Toshiba HD-XE1 HD DVD player
Tosh brings in 1080p on a budget
So what's the player actually like to use? Well, once you get it going, very good. Like the HD-E1, it's rather slow to start up, taking 40 seconds from switch-on until it'll accept a disc, and a further 30 seconds until it will do anything with it. It's almost like it has to be wound up before it can do anything. It can also feel a bit sluggish in response to key presses at times, so sometimes you end up pressing the same button a couple of times before it appears to register what you want to do.
Pop in an HD DVD disc, however, and all these issues seem less important. The crisp, sharp images and huge level of detail make you wonder how you managed with plain old DVD.
During the races in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift it feels as if you're almost inside the car with them during action - which is just as well really as it's a distraction from the paper-thin plot. Smoke filled scenes, such as the police raid on the BTN centre in V for Vendetta, look crisp and defined rather than fogged and blurry. The difference between 720p and 1080p isn't as marked as that between normal DVD and 720p, but it does add an extra layer of realism.
Pop in a regular DVD and the HD-EX1 will upscale it from its standard-definition resolution to HD with decent quality results. An HD DVD will easily surpass the quality of an upscaled DVD, but if you're still waiting for your favourite title to be released in HD then it will certainly allow you to chuck out or pass on your old DVD player.
With an retail proce of around £650, the HD-XE1 is still reasonably priced when you consider its features. Given that you'll need a fairly high-end telly to make the most of it, it's competitively priced and, PlayStation 3 aside, still cheaper than the nearest-specced Blu-ray rivals. Hunt around and you should be able to get it from around £150 less.
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