"Low Cost Jump to HD HT and Dolby TrueHD"4.0 starson by projectapollo1972
Pros: Close out price, build quality, firmware upgrade, picture quality
Cons: A bit quirky, as most others have discussed; high-rez audio set-up is a guessing game.
Summary: I made the upgrade to HD home theater by buying this unit (close-out on eBay for $385 shipped) paired with the new Mitsubishi HD1000U high-def 720p projector (only $875 from The Projector Place, shipped -- see my review of this unit on CNET, as well.) Bought a 25' HDMI cable on eBay for under $20. Well, for $1260 I got the HD player and projector - made the leap to a 92" screen HD HT -- and the results are simply amazing.
Yes, this player is slow -- but by the time I'm done fiddling with my popcorn and drinks, the movie is loaded. Sure beats watching 20 minutes of trailers at the theater. And yes, the remote is annoying, but that is nit-picking in my view.
I did a lot of research on the blu-ray and HD-DVD world and here is why I bought this player: My investment is only $385 which gets me entry into the HD HT world with a high-quality player. Even if blu-ray wins, I'm not out very much at all. And the blu-ray players are still way too expensive. I chose this first gen Toshiba because of the close-out pricing, build quality, 5.1 analog audio outs (very important to me), and 5-free HD-DVD offer from Toshiba (after 3/1/07). Netflix is my source for HD-DVDs, so I'm not yet investing in an HD-DVD library. Netflix is just outstanding in this regard.
The projector/player combo has worked perfectly. I've had 2 HD-DVDs not work properly, but I think its because I had not upgraded the players firmware to 2.0 -- which I have now done.
Regarding the 5.1 Audio: My HT set-up has a very high end audio system, so I wanted to make sure my new HD player was up to the task. Only the Toshibas give you access to on-board decoding of the new Dolby Thue HD sound (and the second gen HDA2 does not.) I surely did not want to have to replace my HT receiver - so, on-board player decoding was a must for me. As best I can tell, no blu-ray player offers this even at their highest end product. The only low cost player with this capability is the HD XA1. The HDA2 dropped these 5.1 analog outs and the HDXA2 is too expensive for me. So, if you want cheap access to the new Dolby TrueHD with your legacy HT receiver, you really only have one player to chose from....this is it. I've fiddled with the sound set-up on this player quite a bit -- and the player does not give you much feedback on what kind of audio it is processing for you. I ended up leaving the bass management alone in the player (all speakers set to large) -- and going with a pure 5.1 analog out to my receivers 5.1 ins (that go straight to the amp section without any A-to-D or other bass management). So, my signal path is very simple, relying on the player to do the high-rez D-to-A converting. I'm very happy with the results, but still need to do more investigating. The big down-side for me is that I've had to relinquish my 5.1 ins on the receiver to this player -- and give up on my DVD-Audio and SACD play back capability, at least for now. The price of early adoption, I guess.
Bottom-Line: If you are looking to get into HD HT, I recommend this player over all the others based on price (close-out under $400) and feature set (on-board Dolby TrueHD decoding) and 5 free HD DVDs (after 3/1/07) from Toshiba, and HD DVD title availability from Netflix. Low investment, high reward. Pair it with the low-cost Mitsubishi HD1000U projector, and you have yourself a fantastic HD HT upgrade path for a very low price. The price of early adoption just got afforable.
For you audio freaks out there -- my HT system is 5 matched JBL studio monitors (4212A's, 3-ways with 12" woofer), a passive JBL 15" sub, a Buttkicker LFE device (very very cool device), Harmon Kardon HT receiver. I use seperate power amps (Adcom GFA 555's) for the fronts and the sub (bridged mono for 600 watts) -- and use the on-board amps for the surrounds. I use the Harmon Kardon's "direct 6 channel in" analog playback mode with this Toshiba player for the simplest signal path -- only need to push the sub channel up a few steps in level. Excellent results, so far.