It’s no surprise that Toshiba wanted to talk about HD DVD at its press conference. Last year Toshiba announced its first generation HD DVD players and this year it was keen to tell everyone about the second generation hardware. The HD-A2 and HD-XA2 represent the replacements to the HD-A1 and HD-XA1 released in spring 2006. The HD-A2 and HD-XA2 are also identical to the HD-E1 and HD-XE1 that were launched in Europe recently.
In a strange instance of model numbers that actually mean something, it’s clear that the A in the US models indicates America and the E in the European models equates to Europe. Other than that and the voltage ratings of the units, they’re essentially the same. It’s also interesting to see that the old direct Dollar to Pound conversion still rings true, so despite the fact that the HD-E1 has a recommended retail price of £450 in the UK, the identical HD-A2 has a recommended price of only $499 in the US. To be fair to Toshiba though, it's far from alone in this behaviour and even though it appears that our American cousins get a better deal, I still couldn’t help raving about the value for money aspect when I reviewed the HD-E1 last week.
The HD-XA2 will have a recommended retail price of $999, which compares more favourably to the HD-XE1’s UK retail price of £649. This model will be Toshiba’s top end HD DVD player and will incorporate 1080p output as well as HDMI 1.3 with support for Deep Colour output. This top of the line player will also sport user defined picture optimisation so that users can create the best possible picture quality from any source.
The surprise announcement was the HD-A20, which sits between the HD-A2 and HD-XA2. On the surface the HD-A20 looks almost identical to the HD-A2, but whereas the entry level model can only output 720p and 1080i signals, the HD-A20 supports 1080p output. You’re paying $100 more for that 1080p output, which doesn’t seem like a huge premium for anyone that has a TV with a 1080p input. There was no word of whether we’ll be seeing an HD-E20 in the UK, but I’ll be finding that out as soon as I get back home.