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Third-Generation HD DVD Players Due in September and October 2007

Posted on Wednesday, August 8th, 2007 12:43 AM

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The first generation of HD DVD players was released in April 2006, marking the official beginning of the next generation of DVD by increasing its picture resolution by six times.

Then, in September 2006, Toshiba announced that the second generation players would be available a month later. The Toshiba HD-A2 and HD-XA2 were actually released in December, but they brought with them the promised enhancements of faster load times, smaller size, and new features. The first generation players were also enhanced through firmware updates (that could be had via online updates via the players' built-in ethernet jacks or from update discs from Toshiba or downloaded online) to support multi-channel Dolby TrueHD lossless sound (up from the initial two-channel capability).

Fast forward eight months after the release of the second generation, and we have Toshiba announcing that the third generation of HD DVD players will become available in September and October.

Toshiba HD-A3

The HD-A3 is the entry-level model and looks to have the same feature set as the HD-A2. It will be available in October 2007 for a list price of $299.99. (The street price of the HD-A2 has been as low as $199, and very commonly at $240)

Toshiba HD-A30

The HD-A30 and HD-A35 add the ability to output 1080p resolution (1920x1080, progressively) at 24 frames per second, which is desirable if you are fortunate enough to have a display that can take a 1080p24 input. (It has been reported that the HD-A20 and HD-XA2 will be updated to output 1080p24 in September.)

Both models also support what Toshiba is calling "CE-Link" which is another name for HDMI-CEC, which is a fancy name for allowing bidirectional control between the player and the display through the HDMI connection.

The HD-A30 is the successor to the Toshiba HD-A20 and will be available in September 2007 for a list price of $399.99.

Toshiba HD-A35

The HD-A35 adds 5.1 channel analog audio outputs and high bitrate audio via HDMI. While it is not exactly spelled out in the press release, I take this to mean that it will be able to pass lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio streams to a receiver capable of decoding those streams. (Normally, high definition players convert these formats into PCM and send them to the receiver via HDMI.) Unless you are planning to buy a receiver that has Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA decoding built into it, this feature would have to be considered a future-proofing feature.

It also adds support for Deep Color, which is a feature that is not currently supported by any display and is not present on any HD DVD discs, but may appear in the future.

The HD-A35 succeeds the HD-XA2 and will be available in October 2007 for a list price of $499.99.

Which one would I buy, do you ask? I currently have the first generation HD-A1, and it has analog audio outputs that were not offered in the entry level HD-A2 when it was released. Even though it's a first-generation product, its firmware has been updated three times since I bought it last October, adding the multi-channel Dolby TrueHD support, fixes for various issues with some movie releases and bug fixes found (but not encountered by me), and most recently, the ability to access online content, such as that available on the Blood Diamond HD DVD.

The entry-level HD-A3 is going to suit a lot of people very nicely. Contrary to what some companies would like you to believe, you do not need 1080p output to have the best video quality possible from HD DVD and Blu-ray players. If the player outputs 1080i, it just means that your TV will have to convert it to 1080p if it's capable of displaying that resolution. 1080p players (both HD DVD and Blu-ray) just do the conversion before sending it out, so that's just a matter of geography.

Unless you have a display capable of handling a 1080p24 input (not many do, so check to see if yours does), you don't need that capability from your player. The "Deep Color" and "CE-Link/HDMI-CEC" features don't have an immediate benefit, so I wouldn't be able to justify spending any extra money on them at this point.

The analog outputs and high bitrate audio support of the HD-A35 would be nice, but I would wager that only high-end enthusiasts will find a benefit from these features. You are better off spending the $200 difference between the HD-A3 and HD-A35 towards upgrading your receiver so that it supports HDMI switching and audio input.

At $300, the HD-A3 is a great price for a third-generation product, and it represents a tremendous value when you consider that the lowest priced Blu-ray disc player has a list price of $500. It offers all the great features of HD DVD, including ethernet networking support, full interactivity support, multi-channel Dolby TrueHD audio support, and a gorgeous picture to boot!

The only knock against it is the fact that some movie studios aren't releasing movies on HD DVD yet. Do your research beforehand to make sure whether this issue is important to you, but I'm happy to have saved quite a bit of money by going HD DVD instead of Blu-ray (back in October, the cheapest Blu-ray players were $1000!) and my HD DVD player does a great job of upsampling the standard definition DVD's from those studios. It's not HD mind you, but it will bridge the gap until the studios come to their senses and/or the Blu-ray players come down in price and offer the same features as their HD DVD counterparts.

Also, should you wait to buy one of these new units instead of the models currently for sale? Unless you absolutely need one of the new features I listed above, why wait? The HD-A2 is $250 at Amazon.com, the HD-A20 is $330, and the HD-XA2 is $647. Top that off with 5 free HD DVD's by mail from Toshiba (a promotion that they are offering on purchases through 9/30/2007). Unless you are gunning for the top-line model, there is no reason to wait, in my ever-so-humble opinion.

I helped my in-laws and my own parents purchase the HD-A2 in the past two weeks, so that should add credibility to my position. My father-in-law has already sent in his mailer for his 5 free HD DVD's, and his first HD DVD should be in the mail from Netflix very soon!

Press Release

Toshiba to Debut Third Generation HD DVD Players for High Definition Enthusiasts

Toshiba takes the Hi Def movie experience to a whole new level with 24 frames per second support, CE-Link connectivity, High Bit Rate Audio capabilities and unmatched interactivity functionality

WAYNE, N.J., Aug. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Toshiba America Consumer Products, L.L.C. ("Toshiba"), announced today its third generation of HD DVD players for the U.S. market. Continuing to outpace the competition in sales of dedicated high definition players and responding to increased consumer demand, Toshiba revealed three new sleek and stylish models for an ultimate HD home movie experience. With all three new models priced under $500 (MSRP), Toshiba is delivering a powerful line-up of HD DVD players designed to meet the aggressive growth in demand for high definition TVs.

