It's no secret: we've been on the edges of our seats, waiting for the 1080p HD DVD player from Toshiba, for a while now. Finally, Crave is pleased to announce, the HD-XE1 is in the office.
Until now, only having a 1080i player -- the-- hasn't really been a huge problem because most of the televisions we've been looking at have only been 720p. This is changing though -- we're seeing an increasing number of 1080p screens so we need more top-notch, 'full HD' viewing material.
Aside from being a 1080p player, the HD-XE1 also supports Dolby True HD, which should offer the highest quality, uncompressed digital audio. There's also the Ethernet socket for getting extra content and player updates over the Internet -- a nice feature and one that we hope to see exploited in the future.
In terms of styling, the HD-XE1 is similar to the HD-E1 -- it has the same retro look, which reminds us of an 80s VHS player. It also has a ridiculously simple display, which harks back to a time when LCDs didn't do colour. None of this puts us off, though -- it looks smart and feels like it would survive a fairly large explosion. There's also a solid-feeling flap at the bottom of the player that conceals some basic playback controls, and a large blue light, which seems to have no purpose at all.
The remote control is fantastic -- it feels like you could beat King Kong to death with it. It's sturdy, heavy and well-built, and what's more, when you press a button it lights up like a Christmas tree.
A quick test with some of our favourite HD DVDs proved that this player was well worth the wait. Superman Returns looks awesome and watching it on a 40-inch screen was a cinematic experience. Happy Gilmore also blew our socks off -- the picture was bright and colourful with amazing sharpness.
You should be able to find the HD-XE1 online for about £550. The bad news for Crave is that Toshiba want this one back sometime soon… -IM
Update: We now have aof the Toshiba HD-XE1 live in our Reviews channel.