Toshiba HD-XA1HD DVD Player Tests


As TJN mentioned in his First Look at the functionally identical HD-A1, we do not at this time have any discs with test patterns encoded in the HD DVD format. So, we're stuck with rounding up the usual suspects on standard DVD: Digital Video Essentials, Avia, Silicon Optix' HQV Benchmark et al. And we're left interpreting the results from both 480i/p as well as the upvconverted 720p and 1080i outputs via HDMI and component.

As TJN reported the HD-A1 and HD-XA1 display above white and below black information via component. While HD-XA1 will show above white over HDMI, like the HD-A1 it will not show below black. This information is not meant to be seen anyway, so odds are this is no loss. There is no crushing just above black that I could see, which would be far more egregious.

Like the HD-A1, the HD-XA1 also has outstanding deinterlacing that's evident via component or HDMI. In addition to excellent 3/2 pulldown compensation, this player performed extraordinarily well with the scores of video-based torture tests from the Silicon Optix disc and the Faroudja disc that trip up most players. These video tests are important if you're a fan of music videos, and broad variety of other material that shows up on DVD from time to time. It only tripped on video scrolls overlaid on a film background. In summary, this is extraordinary performance that I've only seen bested in minor respects by players equipped with Faroudja deinterlacers, and scant few exotic processing solutions.

I couldn't find any pixel cropping, chroma delay, or any other genuine anomalies worth mentioning via component or HDMI.

On the luma and chroma bursts over HDMI from Digital Video Essentials and Avia, which I've used to evaluate the performance of scores of DVD players, including those that upconvert DVD to 720p and 1080i, the Toshiba was a marvel in a number of ways. Resolution to the DVD format's limit was present and accounted for at 480p, as you'd expect, and it held up even when converted to 720p and 1080i. But what's more amazing is that the sharpness, detail and lack of noise at both 720p and 1080i were sensational, and essentially the best I've ever seen in an upconverting player.

Where it gets odd is that both 720p and 1080i over HDMI were noticeably cleaner and sharper on the test patterns and especially with program material than 480p, even though the Marantz projector I used is excellent at upconverting 480p to 1080p. 720p and 1080i simply looked noticeably crisper and sharper and there was less noise in the image. Most upconverting players I've seen have been the opposite—480p looked best followed by 720p and then 1080i in the distance.

This is an interesting conflict in that test signals clearly revealed the upconverted feeds to have some minor ringing (visible on horizontal and vertical lines) that couldn't be removed by dialing down the sharpness control on the projector. 480p had zero ringing, and was therefore more technically correct, but obviously looked softer and noisier. Some of my more propeller-headed colleagues might prefer the more "correct" image, but I didn't see any artifacts that bothered me with program material, and the increased sharpness was more than a fair trade against my dogmatic side.

With component video at 1080i, the image was a little light in amplitude at the top frequencies in the bursts, but still excellent. Marantz's VP-11S1 let me down a little here. Via component, 720p had no resolution at the top frequency, and 480i and 480p suffered from noise, ringing and a variety of other artifacts, which I confirmed as emanting in the projector by using my Accupel signal generator. Therefore, 720p and 480i/p via component from the HD-XA1 couldn't be properly evaluated with the VP-11S1.

Moving back to my reference VP-12S4, the Accupel confirmed full resolution via component at 480p, albeit with a little noise and performance nearly as good at 480i. Using the VP-12S4 I saw performance that indicates that component at 480i and 480p from the HD-XA1 is fine, but that again 1080i looked best, meaning more noise free and sharper.

But all things considered, whether you plan to use HDMI or component, 720p or 1080i output with standard DVDs will likely yield the best picture quality.