Editors' note: The Toshiba HD-D2 is virtually identical to the Toshiba HD-A2. The review and images below are taken from our HD-A2 review, but they accurately reflect the capabilities of the HD-D2, as the two products are essentially the same.
So far our biggest knock on dedicated players of HD DVD and Blu-ray discs has been that price puts them out of reach of the average consumer. HD DVD players have always been less expensive than Blu-ray players, however. The first-generation Toshiba HD-A1, for example, debuted at half the price of the least expensive first-gen standalone Blu-ray players. Now Toshiba has rolled out its second-generation line of HD DVD players, and the least expensive member, the HD-D2, continues the trend. Its street price is near the $300 mark, placing it even closer to affordability for people looking to invest in a high-definition disc format. The HD-D2 lacks some of the features of the step-up HD-XA2, like 1080p output and multichannel analog outputs. On the other hand, the HD-D2 offers the best price-to-performance ratio of any of the standalone high-definition disc players, with excellent image quality on HD DVD discs, and onboard Dolby TrueHD decoding. We can't give the HD-D2 our unqualified support--there's still too much uncertainty in the ongoing format war--but overall it's an excellent value for budget-minded early adopters.
The design of the HD-D2 is a welcome upgrade over the bulky, industrial-looking HD-A1. The HD-D2 has a comparatively slim chassis, with measurements coming in at about 2.5 inches high, 17 inches wide, and 13.5 inches deep--a full inch and a half shorter than the A1. The front panel is glossy black and sloped forward, which gives it a unique look among more boxy components. To the far left is the Power button, illuminated by a blue light when it's on and a red light when it's off--unfortunately it can't be dimmed. To the far right is the LED display, which, thankfully, can be dimmed or even shut off if you're striving to limit light sources. The bottom third of the player contains a flip-down panel; underneath are some additional front-panel controls such as Play, Stop, and chapter forward/backward buttons. There are also two USB-like "extension ports" that don't have any use as far as we know.
A big plus in our book is that the HD-D2's remote is completely different than the HD-A1's. Instead of the long, metallic wand that became the ire of many an HD DVD early adopter, the HD-D2's clicker has a more traditional design. Toward the center of the remote is the navigation pad, which also has diagonal buttons, for some of the more advanced interactive features on HD DVDs and menus. The rest of the controls are adequately placed, although we would have liked to see more button differentiation. To be fair, the HD-D2's remote is probably average at best; it just seems a lot better when compared to the remote included with the HD-A1 and the step-up HD-XA2.
The main feature of the HD-D2 is that it can play HD DVD discs, and like all other next-gen players it's also capable of playing standard DVDs. Unlike some first generation Blu-ray players, it can play standard audio CDs, although it couldn't handle CDs and DVDs with MP3s or JPEGs on them.
The HD-D2 offers the same well-rounded soundtrack support we've come to expect from Toshiba's HD DVD players. It has onboard decoding for standard Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, and it also has onboard decoding for the two new high-resolution Dolby formats: Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD. In other words, it can send those new soundtracks to a compatible AV receiver or processor via HDMI as a PCM stream, which most HDMI-equipped receivers can handle. There is no onboard decoding for DTS-HD Master or DTS-HD High Resolution, but the HD-D2 can extract the "core" soundtrack from those formats, which is essentially just a standard DTS soundtrack. Like all current high-def disc players, whether HD DVD or Blu-ray, the HD-D2 is unable to send any of the high-resolution soundtracks to brand-new TrueHD- and DTS-HD-compatible receivers in bit stream format.
The HD-D2's connectivity is reasonably complete, although it's missing some step-ups found on the HD-XA2. For video, there's an HDMI output that is capable of outputting high-definition video in resolution up to 1080i. There's also a component video output, along with a standard AV with S-Video output. For audio, the HDMI output is capable of transmitting multichannel high-resolution audio. There's also an optical digital-audio output that can handle standard Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, as well as a standard analog stereo output. Rounding out the rest of the connectivity is an Ethernet jack, which can conveniently be used to upgrade the firmware on the HD-D2.