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First Thoughts on HD DVD

Published May 22, 2006 in Technology
By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders.
I finally got my hands on Toshiba’s new HD-DVD player for a test run. I’ll be reviewing the studios’ initial HD-DVD releases on this machine with the help of my JVC 52” HD-ILA set. But before I get into the movies themselves, here are some things I’ve noticed about HD-DVD.

HD-DVD: First Impressions

I guess I’ll have to eat my hat because the picture absolutely does look phenomenally better. Even on my 720p JVC set, the picture is perfectly clear no matter how close you put your face up to the screen. I look forward to comparing older and newer movies in this format.

The Warner Brothers titles all open with a promo for their HD-DVD releases. Funnily, the clip that looks the best is Dukes of Hazzard with its bright, southern colors and sharp automobile detail. But this intro, which automatically plays first, says that the movie begins as soon as you put in the disc. Well, obviously not or we wouldn’t be here.

The remote control lights up at the touch, so if you’re watching in the dark, you’ll be able to see all the buttons. Unfortunately, the remote is otherwise unresponsive. You have to push really hard and aim directly at the player and you still may have to get up and push the button on the machine.

Having the menu options available while the movie plays is cool, especially when you want to scan around the scenes for demonstrations. But with the remote problems, you may end up just leaving a menu screen on during your movie.

The sound on HD-DVDs is lower than normal DVDs and normal TV. Why? Now you have to raise the volume to hear, then lower it back down before you blast yourself with MTV. What is the advantage of mastering the sound so low?

And still, the HD-DVDs are soooo slow. Once you load it up, it’s fine, but you’ll want to pop in the disc and then go make your munchie snacks while you wait. As a normal DVD player, the unit is fine, although my $100 Toshiba progressive scan seems to make a slightly better HDMI conversion than this HD-DVD unit. Perhaps that’s on purpose because they want you to focus on the HD-DVDs.

Stay tuned for updates.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of respective holders.

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