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- The Kingdom 
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Toshiba, maker of high definition players of the HD DVD format (there are two competing formats), has announced that they have dropped the list price of all of their players significantly.
Effective today, January 13, 2008, here is the line-up of Toshiba HD DVD players (updated to reflect even lower prices since the original post):
|Player Model||Old MSRP||New MSRP||Amazon Price|
Entry level player. Outputs 720p and 1080i video across component and HDMI connections. Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, DTS HD (core only) audio via toslink digital audio and/or HDMI. Standard definition upconversion. 10/100Mbps Ethernet networking.
| $299.99||$149.99|| $125.00|
All features of HD-A3. Adds support for video output at 1080p24.
| $399.99||$199.99|| $166.95|
All features of HD-A30. Adds support for 5.1 channel analog output, bitstreaming high bitrate audio (Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio) via HDMI.
Toshiba HD-A35 HD DVD Player
The Good News about this pricing change
These players were just released in the latter part of 2007, so they are not closeout models that will be replaced soon with new models with more features.
All the players feature the ability to display Picture-in-picture content and connect to the Internet for feature updates and online features. These are features that most Blu-ray players currently on the market lack.
Each player includes two free movies in the box (300 and The Bourne Identity, plus another five free discs available by mail.
As you can see, the current price from Amazon.com for each model is well under the MSRP, and their free shipping and 30-day price guarantee policies make purchasing from them very attractive. (We also get a small commission from sales on Amazon made through this site) There have been reports of lower prices on the HD-A3 equivalent (the HD-D3) that is sold at Sam's Club and Costco on the order of $130.
For those watching on the sidelines, or from the Blu-ray side of things, understand that there has never been a Blu-ray player available for less than $200 with any set of features, much less one equivalent to those available on the HD-A30. I am using the HD-A39 as an example because some people get bent out of shape about the HD-A3 not supporting 1080p, which isn't as big a deal as the marketing and specs would have you believe. Unless your TV/display is capable of 1080p24, or you want to send Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio to your receiver for it to decode, get the HD-A3.
The Not-so-good News
Not every studio produces their movies on the HD DVD format. Currently, you can buy movies from Universal Studios (King Kong, The Kingdom, U-571, etc.), Paramount (Transformers, Mission Impossible, Top Gun, etc.), Dreamworks (Dreamgirls, Shrek the Third, etc.), and Warner Bros. (300, Batman Begins, Harry Potter, etc.). Disney, Sony, and 20th Century Fox do not produce their movies on HD DVD at this time (but they do produce them on the rival Blu-ray format, as does Warner Bros.).
On January 4, 2008, Warner Bros. Pictures announced that they will not be producing their movies on the HD DVD format after June 1, 2008. Any titles currently scheduled to be released until that time will be released as planned. This means that their new releases that are bound for Home Video, such as I Am Legend, the upcoming Batman movie Dark Knight, and the rest of the Harry Potter series will not be available on HD DVD unless Warner Bros. changes their mind again.
Many have taken Warner's news as being the tipping point in the format war; a stance that I begrudgingly agree with. I don't like exclusivity arrangements because I think they only hurt consumers. Additionally, Universal, Paramount, and Dreamworks have not made any official announcements that they intend to change their current course in releasing their movies on HD DVD.
Why do I bring this issue up?
Because I feel that it's important for people to make an educated decision. Is buying an HD DVD player right now a bad idea, even with the new prices? The answer to that depends on your interest in watching the movies available on the format and your willingness to wait out the progress of this format war vs. the desire to enjoy some great movies with great picture and sound quality.
I have the original HD-A1 and the HD-A2, which are the predecessors to the entry-level HD-A3. They are great players and I have enjoyed lots of movies on them. Nothing in Warner's announcement prevents me from continuing to enjoy those movies. Netflix carries a lot of HD DVD titles (I have no idea if they have all 400+ domestic releases, but they have a lot). Both players are also great upconverting players, so if you have an HDTV, you may see an increase in picture quality by playing your DVDs on an HD DVD player.
Another item of note about Warner's announcement is that not all of Warner's HD DVD releases are available on the Blu-ray format, even though they have been producing titles for both formats. High profile titles such as Batman Begins and The Matrix Trilogy, and some great catalog titles like Casablanca are not available for a variety of reasons. All in all, about 21 Warner Bros. titles are on HD DVD that are not on Blu-ray. No announcement has been made about their plans to release the two former titles, and the chances of releasing the latter is small because of the limited sales of catalog titles on both formats.
