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Toshiba HD-A1 first impressions

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Toshiba HD-A1 first impressions

Old 05-31-06, 11:06 AM
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Toshiba HD-A1 first impressions

I've had the HD-A1 for about a week now. Here are my first impressions:

The remote:

A little big and heavy... impossible to read in low light. On the other hand, so what? I expected the worst because of everything I've read, but the reality is I can already perfrom these functions without looking: play, pause, stop, fast forward/reverse, chapter skip forward/backwards, access the on screen disc menu and choose items from it, change the display to time elapsed or time remaining. What more do I need to do while watching the movie (i.e. in low light)? It can also be programmed into a learning remote so you don't have to use it at all. A real non-issue for me.

Fan noise:

Another non-issue. Much more quiet than any projector I've ever heard. Maybe 20 dB. Maybe. I can't hear it sitting 6 feet away from it. And, like I said, my projector is twice as loud and it doesn't bother me either.

Load time:

It takes a while and I'm sure they'll improve on this, but this is another thing that just doesn't bother me. It takes 30 seconds for the projector to warm up. If I put the disc in before I turn it on, it doesn't slow me down. I just turn everything on and go sit down and wait for the thing to load. Big deal. Yea, it'll be nicer when they eventually stream line this, but, not a really big deal for me. I didn't bother to actually time it because it doesn't bother me.

DVD playback:

The 480p looks very good. I was using a Panasonic RP56 DVD player with DCDi (it has the Faroudja de-interlacing chipset in it) and my first impressions are the HD-A1 is a match. I'm happy simply using the HD-A1 for DVD playback.

I cannot comment on the upscaling of regular DVDs because I'm using component into the XP21N and, of course, it is a license violation for any DVD player to upconvert over component.

HD-DVD playback:

Simply incredible. The picture beats anything I expected. I'm using a Sanyo PLC-XP21N LCD projector with 1024x768 native resolution. I had my doubts if it would look so good after seeing the theoretically "superior" Westinghouse 42" 1080p plasma at BB. But, the XP21N beats the hell out of it, hands down. I've watched Apollo 13 and Chronicles of Riddick on it. The CoR is best described as one breathtaking scene after another. Apollo 13 is great, too, but CoR really shines.

I had my doubts about it because I was using a 1024x768 projector but they vanished within 5 seconds when the Universal logo came up -- I could immediately tell this was going to be good -- very good. Can a 1080p projector be better? I'm sure it can, but it will definitely be incremental. I'm in no hurry to upgrade the projector after seeing these results.

I spent the whole time looking for artifacts in CoR and could not find any. In the past, on 99% of SD-DVDs (in 480p) I watch, I can see deficiencies. Now, I can finally enjoy the video and see no problems at all.

There is a noticeable increase in the color quality and blacks appear blacker. I've got it set to the "darker" mode which uses IRE 0 (instead of IRE 7.5).

As for the 1080p vs. 1080i (BR vs. HD-DVD thing), I'll say this. I don't see any artifacts of any kind much less de-interlacing artifacts. This is blown up to 7.5 feet wide, too, and about 10 feet from the screen. I don't see how 1080p will be the "killer app" for BR since the de-interlacing is performing flawlessly just like it should given the 1080p24 encoding. The bad de-interlacing problems occur on video sourced material not film based material. But since these discs are encoded from film and the fields are taken from the same moment in time you should see no de-interlacing artifacts anyway. Another thing: even if the HD-A1 did output at 1080p... I can't use it. The PJ doesn't accept the signal and I'm using component anyway. Also, I didn't see any de-interlacing artifacts on the 42" Westinghouse plasma at BB even though I was looking for them.

Sound:

I'm using optical out so far. But I think the HD-DVDs have more dynamic range. I also think the HD-DVD discs are encoded at a higher volume because I have to turn the volume down to get it right and avoid amp peaking. Also, there is apparently much more LFE getting to my sub-- it had to be turned down to 30% volume and it still seems like it is borderline bottoming out on some heavy LFE scenes. On SD-DVD this isn't a problem through the HD-A1-- only HD-DVDs.

