While I’m talking about wait times, it’s also worth noting that the player tends to respond quite slowly to commands from the remote control. When navigating a disc menu I often found myself pressing buttons several times before the player responded. This can be a little annoying when you’re trying to access the special features on a disc, although I eventually realised that a longer button press usually did the trick.
Toshiba has a pretty poor track record when it comes to designing remote controls. It seemed that no matter how stylish a Toshiba TV or DVD player looked, it was coupled with an awful, generic looking remote control that spoiled the aesthetic effect. Thankfully that’s not the case with the HD-XE1. Toshiba has helped differentiate its flagship HD DVD player by including a sleek, stylish and very solid remote control. The long, black remote is finished in brushed metal and feels very good in the hand. A touch of any button illuminates the entire unit, making it easy to find the right control when you’ve got the lights turned down. Each of the buttons has a chrome finish too, adding to the high-end, stylish look.
One thing is for certain though, the video produced by the HD-XE1 is definitely worth the wait. I tested the HD-XE1 with a number of different high definition TVs and it managed to bring out the best in all of them. Watching Superman Returns via the Fujitsu P42XHA58 was a totally immersive experience – even though I’m not a huge fan of the movie, I found myself drawn in by the images produced and probably spent more time than I should have “evaluating”. Likewise, the superb V For Vendetta was a revelation on the HD-XE1, showing a level of detail that simply isn’t there in the standard DVD. If it’s true that certain actresses are worried about close ups in high definition destroying the myth of beauty in the movies, it’s fair to say that Natalie Portman has absolutely nothing to worry about in this department.
The ever impressive King Kong HD DVD looked truly impressive when played on the HD-EX1. The lush jungle scenes looked alive, with an exceptional sense of depth creating an almost 3D effect. Unfortunately for Peter Jackson, when I played King Kong on the HD-XE1, the picture was so sharp and clear that all the CGI effects looked terrible. What looked seamless when watching the film on standard DVD now looked obviously fake – I guess that’s the next challenge for film makers, dealing with the high definition age.