Toshiba HD-XA1 HD DVD Player Page 10

More critically, the remote relies on a poorly executed eight-position navigation rocker to move about the player's setup and disc menus. Toshiba is correcting that problem for future production. Apart from the glitchy rocker, however, I found the remote comfortable to use, with the key buttons in easy reach of my thumb and a thoughtful nub protrusion on the Play button that let me quickly discern it from the Pause and Stop buttons that surround it.

The remote also has four buttons marked A, B, C, and D, earmarked for unspecified use by studios or game makers. For now, Warner, at least, has tapped the B button to engage its bookmark function, which allows you to store any location on a Warner HD DVD permanently in the player's memory for instant recall.

Setup Menus Toshiba took advantage of the processing power in the HD-XA1 to provide attractive internal graphics for the Setup menu, which is as pretty to look at as it is extensive. You even get a choice of three different "skins" for the menu system (though I greatly preferred the default skin "1" for its legibility). The menus expand out horizontally as you make selections, with submenus opening to the right as you go deeper and deeper.

The accessible and unintimidating main menu offers five selections. Here's a closer look at what you'll find in each when you get inside:

PICTURE: Used to select the default aspect ratio to match your TV and to activate the Enhanced Black Level option, which sets black at 0 IRE rather than the 7.5 IRE used in North American NTSC television. (This setting should always be turned on when the player is connected to a properly adjusted HDTV set.) A Picture Mode button offers Film, Video, and Auto options to activate 2:3 pulldown compensation as needed; Auto is the recommended setting.

AUDIO: You'll spend a bit of time in here getting things set up once you've determined how best to wire the player for sound with your existing equipment (see "Hook Me Up"). Your selections determine what type of digital audio signals will come from the HDMI and SPDIF (optical and coax) audio outputs, and this is where you can set the speaker level, distance, and bass management options for the player's 5.1-channel analog outputs. There's also a Dynamic Range Control button to bring up low-level sounds when the volume is turned down for late-night viewing and a Dialog Enhancement mode to goose the dialog if you're listening on TV speakers or a system without a dedicated center speaker.

LANGUAGE: To select preferred defaults for the Setup menu, disc menus, subtitles, and dialogue track. English, French, and Japanese can be selected directly, but you can type in codes to select from a total of 136 languages for all but the internal Setup menu.

ETHERNET: Here's one you don't see everyday. Since the player can connect to the Internet, it has its own IP address and all the functions you need to access and manage that connection. See "Hook Me Up," for additional details.

GENERAL: Here's where you can change the menu skins, set parental controls or the internal clock, and activate the screen saver. You can also turn on a confirmation bleep that tells you when the player has received your IR commands from the remote. Most interesting is the Maintenance option, which lets you reset the factory defaults or, if you have a live Internet connection, activate the Firmware Update sequence. Engaging the sequence brings you to an onscreen Terms & Conditions agreement that you have to click off on, which will then start the download from Toshiba's Web site (once that service is rolled out).