The HD-EP35 is a top-end HD DVD player, although it doesn't replace the, which Toshiba maintains as the top-of-the-range model, and features better upscaling and gold-plated output contacts.
The EP35 is, however, a very well-specified player and it's not as expensive as the XE1, so if you need many high-end features but want to pay a mid-range price, this is probably the player for you. It's available online for around £270, a snip compared to the XE1's eye-watering £450.
The EP35 looks the same as the slightly cheaper , for the most part. There are only really two cosmetic differences, the first being an illuminated HD DVD logo that glows blue when you play a disc. This is pretty enough, but it's a very minor update. The second is some silver trim down the left and right sides.
If the blue HD DVD logo bothers you, it can be turned off by pressing the dimmer button on the remote control. Speaking of the remote, this is the same model that comes with the HD-E1, rather than the shorter one supplied with the EP30. It does its job nicely, and we have no complaints to make about it.
To the rear, there is one important addition -- analogue 5.1 surround-sound outputs. This is important for one main reason: getting the best surround-sound quality without having to buy a whole new surround-sound decoder. This is very important for people who bought high-end systems before HDMI became commonplace.
Out of the box the EP35 supports the 24p picture mode, which allows films to be played from HD DVDs at their native frame rate. This is a great feature, but it won't work with your standard DVD collection. Indeed, if you watch a PAL DVD in the EP35 with the 24p mode on, you'll see some rather unpleasant juddering take place. This is easy enough to sort through the picture menus, but we're baffled as to why the EP35 doesn't detect PAL DVDs automatically and switch the mode off.
We love having analogue 5.1 audio outputs -- it means everyone can hook their system up to a compatible amp without spending more money on a new sound system. This is a good feature, and one we'd like to see on all high-definition players.
We're going to have a grumble here about one feature we think should be included, namely DivX and Xvid playback. With both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 supporting playback of these formats, it seems utterly ridiculous that HD DVD players don't do what virtually every DVD player released in the last two years can manage. While we're moaning, how about giving up on this DVD region-coding nonsense too? Seriously, if HD DVD can manage to be region-free, is it really necessary to persecute those of us that have region 1 DVDs in our collections?