With Universal, Paramount, and Dreamworks currently exclusive to HD DVD, the format is the only way to enjoy their movies in the best possible home video format currently available (no, broadcast, satellite, and cable airings don't cut it). If you like The Bourne Ultimatum and the other Bourne movies as much as I do, nothing else will do. Until Blu-ray secures the participation of every movie studio, there will always be some movies that cannot be played on that format (according to hddvdstats.com, there are currently 220 movies exclusive to HD DVD that are not available on Blu-ray).
What do I recommend?
Regardless of where you fall in this format war, it's hard to deny that these new prices are very attractive, and they represent an incredible value for the money!
The HD-A3 is a great entry-level player that will serve the needs of a large majority of the public. If your display can take advantage of 1080p24, or if you want to spend just a little more for some future-proofing, buy the HD-A30, it's only $40 more. The HD-A35 is geared towards higher-end enthusiasts, but it's still cheaper than any Blu-ray player out there, so it represents a great value for what it offers.
Should you buy one? How wise an investment in a format whose future is uncertain is completely up to you.
Before January 3rd, I had no hesitation about recommending the purchase of an HD DVD player. While it still came with the necessary caveats, I believed Warner Bros. when its officials said that they were not going to make a change any time soon (the most recent time they said this was just before Christmas).
Now my recommendation comes with more caveats. Movie fans that want the best possible experience should not hesitate to make what is a small investment to enjoy the movies on both formats. Casual enthusiasts should think about whether money spent on either format is wse at this time. Eventually, some of the studio issues will work themselves out, the recently announced Blu-ray players (ones worth spending any money on, as opposed to most of what's out there now) will be released, and hopefully their prices will come down as well. Make an informed choice and you won't go wrong!
Movie fans looking for the best possible presentations are currently forced to purchase players for both formats, and Toshiba just made it easier for Blu-ray owners to see what the HD DVD fuss is all about. Buying a well-priced player and renting discs from Netflix minimizes your investment while maximizing your return.
Toshiba's offcial press release appears below. There is a lot of marketing-speak and pronouncements, but that's par for the course in any press release touting a product.
Toshiba Deploys New HD DVD Marketing Initiatives Based on Strong Fourth Quarter Unit Sales Mass Market Acceptance Confirms that HD DVD is the Consumer's Choice for Next Generation High Def Entertainment
WAYNE, N.J., Jan. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Toshiba America Consumer Products, L.L.C. ("Toshiba") today announced that it is stepping up its successful marketing campaign for HD DVD as it experienced record-breaking unit sales in the fourth quarter of 2007. Major initiatives, including joint advertising campaigns with studios and extended pricing strategies will begin in mid- January and are designed to spotlight the superior benefits of HD DVD as well as the benefits HD DVD brings to a consumer's current DVD library by upconverting standard DVDs via the HDMI(TM) output to near high definition picture quality.
As Toshiba achieved the #1 sales volume in the next generation DVD category with an approximately 50 percent market share in 2007, HD DVD is proven to be the format of choice for consumers. Coupled with an 80 percent plus market share of all next generation DVD equipped notebooks for the 4th quarter 2007, the HD DVD format has already paved the way to a high definition digital AV solution by eliminating the boundaries between the consumer's living room and on the go.
HD DVD not only creates the ultimate high definition entertainment experience, leveraging all of the promise of the format such as superior audio/video performance, Web-enabled network capabilities and advanced interactive features - it also has a high-level of compatibility with DVD. With DVD upconversion via the HDMI output, HD DVD players instantly make a movie lover's existing DVD library look better than ever.
"HD DVD is the best way to watch movies in high definition," said Jodi Sally, Vice President of Marketing, Toshiba's Digital A/V Group. "Our HD DVD players not only play back approximately 800 HD DVD titles available worldwide and deliver an entirely new level of entertainment but also enhance the picture quality to near high definition on legacy DVD titles by all studios. In short, we added high def to DVD which already is the de facto standard format created and approved by the DVD Forum that consists of more than two hundred companies."
New Marketing Strategy for Mass Market Adoption
Taking the holiday season sales based on promotional prices into full consideration, these new manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) are designed to meet the potential demand for HD DVD players in the U.S. market. Effective on January 13, 2008 the MSRP of the entry-model HD-A3 will be $149.99, the HD-A30, with 1080p output, $199.99, and the high-end HD-A35, $299.99.
"While price is one of the consideration elements for the early adopter, it is a deal-breaker for the mainstream consumer," said Yoshi Uchiyama, Group Vice President Digital A/V Group. "Consumer sales this holiday season have proven that the consumer awareness of the HD DVD format has been elevated and pricing is the most critical determinant in consumers' purchase decision of the next generation HD DVD technology. The value HD DVD provides to the consumer simply cannot be ignored."
