Toshiba's HD-A1 has HDMI issues

Toshiba's HD-A1 has HDMI issues

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
2 min read
When we reported a few problems with an "HDMI error" in our , we were contacted by representatives of HDMI LLC, the licensing agent behind the High-Definition Multimedia Interface, who expressed concerns about the reports. We'd met previously with representatives from SimplayHD, a new HDMI testing subsidiary of HDMI chip maker Silicon Image, and we all agreed it would be a good idea to put the HD-A1 through their rigorous testing procedure.

A few days later, the rep from SimplayHD got back to us with the results, and they're not pretty. Apparently the Toshiba HD-A1's HDMI interface, which provides the highest video quality among the player's outputs, is much more susceptible to errors than any HDMI source should be. Specifically, numerous real-world scenarios can induce the "HDMI error" readout we saw on the Toshiba (always accompanied by a lack of any picture on the TV's screen), which sometimes necessitates either restarting the player completely or disconnecting and reconnecting the HDMI cable, but always interrupts playback. Here's an excerpt:

The executive summary is that the Toshiba player appears to be able to handle only two of the many different allowed TV power-on/active states: 1) when TV is fully on with the HDMI input selected and fully active, 2) when HDMI signals effectively indicate the cable has been physically disconnected. The player goes into the Error state whenever it sees the TV's HDMI port in any other kind of standby or interrupted state, which unfortunately, are states seen in the majority of the TVs on the market.
In other words, you could get the error and possibly cause the player to crash by simply powering on the TV after the HD-DVD player, by switching inputs on the TV or on an HDMI switching A/V receiver connected to the TV, or even by powering on another piece of gear connected to the same switcher as the player. Of course, many HDMI displays and switchers operate differently, so they may not cause the error while others do.

It's possible that Toshiba will release a new firmware update for its HD-DVD players, which hopefully will address the issues and make its HDMI input less touchy. Of course, all of these problems are exacerbated by the fact that the player takes a minute or more to even turn on, so recovering from crashes is particularly tedious.

A big thanks to SimplayHD for sharing its test results with us.

More resources:

  • Toshiba HD-A1 review
  • Discussion: HDMI: headache or problem-solver?
  • Blog: HDMI required to guarantee full resolution
  • DVD 2.0: HD-DVD and Blu-ray