3rd-Gen HD DVD Players & Firmware Updates

Yesterday at the CEDIA Expo in Denver, Toshiba announced three "third-generation" HD DVD players: the HD-A3 (available October at a suggested retail price of $300), HD-A30 (shown, September, $400), and HD-A35 (October, $500). Aside from its lower price and sleeker profile, the HD-A3 breaks little new ground and shares the 1080i max output resolution of its predecessor, the HD-A2. The other two models, however, not only support full 1080p output but can deliver it at the native film frame rate of 24 fps as well as at the standard 60-fps video rate. This makes it easy for compatible HDTVs to display the video at a frame rate that is an integral multiple of the original, such as 72 fps, eliminating the stutter-step 2:3 cadence that is an inevitable byproduct of standard 24-to-60-fps conversion. Another new feature of the high-end models is HDMI-CEC, or CE-Link, which enables bidirectional transmission of control signals between the player and attached devices (such as TVs) that also support HDMI-CEC.

To sweeten the deal, Toshiba is bundling each of the new players with HD DVDs of 300 and The Bourne Identity. In addition, beginning October, it will begin a mail-in offer for five free HD DVDs from a selection of 15 titles. And if you already own a second-generation Toshiba player, you'll be pleased to learn that a firmware update is coming mid-September that will add 1080p/24-fps support to the HD-XA2 and HD-A20. -Michael Riggs