|Toshiba HD-A35 HD DVD Player|
|Home Theater Video Players HD DVD Players|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Tuesday, 01 January 2008|
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Not since VHS vs. Beta has an AV format war been the source of so much turmoil for consumers. More so than SACD vs. DVD-Audio, HD DVD vs. Blu-ray has sparked numerous debates around the water cooler, caused much consumer confusion and even managed to shut down portions of one of the Internet’s largest consumer electronics forum because of – get this – death threats. That’s right, death threats. While consumers flock to stores in droves for HDTVs, it has only been in recent weeks, with radical price drops on players, that consumers are looking toward HD players to actually feed their new HDTVs with beaming, beautiful video content.
Consider this review round three. I recently reviewed the Toshiba HD-A20 and raved about it, proclaiming it to be the best HD DVD player on the market at the time. The review had barely gone live before I was contacted by Toshiba to review the HD-A35 reviewed here. Toshiba informed me that the HD-A35 was their top of the line, third-generation HD DVD player. Third generation – didn’t the second-generation players just ship? At this pace, we’ll be on generation five by the time this review runs. If there’s one thing Toshiba has done, they’ve kept the market flooded with HD DVD players at various price points, some reaching as low as $99 in certain stores, which is more than I can say for Sony and others in the Blu-ray camp. This mass affordability has given them a slight sales edge, for it seems that at around $100 retail, consumers are willing to get into the HD format game. This latest surge towards HD DVD has undoubtedly added to the already heated Internet debate over the two formats.
The HD-A35 arrived at my office shortly after my conversation with Toshiba. Packaged with two free HD DVDs, The Bourne Identity and 300, it looks an awful lot like the HD-A20 just flipped and minus a flimsy plastic trap door. The HD-A35 is all black with silver metallic-looking plastic accents and a display and manual controls that glow a pale blue. While not the most rock-solid-feeling item I have in my rack, it is rather elegant-looking and, when you consider its price of $499, you can somewhat excuse its physical shortcomings. The HD-A35 measures nearly 17 inches wide by two-and-a-half inches tall and almost 13 inches deep, weighing about seven-and-a-quarter pounds. The front of the HD-A35 is rather simple, featuring a small display window and a few manual controls for eject, play, stop, pause and chapter skip, as well as the single disc tray. Turning my attention aft, the HD-A35 has a single HDMI 1.3 with Deep Color capability output, component video output, composite video output, optical audio out, analog audio out (two-channel) and a complete 5.1 set of analog audio outputs. The HD-A35 also has a single Ethernet port, which can be used to upgrade the player via the Internet or wireless router connection. I’d like to point out that, unlike every Blu-ray player I’ve bought, the Toshiba HD DVD players do not require a firmware update straight out of the box and the HD-A35 is no exception.
Behind the scenes, the HD-A35 features full video upconversion to 1080p via its HDMI output. The HD-A35 can also output native 1080p/24p video signals, which is the best resolution HD can do at this point. The HD-A35 uses the latest VRS chipset from Anchor Bay (DVDo) to handle all deinterlacing, scaling up to and including 1080p. It uses the same 10-bit Precision Video Scaling engine found in the HD-A20. For a more detailed explanation of the Anchor Bay chipset, please read the Toshiba HD-A20 review or Kevin Miller’s review of the DVDO VP50 video processor, both of which feature the same chipset found in the HD-A35. Truthfully, the only real difference between the HD-A20 and the A35 in terms of video processing/scaling is the A35’s ability to output 1080p/24p, as well as its support of Deep Color via its HDMI 1.3-capable output.
The HD-A35 is compatible with standard DVDs, as well as DVD VR, DVD-R, DVD-R DL, DVD-RW and CD, CD-r/RW. Besides supporting almost all formats, save Blu-ray, the HD-A35 supports all of the latest Dolby Digital and DTS sound options, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD. The HD-A35 has web-enabled capability, as well as CE-Link HDMI-CEC, which allows the user to control various components, like play an HD DVD, with the touch of a single button.
Which brings me to the remote. Happily, I don’t have to say much here, as it is basically the same remote that came packaged with my Toshiba HD-A20, which I liked, despite its glow in the dark keypad. So I like the HD-A35 remote as well. Like the HD-A20 remote, the HD-A35 proved to be functional and easy to use but not flashy.
Like the HD-A20, the HD-A35 was an absolute snap to integrate into my system. I decided to install the HD-A35 in my bedroom system, which features the new 55-inch Sony BRAVIA 120Hz rear-projection TV, as well as my Sony BDP-S1 Blu-ray player with audio coming by way of Denon and Orb Audio’s Mod 4 system. All cabling and power filtration came by way of Monster Cable. I went ahead and plugged the HD-A35 straight into the Sony TV’s second HDMI input, letting a single optical cable provide the audio to my Denon receiver.
A quick review of the HD-A35’s menus to make sure everything was in order and a couple of “handshake” tests later, I was ready to rock and roll in no more than 15 minutes.