"With a majority market share in unit sales of next generation DVD players, consumers are speaking loud and clear, and they are adopting HD DVD as their HD movie format of choice," said Jodi Sally, Vice President of Marketing, Toshiba's Digital A/V Group. "Because of the proven manufacturing efficiencies of the HD DVD format, Toshiba can bring this level of innovation in technology to a new generation of players with cutting-edge functionality at affordable prices."

Building on the success of its first and second generation players, new leading enhancements in select models in the third generation line include an improvement in video performance with 1080p/24 frames per second (24p) support. Movie films are traditionally captured at 24 frames per second and select Toshiba third generation HD DVD players will be able to maintain this frame rate allowing consumers to enjoy movies in their native frame rate.

Also added to the line is "CE-Link" (HDMI(TM)-CEC) connectivity which offers the capability to communicate with and control another CE device in a whole new way. For instance, using "CE-Link" with "One Touch Play" consumers will be able to turn on a CEC capable HDTV and a Toshiba HD DVD player, and start playing a movie, with a single touch of a button on the player remote.

Toshiba Third Generation HD DVD Models

Toshiba's third generation family starts with the entry level HD-A3 player featuring 1080i output capability. The other two new models, Toshiba's HD-A30 and HD-A35, will output 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080p), the highest HD signal currently available. Both models are capable of outputing signals at 1080p/24 frames per second so consumers can enjoy movies in their native frame rate. The HD-A30 and HD-A35 models also feature "CE-Link" (HDMI-CEC), allowing two- way control between the HD DVD player and a TV through an HDMI connection.

The top-of-the-line HD-A35 also adds support for Deep Color via HDMI allowing compatible display devices to deliver outstanding video quality - displaying millions of possible colors to billions of possible colors.

Additionally, the HD-A35 offers 5.1 channel analog output and High Bit Rate Audio (up to 7.1 channel) via HDMI. With content encoded in 7.1ch, this advanced surround sound is achieved through the HDMI connection bypassing the player's internal audio processor and sending the signal to a 7.1 capable A/V receiver. High Bit Rate Audio will allow the consumer to integrate the HD-A35 with the latest multi-channel A/V receivers and enjoy a whole new dimension of high definition home entertainment.

All of Toshiba's third generation HD DVD players are refined with new cosmetic designs. Rounded edges, slim chassis (only 59.5 mm - nearly half as tall as first generation players) and high gloss, black acrylic face plates create very sleek devices - a perfect complement to Toshiba's award winning REGZA(R) HD LCD televisions.

Beyond the Hi Def Movie Experience

Starting with 1st generation players, all of Toshiba's HD DVD players support the enhanced features of the HD DVD format mandated by the DVD Forum including picture-in-picture video, audio commentary and the ability to allow web-enabled network capabilities. Using the Ethernet ports found on all Toshiba HD DVD players, once connected to the network, users can access bonus features, as available, from a movie studio's server. This data is then saved in the player's persistent storage and can be accessed by the user. In addition to accessing new bonus features, some HD DVD discs may include locked prerecorded content which can be unlocked with a downloadable key from the studio's online server. Web-enabled capability is now opening the door to a new entertainment experience beyond hi def video and audio.

"Consumers will always have a consistent experience with HD DVD as we have an established platform to keep the players updated to ensure the ultimate HD movie experience," said Yoshi Uchiyama, Group Vice President, Toshiba's Digital A/V Group. "A mandatory Ethernet port in all HD DVD players ensures that consumers can receive updates to their units to support the latest offerings from the studios and maximizing their investment in the format."

All of Toshiba's HD DVD models are backward compatible allowing users to enjoy their libraries of current DVD and CD software while enhancing the look of regular DVDs by upconverting them to near high definition quality.

For more information on HD DVD, please visit http://www.toshibahddvd.com.

Expected Pricing and Expected Availability:

HD-A3 ($299.99, October 2007)

HD-A30 ($399.99, September 2007)

HD-A35 ($499.99, October 2007)

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.

Important Notes:

HD DVD with high-definition content required for HD viewing. DVD with standard definition content will upconvert to near HD 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, downloading and installing the latest firmware (ver.2.3 for HD DVD player models HD-XA1, HD-A1, and HD-D1; ver.2.0 for HD DVD player models HD-XA2, HD-A2, HD-A2W, HD-D2, HD-A2C, and HD- A20; and ver.1.0 for HD-A35, HD-A30, and HD-A3) is required. Web-enabled features require an always on broadband connection along with specific movie titles that include this form of content. MP3/WMA audio files not supported. 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 CE-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 CE-Link functions may not work even if your TV is HDMI-CEC compatible. Use of High Bit Rate Audio requires High Bit Rate Audio compatible AV receiver. Deep Color feature as specified in HDMI 1.3a requires compatible Deep Color capable HD display and/or 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 Toshiba has made every effort 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. For additional information on Toshiba HD DVD players, please visit http://www.tacp.toshiba.com/hddvd/

HDMI, the HDMI logo, and High-Definition Multimedia Interface are trademarks or registered trademarks of HDMI Licensing, LLC.

HD DVD and DVD are trademarks of DVD Format/Logo Licensing Corporation.

Source: Toshiba America Consumer Products, L.L.C.

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