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HD DVD players arriving in March, says Toshiba

Toshiba has announced plans to launch its first HD DVD players in March, its next move in the bitter standards battle with Sony's rival Blu-ray format

Toshiba has been shouting about the HD DVD format for a while, fighting off Sony's rival Blu-ray in a bitter standards war. Toshiba's format is supposedly cheaper to produce and has the backing of Microsoft, but so far we've yet to see a non-prototype HD DVD player. Today at CES, Toshiba showed off not one but two new players, one designed to hit the mainstream market, and one hoping to attract the flush, high-end buyer.

The cheapest way to get HD DVD will be the HD-A1, which costs $499 (£285 -- but expect to pay more once it's crossed the Atlantic) and will be released as soon as March. It will play back HD DVDs in 720p and 1080i formats, which will surely disappoint those holding off for high-quality 1080p TVs.

The good news is that the player will also upscale standard DVDs to these resolutions, and the player supports HDMI for a crystal-clear video and audio. The player also has USB support, which a Toshiba bigwig said was for 'gamepads'. Perhaps a greater level of interactivity can be expected from HD DVD discs, but we doubt Microsoft and Sony will have anything to worry about.

The higher-spec HD-XA1 is slightly better looking and has a backlit remote, but not much else to justify its $799 price tag. The new high-end Qosmio laptop will also ship with an HD DVD drive, so the reality of high-definition movies on the train may only be a few months away. -GC

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