HD DVD is undoubtedly suffering from a lack of support, both from movie studios and hardware manufacturers not called Toshiba. Tosh is totally committed to its format, however, and intends to release two interesting and important updates in the coming months to keep its players on top of their game.
The first of these firmware upgrades, available now, adds Web interactivity to the players. This is becoming more important, because there are a couple of HD DVD releases that have some cool Internet functionality. Blood Diamond, for example, which had a very standard Blu-ray release, has online real-time voting built-in, as well as interactive maps of conflicts in Africa, to further illustrate the real-world issues the movie highlights. These both access Web content provided by Warner Bros.
The second update, due later in the summer, will enable Toshiba's current HD DVD players, namely the HD-E1 and HD-XE1, to play movies back in the much-hyped 24p format. If you're a film fan, 24p means that you'll no longer have the 4 per cent PAL speed-up that has plagued DVDs for years, because film runs slightly slower than video, and the conversion meant an unnatura- sounding movie experience. It may not have bothered you, but some people really hate it.
As much as Blu-ray seems to have developed a solid lead in the next-generation format war, we still think there's some life in HD DVD. It's a simple format after all, directly related to its predecessor DVD, and the image and sound quality we've seen so far has been superb.
Many people have been quick to write off HD DVD recently, especially given the slow first quarter the format had. These announcements show that Toshiba remains committed to the format and that even older players can have new features. This is also a kick to Blu-ray, which doesn't have any meaningful interactivity yet -- and even when it is introduced, many existing players won't support it.
To get these updates your player will need to be connected to the Internet via its built-in Ethernet port, or you can request an upgrade disc be sent to you in the post. -Ian Morris