Toshiba HD-A2TechHive Rating
Low-cost HD DVD player has a well-designed remote control, but image quality is constrained by the unit's 1080i resolution.
In Mission: Impossible III, Tom Cruise uses some fancy gadgetry to help him run up a brick wall. That's impressive in 1080p. But interlacing artifacts, as seen in the Toshiba HD-A2's 1080i playback, cause the wall to vibrate, making M:I3 downright psychedelic. And I don't mean that in a good way.
Toshiba's HD-A2 ($500 as of 2/20/07) can't deliver a 1080p image. Any 1080p-capable movie you watch on it--and that's most every movie available in the HD DVD format--is downgraded to the inferior 1080i high-def mode on its way to your television.
If your HDTV can't handle 1080p, the HD-A2 makes a tempting money-saver. It can natively decode Dolby TrueHD sound tracks. Over HDMI its audio was superb--this player tied with the HD-XA2 for second place in our audio tests, coming in just behind the Sony BDP-S1 (see our "High-Def Video Superguide"). However, it has only stereo, analog output; it cannot output analog multichannel audio. (By comparison, its sister model, the $1000 HD-XA2, can do so.) This model supports DTS-HD (core), and DTS Encore 5.1 output.
Other aspects of the HD-A2's design are a mixed bag. The setup menus are lovely to look at and easy to figure out. The front panel is well laid out, with a flap that hides most of the clearly labeled buttons and two specialized USB ports (labeled "Extension" ports"). The ports' function, according to Toshiba, is to add extra storage for implementing features such as the ability to download supplemental content. As yet, however, no titles use them.
Like its pricier sibling and the Xbox 360, the Toshiba HD-A2 can handle the HD DVD format's bookmarking capabilities. Both Toshiba players let you create bookmarks for favorite scenes using a button on the remote control. Because of the way the HD DVD format is designed, these bookmarks persist even after you eject the disc; however, the player's memory retains only ten such bookmarks at a time. In addition, to return to these bookmarks, you must navigate through the menu to view the disc's scenes; the menu will then show a new tab for "bookmarks" (previously not there). Neither of the Toshiba players' manuals offer details about this quirk.
The HD-A2's remote control is better than the one that comes with the HD-XA2. The rubberized buttons on the HD-A2's remote are softer to the touch than the metallic slivers on the HD-XA2's. The HD-A2's remote has too many buttons, though, and they all look and feel alike. Once you figure out what to click, the HD-A2 responds with a bit of lag--though other players, including the Sony BDP-S1, lag even more.
You can use the ethernet port to download firmware updates, as well as supplemental content provided by movie studios--once such content becomes available (perhaps later this year).
What didn't work well with this model (and the firmware PC World used in its tests) was its HDMI switching. You might, for example, switch the input on your amplifier while watching a movie to check a program that's airing on live TV. When I switched away from the HDMI input the player was using on one of our test televisions, a Pioneer Elite PRO-HD1, the HD-A2 locked up and had to be restarted. Toshiba said it was looking into what might have caused this glitch.
At $500, the HD-A2 is the least expensive stand-alone high-def player--for now. If you opt for that low price, however, you'll be making sacrifices in resolution and audio. If you're basing your decision on price, keep an eye out for specials--you may be able to find other players, such as the Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Disc player, that offer superior, noninterlaced image performance for not too much more.
Toshiba HD-A2TechHive Rating
- Well-designed on-screen menus
- Ethernet connection for interactivity and updates
- Outputs 1080i image resolution