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Toshiba HD-EP35: HD DVD with all the trimmings

The latest addition to the HD DVD family is the Toshiba HD-EP35, a funky new 1080p player with a few extra features for the high-end living room, including a fancy blue HD DVD logo

The Toshiba HD-EP35 is an anomaly: it's a high-end HD DVD player, but it doesn't actually replace the old top-of the-range Toshiba machine, the HD-XE1. Instead, it sits between the XE1 and the EP30, with some features of both.

Toshiba's HD DVD player line-up can be confusing, so to clear the situation up, here's a run-through of where the players sit, and how much they cost:

HD-E1, £180: Bottom of the range, up to 1080i output
HD-EP30, £200: Mid-range player, does 1080p and 24fps
HD-EP35, £270: Upper-mid-range, does 1080p/24 and has analogue 5.1 audio outputs
HD-XE1, £450: Top of the range, has better upscaling hardware for DVDs, gold-plated analogue 5.1 audio outputs, weighs as much as a tank

There was a player called the EP10, which was basically an E1 with 1080p output -- don't ask us what happened to it, we've got no idea. It had limited availability for a while, but has since been superseded by the EP30.

Now we've cleared that up, let's discuss the EP35. It's a decent looking machine -- the styling is identical to the EP30, but it has the added bonus of an HD DVD logo that glows blue when you turn it on.

Round the back, you'll find the usual HDMI socket, digital optical audio out and stereo RCA audio outputs. The main advantage of the EP35 over the EP30 is that it has analogue audio outputs, which enable it to pass uncompressed 5.1 surround sound to a surround-sound amplifier. This is handy if your surround-sound system doesn't support HDMI or can't decode Dolby TrueHD or DTS MA.

You'll also find the usual Ethernet port round the back, for updating the player via the Internet, and accessing HD DVDs' online functionality. We're very keen on this, because it's something movie studios are starting to make use of.

If you buy the EP35 now, you'll also find yourself able to claim five free HD DVDs, and there's a very real chance you'll get two free movies in the box as well. All-in-all, a pretty sweet deal if you're looking to get into HD DVD before Christmas. -Ian Morris