Extended Advertising Campaign
Toshiba plans to execute an extended advertising campaign that will further enhance consumer awareness of the benefits of HD DVD and drive sales to retail among potential consumers. Advertising strategies will include television, print and online media channels. Toshiba will also work with its dealers and studio partners on joint marketing and promotional initiatives to promote HD DVD. Current promotions include "The Perfect HD Offer" - a mail-in offer allowing consumers to select five HD DVD titles for free from a selection of 15 with the purchase of any Toshiba HD DVD player.
Consistent Viewing Experience and More
With advanced interactivity and Web-enabled network capabilities built into every HD DVD player through a dedicated Ethernet port as mandated by the specifications approved by the DVD Forum, Toshiba delivers on the promise of a consistent entertainment experience through firmware updates as studios launch new applications. HD DVD allows studios to flex their creative muscle in ways never before seen. The latest of these new experiences is online streaming. Now, when consumers connect their HD DVD player to the Internet, they can stream new content or trailers, as available, directly from a movie studio's server.
Universal Home Video, Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation SKG have reported that an average of 30 percent of HD DVD owners have accessed Web- enabled network features and continue to do so regularly.
Ongoing Customer Commitment
In order to ensure that its customers will receive complete satisfaction from their new players, Toshiba introduced the "HD DVD Concierge" earlier this month. Consumers can now call 1-888-MY HDDVD (1-888-694-3383) for answers to general questions about HD DVD, for operational assistance or for assistance with various promotions.
About Toshiba HD DVD Players
With the HD DVD format, select HD DVD players allow consumers to experience true high def 1080p for extraordinary resolution that matches the latest state of the art 1080p HDTVs. These same players display images at 24 frames per second, the same frame rate used by directors when using film to create motion pictures, for a smoother, more film-like, viewing experience.
HD DVD with high-definition content required for HD viewing. Up- conversion of DVD content will result in near HD picture quality. Viewing high-definition content and up-converting DVD content may require an HDCP capable DVI or HDMI input on your display device. 1080p capable display required for viewing content in 1080p. Firmware update may be required for some interactive features depending on content, which may also require an always-on broadband internet connection. Some features may require additional bandwidth. To take advantage of web-enabled network content, installing the latest firmware (ver.2.4 for HD DVD player models HD-XA1, HD-A1, and HD-D1; ver.2.7 for HD-XA2, HD-A2, HD-A2W, HD-D2, HD-A2C, and HD-A20; and ver.1.3 for HD-A35, HD-A30, and HD-A3) is required. Web-enabled network features require an always on broadband connection along with specific movie titles that include this form of content. For 24p output, content that was created in 1080p/24 frames/sec is required. Viewing 24p output requires an HD display capable of accepting a 1080p/24Hz signal. Use of REGZA Link, which is a feature based on HDMI-CEC, requires an HDMI-CEC compatible display device. Depending on the specifications of your TV, some or all REGZA Link functions may not work even if your TV is HDMI-CEC compatible. Dolby(R) Digital Plus, Dolby(R) TrueHD and DTS(R) support for up to 5.1 channels (DTS HD(R) support for DTS(R) core only). MP3/WMA audio files not supported. HDMI audio output requires connection to a PCM capable device. Because HD DVD is a new format that makes use of new technologies, certain disc, digital connection and other compatibility and/or performance issues are possible. This may, in rare cases, include disc freezing while accessing certain disc features or functions, or certain parts of the disc not playing back or operating as fully intended. If you experience such issues, please refer to the FAQ sections of http://www.toshibahddvd.com or http://www.tacp.toshiba.com for information on possible work- around solutions or the availability of firmware updates that may resolve your problem, or contact Toshiba Customer Solutions. Some features subject to delayed availability. While every effort has been made at the time of publication to ensure the accuracy of the information provided herein, product specifications, configurations, system/component/options availability are all subject to change without notice.
About Toshiba America Consumer Products, L.L.C.
Toshiba America Consumer Products, L.L.C. is owned by Toshiba America, Inc., a subsidiary of Toshiba Corporation, a world leader in high technology products with subsidiaries worldwide. Toshiba is a pioneer in HD DVD, DVD and DVD Recorder technology and a leading manufacturer of a full line of home entertainment products, including flat panel TV, combination products and portable devices. Toshiba America Consumer Products, L.L.C. is headquartered in Wayne, New Jersey. For additional information, please visit http://www.tacp.toshiba.com.
Source: Toshiba America Consumer Products, L.L.C.
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