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Deal or no deal? HD DVD player cracks $200 barrier

The price for Toshiba's HD-A2 HD DVD player has dipped below $200 at, Circuit City, and Wal-Mart Stores. Is that the magic price point?

Toshiba's entry-level HD-A2: yours for $198. Toshiba

I know that no one's going to be terribly shocked by this, but I thought I'd point it out, just in case you missed it. Engadget HD, after another stroll through AVS Forum's message boards, is reporting on how Circuit City, Wal-Mart Stores, and have reduced the price of Toshiba's HD-A2 HD DVD player to $198 (Amazon's deal includes free shipping).

This kind of price drop on standalone HD DVD players has been widely expected, and we think you may see $180 by Black Friday. Of course, if you're an Xbox 360 owner, you can pick up the Xbox 360 HD DVD Player for $180 right now. But we're talking standalone player here, and the HD-A2's as cheap as you get.

Other bloggers have pointed out that Toshiba's entry-level model only does 720p/1080i, not 1080p. But that's not really the end of the world, since it's really hard to tell the difference between 1080p and 720p/1080i, anyway, especially if your TV doesn't do 1080p (insert wink).

The big question is whether $200 (or $180, for that matter) is the magic price point that's going to make HD DVD players fly off the shelves this holiday season and leave Blu-ray Disc backers wondering how they squandered the big lead. Or can Sony hold its own with its $400 PlayStation 3 and watch as the price for HD DVD players erodes further? Who's holding out for $100? $79? $49? Free?