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Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 May 2007
Article Index
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player
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The Downside
Although faster than its predecessors, the HD-XA2 is still pretty slow. The responsiveness of the player to commands from the remote is pretty disappointing. There is a noticeable delay when you press fast-forward, play, pause, etc. Fast-forwarding and rewinding any of these new formats is just plain clunky. This is because the player is moving a hell of a lot more data than a standard-definition DVD. so it obviously requires more processing power. DVD is the standard that people are used to, so the reality is that these players just seem slow in comparison.

The fact that you have to start the disc from the beginning whenever there is any interruption of the signal, be it changing inputs on your TV or receiver or even changing resolutions, is a major pain in the butt. The HDCP handshake always has to be made, otherwise Toshiba assumes you are up to no good and the player starts the disc over from the beginning. Fortunately, the player does not have to full reboot as the previous generation players did, and on this player, they have finally added a resume feature, so if you stop a disc, you can pick things up where you last left off. With this resume feature, installers who are trying to integrate an HD DVD via HDMI could set a macro in the commands of the client’s remote that automatically stops any HD DVD disc before switching channels or inputs. Then, when the client wants to come back to the movie, just pressing “play” will resume the movie and pick it up from the last place it was at, rather than at the opening copyright warning logo.

At first, my player developed a very funky audio issue when running a TOS-link cable straight from the player to my receiver. The sound would become heavily distorted if I would pause, fast-forward or rewind a movie then press play. The only way to alleviate this issue would be to press pause, fast-forward or rewind briefly then press play again. This would knock the player out of this distorted mode. It was clockwork. It would work fine, then I’d pause it. When I would push play, it would be distorted. One more pause/unpause cycle would cause the player to correct it. A firmware update corrected this problem, so if you have this player, you will want to make sure you have the latest version of the firmware installed. I never had this issue with the audio that was stripped out of the HDMI signal via the PureLink HS-42A before or after the firmware update, but it was a huge annoyance when it first happened.

One area that Toshiba seemed to skimp on with this player, compared to its predecessors, is in the power cord. I am a big fan of the detachable power cord when it comes to any audio or video component and the Toshiba has one, but it’s a very flimsy and cheesy one. Being essentially specialized computers, the reality is that these players sometimes freeze up and need a good kick in the ass. If that doesn’t work, unplugging them from the wall for several minutes usually alleviates the problem. Thankfully, the Toshiba HD-XA2 has a detachable power cord that makes unplugging it much easier, as you can do this by just reaching behind the player.

What I was a little disappointed with is the fact that Toshiba went with a much thinner, proprietary power cord in the new player rather than the large, standard computer power supply-type power cord. This means you had better make sure you don’t misplace your power cord for the player. Of course, you always want to keep the original power cords that come with each player, but I prefer the type of plug that came with the first-generation Toshibas as they felt more robust and were much easier to replace should the power cord go missing or become damaged for some reason.

The last and probably the biggest downside for audio enthusiasts is the fact that the Toshiba HD-XA2 does not support SACD or DVD-Audio. Not supporting Sony’s SACD format is completely understandable, but the real shocker is the lack of the DVD-Audio format. Granted, neither of these audio formats turned out to be the savior of the music industry, but if you have a collection of high-res audio discs, this HD DVD player won’t be replacing your high-res audio player. Neither HD disc camp should be giving consumers reasons not to avoid buying players; ignoring recent HD audio formats is just plain foolish.

There are two types of consumers who are reading this review. You may be an early adopter who jumped in headfirst and picked up a first-generation HD DVD player. You knew that there were going to be better features coming soon, but you couldn’t wait and figured you’d upgrade once a better player came along. You may be the other type of consumer who is confused by this format war and can’t decide if either of the new high-res formats is right for you. I’m honestly sold on both of them. From my experience, I wasn’t thrilled by any of the HD DVD players that were on the market until this one came along.

Regardless of what kind of consumer you are, I have to say that I highly recommend this player and I am generally a pretty jaded consumer. The HD-XA2 is far from perfect, but it has many features – also, the fact that it features HDMI 1.3 means that, as displays start to feature Deep Color™ and receivers and AV preamps begin to include DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD decoding capabilities, I’m left feeling like I have a player that won’t be obsolete in a few months. In the new world of “throwaway” audio and video components, it’s nice to know that you can get a player like the Toshiba HD-XA2 that will be current for years to come, and yet still kicks ass today.

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