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Toshiba Corp. has begun shipments of its high-end HD XA1 HD DVD player in Japan. Loyal clients of the company and high definition video enthusiasts are now able to get the company’s first HD player in Japan, which may indicate that the launch in the U.S. and the rest of the world will take place in a few weeks.

Initial shipments of HD-XA1, until April 27, 2006, will bundle two complimentary HD DVD movie discs, “Resident Evil” and a Japanese film, “Moonlight Jellyfish”. Earlier the company delayed the release of the HD-XA1 and HD-A1 players in the U.S. due to the lack of content in the HD DVD format. Given that the company plans to bundle the first discs along with the players shipping to Japan, it is highly possible that the first movies are not going to reach the country earlier than April 27, 2006.

The first HD DVD players to be offered by Toshiba in the U.S. – HD-XA1 and HD-A1 – are capable of HD DVD, DVD and CD playback as well as hardware decoding of H.264 (MPEG4 AVC), VC-1 (a superset of Microsoft’s WMV9) and MPEG2 (standard DVD) streams using a chip from Broadcom. Additionally, the players feature four digital sound processors to process audio in Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD (2 channel), DTS and DTS-HD formats. The players can output video in 720p (1280x720) and 1080i (1920x1080) resolutions using HDMI interconnection and multi-channel audio using HDMI or S/PDIF connectors.

The construction of the HD-XA1, in addition to performance improvements, features a motorized door which conceals the disc drawer, function buttons and two front USB ports, for convenient connection of gaming controllers. The HD-XA1 also includes three different user selectable interfaces to further enhance customization and a backlit remote control that is conveniently motion activated. Furthermore, the model employs double chassis construction to add stability and strength against vibrations and the HD-XA1 adds insulated stabilizing feet to provide a steadfast foundation for the device.

The players are to be available for estimated retail price of $499 and $799 for the HD-A1 and HD-XA1 respectively.

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