Glitches:

I had one picture freeze on Apollo 13 where it froze (appx 53 minutes in). The sound continued for a second or two then stopped. I ejected the disc and went back to the scene and it played fine over the same spot and finished the movie with no problems.

I watched CoR twice with no glitches at all.

Value:

For $464 and change this represents an outstanding value. I've been waiting for years for good HD content and here it is for under $500. What a deal. Plus I can get the $25 rebate from Toshiba and $10 in RZ certs to bring the price down another $35. And no, I wouldn't have paid $1000 for either BR or HD-DVD. The price point is perfect.

I feel like I can safely buy HD-DVD discs now: VC-1 encoding, 1080p24, no head/toe clipping on the discs, DL 30GB discs. If I do end up with a BR player, I still won't buy a sub-standard disc that is ripe for a double dip: MPEG-2 encoding, 1080p24, possible head/toe clipping on the discs, SL 25GB discs. I don't think that'll happen for a long time, though, because I'm not buying a BR player until the price is in line with HD-DVD models.

Final thoughts:

I have not been buying any DVDs for a couple of months now and this sealed it. I definitely won't be wasting any money on SD-DVDs, I'll just be waiting for the HD-DVD versions. The only exception being video sourced content like some TV shows (MST3K comes to mind here-- the actual films they show look horrible anyway-- which is actually a good thing).
Old 05-31-06, 11:11 AM
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Glad you're happy, man!
Congrats!
Old 05-31-06, 11:16 AM
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Nice review awmurray.
I always smile when people mention when the Universal logo comes up, because it got me too the first time i saw it so i know exactly what they mean.
Old 05-31-06, 11:19 AM
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Thanks for writing this up. It was a good read.
Old 05-31-06, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Maxflier
Nice review awmurray.
I always smile when people mention when the Universal logo comes up, because it got me too the first time i saw it so i know exactly what they mean.
hahah YUP!

I've watched both of my Universal discs and when I invited a couple of forum members to come over to see it, the Universal Logo came up and they both said "Sold!" at the same time
Old 05-31-06, 01:48 PM
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Oh, yea. Forgot to mention that I didn't have any trouble with lag time between menu clicks. The player seems to be keeping up with each button click... The first thing I did was to go into the setup menu and access each item to make sure it was set properly (picture, sound, network, etc.) and it kept up with me.

Also, I have not hooked up the ethernet to my router yet, either. I assume that'll work...

Oh, yea, I thought it was funny about it being PC based. When I first read that on the net, people were acting like it was some kind of big revelation/discovery. When I opened the box and took out the documentation, the first thing was a GPL public license for Linux and gcc. Clue #1. Then in the introduction of the manual it says something like, 'this player is not like other player's, it is PC based and runs a Linux OS...', and, '...it may take a while to boot the OS into RAM when you first turn it on...'. That's clue #2 that it may be PC based.
Old 05-31-06, 01:56 PM
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It may be buggy for some. I've yet to encounter any playback problems. My unit has a February '06 manufacturing date. But it feels like a solid build. I think it'll last a few years. Toshiba's stuff has always lasted for me.
Old 05-31-06, 03:45 PM
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its impressive considering the launch price its a shame retailers don't seem to have more units setup for display
Old 05-31-06, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by awmurray
Value:

For $464 and change this represents an outstanding value. I've been waiting for years for good HD content and here it is for under $500. What a deal. Plus I can get the $25 rebate from Toshiba and $10 in RZ certs to bring the price down another $35. And no, I wouldn't have paid $1000 for either BR or HD-DVD. The price point is perfect.
What is the $25 rebate from Toshiba?
Old 05-31-06, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Just Lurking
What is the $25 rebate from Toshiba?
This one.

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