes around 50-60 seconds from inserting the disc to the film starting. However, once the menu is up and running, getting the film started is a quick process
2) Flicking between chapters on the disc is quite slow, perhaps 2-3 seconds
3) The remote, although looking quite nice in a retro way, is not backlit. The buttons are small and its impossible to read the functions without some light. 2/10 :(. I would recommend anyone buying this machine to get an 'All in One' (hopefully mine will arrive today)
4) There are no on-screen displays. For example, if I change the resolution from 720p to 1080i, the only place that is displayed is on the players screen. A strange omission. I haven't read the manual at this stage so I wonder if there's a setting somewhere, although I doubt it as I would imagine it would be enabled out of the box. The main setup menu's are all on screen of course.

The only other points of interest, are that 1080i looks nicer than 720p. I believe this is because the Lumagen is producing all the processing with the 1080i input.

Shame I have to work today really :)

Chris
 
R

recruit

Guest
Excellent rundown Chris :thumbsup: and hopefully the minus points will be sorted by future firmware updates...toshiba have already released 3 since launch so it does show there commitment to getting this product just right :smashin:
 

Nic Rhodes

Well-known Member
Good and accurate summary Chris, I think you have summed it up well in a short period of time. You will also like DD+ converted to the DTS output into the Tag with TMREQ ;) The component outputs are very good, worth trying as well.
 

Rasczak

Distinguished Member
Excellent review - I entire agree with your point about the Toshiba players excellent performance with SD DVD. My XA1 cost less than my last DVD player (Denon 3910) and performs equally well. Deon, Arcam and the other 'high end' DVD producers must be quite worried at the arrival of these players.

There are no on-screen displays. For example, if I change the resolution from 720p to 1080i, the only place that is displayed is on the players screen. A strange omission.
Isn't this normal for HDMI? Certainly with the other HDMI equipment I have used, such as my Yamaha 2600 amp, when using HDMI you don't get the OSD (other than when you stop the source and enter a menu). That said as the source originates in the player I don't see why this shouldn't be possible.
 

rover2002

Novice Member
Rasczak said:
Isn't this normal for HDMI? Certainly with the other HDMI equipment I have used, such as my Yamaha 2600 amp, when using HDMI you don't get the OSD (other than when you stop the source and enter a menu). That said as the source originates in the player I don't see why this shouldn't be possible.
I think he means when you pull up the OSM there is no 720P/1080i setting ect.To see the change you need to look at the little player SM to see the change:) On my old player the choices would be displayed within the OSM.
Will.
 
I know its probably a silly question at the moment but how does it play SD films back? Does it upscale or anything like??? Also is it possible to play region 2 discs on it? (or with a firmware change)
 

Rasczak

Distinguished Member
Also is it possible to play region 2 discs on it? (or with a firmware change)
The player is region locked to Region 1 I'm afraid and refuses to playback R2 material. It doesn't handle PAL material either - even if on a DVDR or non-region protected. I should imagine the upcoming UK release will be better in this respect, i.e. although it will still be SD DVD region locked it will probably playback non-region protected NTSC discs.

Does it upscale or anything like???
Yes it does and makes an excellent job of it. The XA1 matches the performance of my Denon 3910 for upscaling and the A1 performance is identical by all accounts.
 

richard plumb

Well-known Member
does it upscale over component or only HDMI? Any issues using HDMI in terms of quality? I have one HDMI socket spare but need to decide whether the PS3 uses that or a potential HDDVD player. The other one gets component
 

Nic Rhodes

Well-known Member
I was a little critical of the player as a DVD playerinitially (r0, r1 only) but I must admit I have warmed to it. The MPEG still has a few issues but everything else is top draw tbh so is actually better than most of the competition. If people think of it as a £1k DVD player (all be it NTSC only) then that is about right imho. Pretty impressive considering the cost. If the UK version matches this, they will sell like hot cakes. Unlike previous 'universal' players which are largely full of compromises, then this appears not to be the case here.
 

Seth Gecko

retired member
richard plumb said:
does it upscale over component or only HDMI? Any issues using HDMI in terms of quality? I have one HDMI socket spare but need to decide whether the PS3 uses that or a potential HDDVD player. The other one gets component
HD-DVD is 1080i via HDMI and component, SD is only upscalable via HDMI (going by my XA1).
 
