First Look: Toshiba HD-XA1

Contributor Gary Merson got his hands on an HD DVD player, so here’s your first scoop:

First Look: Toshiba HD-XA1

By Gary Merson

The high-definition disc era began on April 15, when the first HD DVD players arrived at local stores. Now a sample of the HD-XA1 is in my hands. During the past week, articles have appeared about HD DVD. The ones I have seen have generally (and wrongly) regarded this as a souped up DVD player or as if it is just a DVD player on steroids with a blue-violet laser. While the form factor is the same and both play regular DVDs, that is about where the similarities end. This is not a DVD player. Based on photos and videos of the insides (I’m not dissecting this one until I write a complete review), it’s actually a computer with an HD DVD drive, brilliantly disguised as an oversized standard-definition DVD player.

Inside is a 2.5-gigahertz computer (according to reports), and it behaves as one. I timed the boot-up from turning on, to disc insertion, to HD picture at 1minute 35 seconds. That’s faster than my PC but slow if you think it’s and old-fashioned DVD player. The great news: This is the best high-definition picture I have ever seen in home use. The discs I have looked at, Serenity and The Last Samurai are stunning. Its not just the high-definition clarity—it’s the freedom from MPEG compression artifacts, edge enhancement, and other garbage that gets magnified on big screen displays using standard-def DVDs. Are there issues? You betcha. Most involve audio and some of the functions, and I will cover them in a future review. But the picture, on a big-screen HDTV, is incredible!

Brandon's picture

I just hope that this "computer" is not running windows xp.I am happy to hear the picture looks good though, and I Can't wait for a full review.

William L. Carman's picture

Gary: I fully agree! This player produces a fantastic high definition picture. I have now had it for close to three weeks, and have watched several high definition dvd's on it. On my 80" wide front projection screen, it is the best high def. picture I have seen! And that includes my WMVHD titles from my computer. I can't wait for your full report.

dave m.'s picture

My wife almost choked me when I bought the hd-xa1 ($799) but when I hooked it up on our Infocus SP777 projector (using M1 to HDMI cable) and watched the movie "The Last Samurai HD-DVD", she was speechless!!! The clarity and sound is jaw-dropping. What I liked most is it's on-screen menu, you can make the menus appear while the movie is playing and and it even has a bookmark for you to save/delete your favorite scenes. One thing I hate is the boot time, almost two minutes before the movie plays. I can live with it, as long as the clarity is 10 times clearer than standard definition dvds and the sound (Dolby Tru-HD) is hair raising. Just make sure that your DVD discs are 95% clean and free of dusts, or you will experience sudden pause and jumps. I think it's blue laser is so super-sensitive. One more thing, you can play almost any format - mp3, dvd-r, MP3, WMA and most the most exciting is, it upgrades your standard dvds to 480i to 720p, which means better resolution.

Mosquito Control's picture