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Toshiba Corp.’s U.S. subsidiary announced on Monday new pricing of HD DVD players as well as new initiatives to boost interest towards HD DVD format. The move is projected to keep HD DVD alive and in demand now that Blu-ray disc has much greater support from major studios in the USA. However, the intention to emphasize hardware upscaling of DVD movies will most-likely slowdown adoption of high-definition content.

HD DVD Players Now Starting at $149

Effective on January 13, 2008 the manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of the entry-model Toshiba HD-A3 with 720p/1080i output will be $149.99, the HD-A30, with 1080p output, $199.99, and the higher-end Toshiba HD-A35 costs $299.99. All HD DVD players have Ethernet port, which allows connecting to the Internet and downloading or streaming additional content.

Besides, each of the players comes with two free HD DVD movies and coupons for five more to get by mail. The price slash should drive sales of HD DVD players and distract attention from Blu-ray disc players.

Toshiba to Promote DVD Upscaling in Addition to HD DVD

In addition to relatively significant price slash on HD DVD players Toshiba also decided to emphasize hardware DVD upscaling capability of those devices. The calls upscaled DVD image quality as “near high-definition”, a controversial claim with unclear consequences.

“HD DVD is the best way to watch movies in high definition. 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,” said Jodi Sally, vice president of marketing, Toshiba’s digital A/V group.

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.

Many DVD players nowadays can upscale DVD content providing some image quality enhancements on large screens. However, given that high-definition media supports dramatically higher resolution as well as some other enhancements, including higher quality audio, interactive capabilities and picture-in-picture video streaming, highlighting the DVD upscaling capability will likely confuse consumers, as not all will be able to realize the difference between HD DVD and upscaled DVD, thus, getting the latter and not the former type of media. On the other hand, if Toshiba manages to convince mainstream consumers to start getting HD DVD players instead of DVD, the new standard will get considerably substantial install base compared to today and studios will be unable to ignore millions of people using HD DVD players.

Traditional single-layer DVDs allow consumers to watch movies in 720x480 (NTSC) or 720x576 (PAL) resolution with Dolby Digital audio. Blu-ray and HD DVD provide consumers up to 1920x1080 resolution as well as DTS or Dolby Digital Plus audio along with some additional features.

HD DVD Promo Group Remains Quiet

It is interesting to note that HD DVD promotional group, which consists of about 130 companies including Intel, Memory-Tech, Microsoft, NEC, Sanyo and others, did not issue any statements regarding further intentions to heavily promote HD DVD format.

Blu-ray and HD DVD formats compete for replacing the DVD standard. HD DVD discs can store up to 15GB on a single layer and up to 30GB on two layers. Its competitor, Blu-ray, can store up to 25GB per single layer and up to 50GB on two layers, but Blu-ray discs are more expensive to produce. The HD DVD is pushed aggressively by Toshiba, Intel, Microsoft, NEC, Sanyo as well as being standardized at the DVD Forum, which represents over 230 consumer electronics, information technology, and content companies worldwide. Blu-ray is backed by Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Thomson, LG, Hitachi, Sharp, Samsung, and Sony, which are among the world’s largest makers of consumer electronics.

Blu-ray got a massive advantage in early January, when Time Warner-owned Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema announced that starting from mid-2008 they would support rival Blu-ray disc exclusively. Among major Hollywood studios Blu-ray has a substantial advantage over HD DVD with support from New Line Cinema, Sony Pictures, Walt Disney, Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox. HD DVD is currently supported by Paramount Pictures/Dreamworks and Universal Pictures.

Discussion

Comments currently: 7
Discussion started: 01/14/08 01:24:51 PM
Latest comment: 01/15/08 12:22:54 PM
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1. 
i really do think that toshiba are doing the right thing and pushing the whole upscale thing to be honest if i popped in a standard disc into my hd player people would really not be able to tell that much difference!
even on standard 576 with no upscale my toshiba hd e1 wipes the floor with my sony dav that cost £299 and with the lower prices coming in for hd dvd its a bargain
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 01/14/08 01:24:51 PM]
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I can tell you that's why there's huge price difference between upscalers.

Frankly speaking, none of the current US model BluRay or HD-DVD perform good upscaling. They just blur out the image and wipe out the detail, and make is looks like "smooth without blocky pixels".

It is too simple and naive for those HD-DVD fanboys to think upscaler can be everything. At 26" or larger HDTV, it is very easy to distinguish which is a good upscaler and which one is bad. I can tell you the only good DVD player equipped with true 1080p performance is the Marantz DV9600 which cost US$3000!

A good upscaler, for example the proofen DRC system used in most Sony TV, can provide you both sharpness and detail even at 480i input. That's why such a LCD-TV with quality upscaler are usually more expensive than LCD-TV with poor upscaler. Such an algorithm is written into PS3 so many AV specialist also consider PS3 as a very good DVD upscale player!
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 01/14/08 07:44:28 PM]
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2. 
The last Hura for HD-DVD it seems. Personally I like to use my DXr3 board on a little HTPC I built and hook it up to the TV with the PC input. It scales well but I have been thinking of getting a good upconverter for my other TV which gives me another reason to consider the Toshiba HD-DVD player. Not all upconverters are the same which is painfully obvious when you go to Circuit City and compare a crappy expensive Panasonic Upconverter to a Sony or Toshiba Upconverter hooked up to an HD TV.
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 01/14/08 03:01:58 PM]
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