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On the audio front, the EP30 supports Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital Plus and the DTS core of DTS HD soundtracks, as well as Dolby Digital. But those of you with large digital media libraries hoping to play them on the EP30 think again - the deck doesn't support MP3, JPEG or DivX. It does however play CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R and DVD-RW discs, provided they've been finalised.
One of the most annoying things about earlier HD DVD decks like the HD-E1 is how long they took to boot up, due to the fact they're more like computers than DVD players. While this has clearly been improved on the HD-EP30, it still feels like an age before you finally start watching the movie. Also frustrating is that Resume Playback doesn't work with all discs, which means you'll have to go back to the start if you want to change something in the setup menu.
Otherwise, operating the HD-EP30 is a frustration-free experience. The remote is like a scaled-down version of the disappointing HD-E1 remote, compacted into a smaller space with the key buttons now much easier to find. This makes configuring and navigating the deck a smoother process, helped along by some eye-catching and well-structured onscreen displays.
To test this deck's video prowess we pulled a tried and trusted disc off the shelf - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This is one of the best HD DVD releases to date, not only because of its beautiful 1080/24p transfer but also because the film itself is packed with scenes that show off the hi-def format to its full potential.
The good news is that the HD-EP30 does a fantastic job of handling this disc. Displayed on a Full HD, 24fps-capable TV set, the first thing that strikes you about the image is its intense sharpness. The deck resolves every speck of detail, right down to the texture of Harry's jumper and individual strands of hair. Particularly stunning is Harry's Triwizard Tournament scrap with the dragon, in which the CG creature's features are resolved with pin-sharp clarity and the surrounding landscapes are blessed with a spectacular sense of depth.