When a trio of new HD DVD players popped up on Amazon.com last week, the question wasn't so much, "Are they real?" as "How are they different from the existing models?" Toshiba clarified the issue today by officially announcing the three new models in a press release that trumpeted a handful of new features that will appeal to enthusiasts. But some key questions about those step-up features remain unanswered.
First, the basics. All three of the new models boast new, slim cases that are only 59.5mm high (less than 2.5 inches). And unlike many Blu-ray players--including models that cost hundreds more--the new HD DVD players each include active Ethernet ports and upgradeable firmware, so they can take advantage of the growing number of HD DVD titles that make use of interactive online features. The new lineup breaks down as follows:HD-A3 ($300, October 2007): With its output resolution limited to 1080i, the primary appeal of the entry-level model is its affordable price tag. Except for the slimmer case, this looks to be nearly a clone of the current HD-A2, which is currently selling online for as little as $200.
HD-A30 ($400, September 2007): An extra $100 buys you 1080p output, HDMI CEC compatibility (which allows for control between other CEC-enabled AV products when connected via HDMI and using a single remote control), and 24-frame video support (1080p/24).
HD-A35 ($500, October 2007): In addition to the same features as the HD-A30, the top-end model in the fall 2007 lineup adds 5.1-channel analog audio outs, support for Deep Color video and HDMI passthrough audio.
Sounds great. Of course, there's a secret about those cutting-edge features that all those other blogs aren't telling you. … Read more