The world might be slowly bowing towards Blu-ray, but that hasn't stopped Toshiba releasing its second HD DVD player in the UK. This time it’s the company's flagship model, the HD-XE1. But is it any good? We take a closer look.



The HD-XE1 is the company older brother to its HD-E1 we reviewed before Christmas. The main new feature to get excited about is the 1080p true HD support rather than just 720p or 1080i as in the previous player.

That sounds important and is - if you have the TV to match it, however anyone opting to watch this on a smaller screen than 40-inches isn't going to see the difference.

That aside, speed, which plagued the performance of the HD-E1 has also been improved and although the drive bay still takes a little time to eject (considerably longer than DVD) its also considerably faster than the HD-E1.

Other editions to the player include the support of the 1.3 HDMI standard.

So what? Well to you and me this means that the player has the ability to transfer images to a TV at a higher speed and therefore supposedly stops picture judder. In our viewing we experienced no picture judder at all, suggesting that the technology works, but then we experience no picture judder (to our knowledge) on our upscaling Samsung standard definition DVD player that cost us £80.

So to picture quality. As you would expect for a next generation offering over current technology, it's outstanding. We watched King Kong and Troy (I know the things we put ourselves through for you) and compared to watching a standard version of the fim via an upscaling DVD there is a noticeable difference in picture quality, however there isn’t that much noticeable difference over Microsoft's HD DVD bolt-on drive apart from the noise (ie sound not picture) levels, which is a quarter of the price.

Verdict

The Toshiba HD-XE1 is a very formidable player that offers plenty to the home cinema enthusiast looking for the top of the range performance.



The picture quality is excellent and the price point is still cheaper than Samsung's standalone player even after it after a launch price drop, however it is still more expensive than Sony's PlayStation 3 console which launches this month.

Of course, and this is getting a bit dull, there is the format war to contend with and this will probably taint your choice on this over a Blu-ray player.

Format war aside, if there are movies that you want to watch on HD DVD this will give you the result you are looking for, and should see you through the next 12 months as more and more manufacturers release 1080p ready televisions, however if you don't have a 1080p supporting television, and chances are, unless you bought it in the last 6 months you don't, then the company's alternative offering, the HD-E1 is the more viable and affordable choice.

Those strapped for cash, but wishing to embrace the next generation should, if you have an Xbox 360 and don't mind the noise (which you probably do), opt for the Xbox 360 HD DVD drive and save yourself a heap of cash at the same time.

However if you want top of the range performance from HD DVD this is the model to do it with.