capsule review

Toshiba HD-XA2

At a Glance
  • Toshiba HD-XA2

    TechHive Rating

The first HD DVD player to deliver full, 1080p-resolution images and an HDMI 1.3 connection, the Toshiba HD-XA2 ($1000 as of 2/20/07) offers an impressive package, but with some minor annoyances.

The HD-XA2 scored a Very Good on our image tests (conducted on 50-inch Pioneer Elite PRO-FHD1 plasma displays); however, its performance trailed that of our best performers--Sony's BDP-S1 and Pioneer's Elite BDP-HD1, both Blu-ray Disc players. It tied with its sibling, the Toshiba HD-A2, for second place on our audio tests, ranking just behind the BDP-S1. Compared with the other players in our "High-Def Video Superguide" the HD-XA2 delivered consistent, pleasing image quality. It did well on our tests for color, brightness and contrast, and detail. Our test jury could see fine details and depth in The Phantom of the Opera's rehearsal scene, Tom Cruise climbed a rock-steady brick wall in Mission: Impossible 3, and the black-and-white cigarette smoke in Good Night and Good Luck was crisp and sharp.

This stylish, slim-line model looks a lot like Toshiba's cheaper HD-A2, albeit with some modifications. The front panel's design is even cleaner and less cluttered than its siblings. Beyond the identical setup menus, the units share some features. Both models have an ethernet port (useful for doing firmware updates today, and downloading fresh movie studio content when it becomes available in the future); both have two USB ports up front (labeled as "Extension" ports and intended for use with specific titles that require additional storage for content); and both have Dolby TrueHD decoding (output as 5.1- or 7.l-channel PCM audio over HDMI). It decodes only a core DTS-HD audio stream, though. This model has an HDMI 1.3 output (its less-expensive sibling has HDMI 1.2a); Toshiba says the unit supports HDMI 1.3's Deep Color capability, with a compatible display.

The HD-XA2's remote, unfortunately, is worse than that of the HD-A2. Long and thin, it has too many buttons that look alike, and the buttons are hard slivers that can be difficult to press. Its backlight option, which is nice for seeing your buttons in the dark, is tricky to operate: Push it, and nothing happens unless you hold it down for several seconds.

As specified by the HD DVD format, the HD-XA2 can create bookmarks that persist even after you eject the disc. The player can hold up to ten bookmarks, for multiple titles. The HD-XA2 makes it very easy to create bookmarks, but as with its sibling, returning to bookmarks later is harder to figure out: You must navigate through the menu to the view the disc's scenes; the menu will then show a new Bookmarks tab. The documentation, however, doesn't explain this feature--I had to consult Toshiba to get the answer.

Another annoyance: As with the HD-A2, when I switched the TV or amplifier to another input, the player insisted on starting over at the beginning of the movie. (You might, for example, want to switch inputs mid-movie to see if something is airing on live TV.) While the HD-XA2's response was an improvement over that of the HD-A2, which had to be restarted in order to work again, it was still exasperating. Toshiba says that it is aware of this issue, and is investigating the cause.

Some things about the HD-XA2 are a hassle, no question. And you can get marginally better image quality from 1080p-resolution Blu-ray players for less money. But the HD-XA2's fine images and great audio output make this model the optimum choice if you've settled on the HD DVD standard and are looking for the best player available.

Lincoln Spector

This story, "Toshiba HD-XA2" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    Pros

    • Excellent image quality
    • Feature-packed, including HDMI 1.3

    Cons

    • Hard-to-use remote control
    • Poor documentation
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