Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD Player Manufacturer's Comment
• Product availability: As you mentioned, both HD DVD models sold briskly right from the start. That start was actually back in January, when select On-line retailers began taking pre-orders for those machines. The unanticipated volume of these preorders was of course our first priority in fulfillment, and inevitably affected the quantity available to stock the remaining shelves. Rest assured that production is ongoing, and supplies should ease over the coming months
• System Operation: The first important note is that the HD-A1 and HD-XA1 are very sophisticated machines, and probably have more in common with a high end PC than a standard DVD player. All of this power admittedly correlates to a significantly longer boot up time than a standard DVD Player
• As the science of disc authoring progresses, we anticipate that the disc loading time can be reduced significantly, but most likely will never be as short as a simple standard DVD player. The player must also perform a number of complex functions to identify and authenticate the disc before playing.
• Output Resolution: As you correctly mentioned, setting the output resolution to the native resolution of the disc (1080i for a 1080P disc, 720P for those discs when they are available) will always result in the best picture. As you can imagine, accomplishing the superb picture you experienced from HD DVD discs and achieving great results when up-scaling standard DVDs is quite a trick for machines that retail for only $500 and $800. And every HD display includes its own scaler, which for the most part perform very well when taking 1080i content for 720P displays. Product decisions are never easy, but this system was selected because it allows the vast majority of customers to see the best possible picture, while maintaining an accessible price point.
• Remote Control: Your comments on the HD-XA1 are noted, and I am sure subsequent models will reflect our understanding. FYI, the remote for the HD-XA1 is different than the HD-A1 remote, with additional buttons for the motion activated backlighting and the Motorized door.
• Other operational issues: Some of the operations, such as restarting the disc when certain functions resolutions are selected, are related to the obligations of the Digital Rights Management systems implemented on these machines. Since you were testing the very first generation of both discs and players, please note that we expect to be able to improve the intuitiveness and usability of those functions over time, but we must always respect the requirements of the DRM. Also note that the firmware of both machines can be updated as system improvements are made. I do not know when the first update might be available, but I am sure this process will allow us to improve upon the current operation issues you mentioned in the relatively near term.
• Picture quality: As you witnessed, these machines are capable of creating some truly stunning pictures. In addition to the extra resolution and color depth, the HD DVD format features video data rates that are far in excess of those that are typical of Cable or Satellite feeds, and often in excess of the 19.4 Mbps rate of over the air broadcasts. (The maximum data rate of HD DVD is 36.5 Mbps. More importantly, the advanced Compression systems used for these releases, (either H.264/MPEG 4 AVC or VC-1) are twice as efficient as the older MPEG-2 system used for original HDTV, so the same data rate as over the air MPEG-2 translates to a much better result with the newer codecs. This means HD DVD can virtually eliminate the tiling, mosquito noise and other artifacts that can plague other HD sources.
• Though you did not mention it directly, one important capability of both models is complete compatibility with the iHD interactive platform. Even these first players will be capable of performing the most sophisticated interactive functions, including accessing and integrating external content via the Ethernet/RJ45 terminal on the unit.
• Audio System: The HD DVD format requires a host of capabilities for all players, because of the host of audio options available to the content providers. Most importantly, the players must be able to decode any of the allowed audio codecs, including two simultaneous audio streams from the disc at times, mix them together, and re-encode them for the variety of analog and digital outputs available. An added challenge is the changing dynamic of the HDMI specification, and the variety of compatibility issues that standard has faced. Both machines are built to HDMI 1.1, since that was the latest certified spec when the design was finalized. Considering these challenges, we believe the solution implemented in the HD-A1 and HD-XA1 are elegant solutions, that will allow the overwhelming majority of consumers to hear compelling surround sound regardless of the nature or vintage of their audio system.
• Future Audio applications: One of the unique benefits of the HD DVD standard is that in the future High resolution Multi channel audio only discs are possible without requiring a new standard. While all of the HD DVD technical teams have been understandably focused on the successful launch of the first movie titles, efforts have already begun to educate the audio community about the potential benefits of HD DVD as a high resolution Audio format. We look forward to discussing these possibilities, and will be seeking your advice as we ramp up these efforts.
Advisor to the Toshiba HD DVD Promotion Division
Toshiba America Consumer Products L.L.C.