2008 has been a pretty tough year for Toshiba. After Warner turned its back on HD DVD in January and essentially killed the format off, Toshiba had to go back to the drawing board as far as high definition went. For the past three years Toshiba has been pushing HD DVD as the single most important aspect of any home cinema setup, so now that it’s gone, what’s filling the gap? Strange as it may seem, Toshiba feels that the HD DVD breach can be filled with, err, DVD.
While at IFA recently, Toshiba put forward the idea that the majority of consumers are still watching SD content, so the lack of a true HD source device in its line up isn’t that much of an issue. Now, although it’s probably true that most consumers are still watching SD on their HDTVs, this new message from Toshiba is somewhat at odds with the message the company has been putting out for the past couple of years. Let’s face it, if Toshiba really believed that consumers aren’t interested in HD source devices, why was it pushing HD DVD?
Anyway, let’s put Toshiba’s u-turn to one side and concentrate on the product in front of me right now - the XD-E500. The XD-E500 is a DVD player, but it’s the most advanced DVD player that Toshiba has ever brought to market. Although Toshiba has been selling upscaling DVD players for many years, this is the first to incorporate the company’s eXtended Detail Enhancement, or XDE technology - clearly EDE didn’t sound as cutting edge, so Toshiba grabbed the second letter of the first word for the acronym.
The XD-E500 looks similar to Toshiba’s other upscaling DVD players, in that it’s slim, shallow and very light. Although the lack of substance isn’t an issue in a player that costs less that £50, like Toshiba’s own SD-480E, it’s somewhat disappointing in a deck that will set you back around £130 on the street. The front fascia is reasonably busy, with a full complement of control buttons, along with the power button on the right. The left is dominated by the disc tray, with an Open/Close button to the right of it. There’s a small display that indicates track information, and next to this is an array of indicator lights that show what mode of output has been selected.