D

DTSFan2001

Guest
Great review. And it's getting me very excited about getting my HD-A1 hopefully next week some time. I've already received my first 5 HD-DVD films from Movietyme (A fantastic company to shop with IMO) so am itching to give them a spin. Only prob is my Tag doesn't have the 5.1 bypass installed, but I've heard great things about the digital out from the Tosh anyway so I'm sure it'll suffice :D. I'll try and post pix and a review once I've got everything in order (TV has just arrived today :thumbsup:)
 

Mr.D

Distinguished Member
I think the tosh is a cracking piece of kit but for SD playback my HTPC gives the better picture , the tosh has just a little too much ringing whereas the HTPC ( theatertek and ffdshow using a lanczos 2 resize) is sharper but less edgey ( more like real high def in this respect).

However for those who don't want the hassle of an HTPC the tosh is cracking value , its the first standalone playeerr I've seen in ages that I would be happy to watch with minimal external processing.
 

Forest Fan

Active Member
UrbanT said:
The only other points of interest, are that 1080i looks nicer than 720p. I believe this is because the Lumagen is producing all the processing with the 1080i input.
720p output should never be used with 1080p discs. There's an issue with the Broadcom chip inside the player.
 

scgf

Novice Member
Apparently the HD-A1 can upscale via the component outputs if the disk does not have the copy protection flag (or some similar digital signature designed to stop component upscaling). The easiest way to achieve upscaling via component is to play one of your SD DVD backups (NTSC only, of course) rather than the original disk.

Does anyone know if the Tosh plays DVD RW disks? This might be a good way of backing up a DVD temporarily just to watch upscaled.

Please note I haven't taken delivery of my HD-A1 yet so haven't tried this out.
 

Welwynnick

Well-known Member
Forest Fan said:
720p output should never be used with 1080p discs. There's an issue with the Broadcom chip inside the player.
For the 720p output, I believe the native 1080p format is down-scaled to 540p, then upscaled to 720p. Bizzare and unfortunate. I think most people report that the 1080i output looks much better.

Nick
 

Kopite4Ever

Novice Member
welwynnick said:
For the 720p output, I believe the native 1080p format is down-scaled to 540p, then upscaled to 720p. Bizzare and unfortunate. I think most people report that the 1080i output looks much better.

Nick
Did not know this thanks for that. Was all for getting one asap but im not now. My PJ also does the old take 1080i scale to 540p then scale up to 720p (native PJ res) now if the player does that for the 720p output im not paying money for that. To bad id really was looking forward to this but im sure i cant patiently wait for the UK release.
 

rover2002

Novice Member
welwynnick said:
For the 720p output, I believe the native 1080p format is down-scaled to 540p, then upscaled to 720p. Bizzare and unfortunate. I think most people report that the 1080i output looks much better.
Nick
I thought if you set the res to 1080i and your max res is 720P , then it will simply downscale to that(either in your TV or PJ)? if however you set to 720 it goes on a bizarre down and up scale?
 

Rasczak

Distinguished Member
I thought if you set the res to 1080i and your max res is 720P , then it will simply downscale to that(either in your TV or PJ)?
Yes, that's correct. It's only the 720p output that has the problem (due to the Broadcom chip).
 

jensK

Novice Member
Nice review UrbanT:hiya: ,

I was thinking to buy a Denon DVD player, but reading your review I might consider to wait until the HD-A1 appears in the UK and invest my money in a player that gives me a btter picture and a good sound as well. My question to you or any other HD-A1 owner would be: How do you rate the sound qualities of the HD-A1 (lets they compare it to a 600-900£ DVD player, such as the above mentioned Denon players) and is there any sound improvement coming from the HD-DVD?

Thanks
 

Kopite4Ever

Novice Member
Rasczak said:
Yes, that's correct. It's only the 720p output that has the problem (due to the Broadcom chip).
:mad:

Is this a hardware problem or can it be corrected by firmware ? Id assume the former as they would have done it by now ?

Guess its a wait for generation 2 for me which could be a blessing (always the optomist) :D
 

rover2002

Novice Member
Kopite4Ever said:
:mad:
Is this a hardware problem or can it be corrected by firmware ? Id assume the former as they would have done it by now ?
I don't think they have said yet if its firmware fixable.

Kopite4Ever said:
Guess its a wait for generation 2 for me which could be a blessing (always the optomist) :D
If i was in the UK i'd probably wait now as its really not that far away to release, plus yes a few of the bugs will have been worked out.
 

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