Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player

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The HD Experience
- Part 2 -
HD DVD or Blu-ray?
November 10, 2007
The HD Experience: Part 1 (HDTV) The HD Experience: Part 2 (HD DVD or Blu-ray?)
The HD Experience: Part 3 (Choosing HD DVD) The HD Experience: Part 4 (HD & TV Size)
The HD Experience: Part 5 (Integrating HD) The HD Experience: Part 6 (Upconverting vs. HD)

As luck would seemingly determine my HD fate, and only a month after purchasing my plasma television, online rumors of Circuit City mistakenly selling The Complete Matrix Trilogy on HD DVD for $19.99 surfaced in May 2007. Normal price of this 3-disc HD DVD set was around $69.99, so I jumped on the opportunity to order it. However, at this point, I still didn't know if HD DVD was the format for me or if I should've gone Blu-ray. I figured I would hold onto the set if it actually managed to arrive at my doorstep, and still keep both formats as a possibility. It took about a month before I received the set, but Circuit City was nice enough to honor the price mistake (if indeed it really was...), and I had my first HD DVD mini-collection sitting on my DVD shelf.

"What was driving my motivations? I just wanted my movies to look their best..."
It was only a matter of time before my interest in obtaining HD discs increased, and my pursuit of determining just what particular format to choose, became a passion. Blu-ray or HD DVD? There were many titles available on each format. And since both formats were proclaimed successes in reaching much higher quality, I really didn't think twice about whether one had higher quality than the other. What was driving my motivations? I just wanted my movies to look their best. Since both formats were winners in the quality department, I had to figure out which movies I was going to buy first, and which format offered titles I wanted to justify paying a higher price for. This wasn't going to be easy. Blu-ray and HD DVD offered several titles I wanted. It looked like I had to dig deeper, and find out if there were other differences.

Searching the net, which I have to admit, didn't give me the information I wanted. I had to sift through hundreds of pages of Blu-ray is better than HD DVD! or "HD DVD Rules!" in order to find a few references. I discovered HD DVD titles were Region-free. Now, this was interesting, I thought, because I could purchase HD DVDs overseas which were not carried in the US, and not have to worry about any hacks or compatibility issues. And most of all, I wouldn't have to worry about getting a separate HD DVD player, just to play HD DVDs which were purchased outside of the US. There were already a few titles I wanted which were not released in the US. What about Blu-ray titles being region free? Well, I found out they were not. This was a little disappointing.

After reading more about Sony's Blu-ray offering, I had flashbacks of the company's desire to be more proprietary than most companies embracing a new technology normally are. I couldn't help thinking about this issue, and it concerned me. Even though my first DVD player, a Sony DVP-S7700, purchased for a little over $1,000 at a local videophile store in the late 20th Century (before the great Millennium was going to crash all electronics into oblivion, including your blender and Norelco razor), was heralded as the best DVD player at the time even though the DVD format hadn't really been confirmed.

I began to have doubts about Sony's intent on their new HD format. I knew in the back of my mind, when Sony releases a high-end product, they intend for it to stick in the Consumer Elite category. When I purchased the Sony DVP-S7700, DVDs were selling for $29.99. I actually paid those prices without much concern at the time because I had the money (I wish I had that kind of dough now). And at the time, I also knew it was a special group of people who would be buying these discs. DVDs would not be mainstream for a while. I also knew it would be better for everyone if more people could afford them, thereby increasing profits for the movie companies by selling more DVDs. This would take time as well. Owning a $1,000 DVD player, I knew it was going to take another three years or so before prices of DVDs were going fall.

Being an avid digital camera fan, back in 2000 and 2001, I purchased an Olympus E-10. At the time, digital cameras were just making their way into the high-end "prosumer" photography market. This particular digital camera was 4-megapixels and sold just under $2,000. It was considered a great achievement in the new and exciting realm of digital photography. Olympus used their own proprietary memory cards, called Smart Media. At the time, proprietary memory cards weren't so bad, because the capacities of the memory cards, were not realized yet. Myself and many others didn't need those expensive 128MB Smart Media cards. No, we were content with 64MB and 32MB cards. However, about a year after owning the E-10, memory capacities were needed desperately, and Olympus was not providing the higher capacities, although it promised them "soon", but "soon" never came to be (if I have any hardcore Olympus E-10/20 owners reading this, remember the online chat with Olympus at Norman Camera?). Luckily, the E-10 did have a CompactFlash slot in addition to the SM slot, so that another form of memory media was purchased at a much lower price. Smart Media was losing momentum, and CompactFlash and IBM MicroDrives were gaining in popularity quite quickly. Prices were falling for CF but for SM, they were almost twice as much.

Sony was also making digital cameras. They introduced several camera products, and they also had their own memory media. The MemoryStick. Sony said the MemoryStick was going to be the standard. Well, this never happened either. Just like the Olympus Smart Media, MemoryStick was extremely high priced. However, Sony did not provide other memory media slots. They only offered MemoryStick. So, if a consumer purchased a Sony digital camera, they were forced to buy a higher-priced form of memory media, even though CompactFlash and IBM MicroDrives (which had the same size as a CF card and could fit into a CF slot) were increasing their capacities and providing lower prices to consumers who could use them.

As I was thinking about which HD format to support, these past experiences were in the front of my mind. While I really enjoyed the Sony DVP-S7700 as it was a fantastic player both in video and audio, I discovered I was going to be in a similar situation with Blu-ray if I chose it. It was unfortunate I had to choose, but there was no way I could afford both Blu-ray and HD DVD players. The features of HD DVD being region free mattered a lot to me. And soon, I was also reading about Blu-ray owners having problems with the anti-copy protection code on discs. It became a sign to me, Sony was once again being too controlling, and this was suffocating the HD format.

I decided to support HD DVD. In late September 2007, I obtained a Toshiba HD-XA2.

While HD DVDs are still Region Free, a few HD DVD imports such as Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Apocalypse (German exports) have been found to have Image Constraint Tokens (ICTs) enabled. Normally, HD DVDs do not have them enabled and the unofficial rumor is they are not supposed to be enabled till 2010, if any. When ICT is enabled, you will not be able to watch your HD DVD movies in HD over component connections. Only an HDMI connection will allow HD quality viewing.

Home Reviews Forums News 2015 2013 2012 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
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