Toshiba announces 3rd generation HD DVD players

Monday 06th August 2007, 08:08:00 PM, written by Carl Bender

Toshiba today announced its third-generation of standalone players for the HD DVD optical format. Continuing with the naming scheme established thus far, the entry-level model will be the HD-A3, with the mid-range carrying the moniker HD-A30, and the top-end named the HD-A35.

Unlike the present generation of players, it seems that the lead A35 SKU will be an I/O improvement on the A30 rather than containing the distinct silicon differentiation found on the present HD-XA2 flagship via its Reon chipset. Also unlike prior generations, released images so far indicate that all three players may share the same chassis/casing. A reduced profile relative to earlier generations implies cooler operating temperatures for components, hinting that Toshiba may have realized reductions in manufacturing costs via the use of smaller/more efficient ICs.

In terms of announced feature-set, the HD-A3 remains in line with the current capabilities of the entry-level HD-A2, featuring a 1080i60 maximum video output capacity. The A30 and A35 both support 1080p, further allowing 24 frames-per-second output of film-based content at its native resolution; the A20 and XA2 will gain 24p output later this year via a previously announced firmware update.

In addition, the A30 and A35 introduce "CE-Link" via HDMI, allowing two-way communication between HDMI-enabled devices, in this case finding hypothetical use by allowing single-button playback commencement with power-on of both the player and associated CE-Link capable display. Further enhancements to the A35 include 5.1 channel analog outs as well as the ability to support Deep Color and 7.1 channel audio bitstream through its HDMI interface. Where the bitstream support for advanced audio will come as welcome news for owners of DTS-HD MA capable HDMI receivers, the inclusion of Deep Color seems more marketing point than substance, as the HD DVD spec does not support Deep Color encodes.

The HD-A3 and HD-A35 will be available at retail this October for MSRPs of $299 and $499, respectively, with the HD-A30 set to release in September for an MSRP of $399.

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