It seemed like a bit of a time warp the last time I tried a high-definition DVD player. That first-generation player was like something from the former Soviet Unionbig, slow, and prone to unexplained stoppages. A second-gen player from Toshiba is a vast improvement.
The first round of HD DVD players took a full two minutes to play a diskfrom powering on to when the first image appeared on the screen. The newer Toshiba HD-A2 takes about a quarter of that. The new player is also sleek enough to pass as a DVD playerunlike its predecessor, which was big enough to pass as a 1970s tube amplifier.
Both deliver the sharp images and surround sound that are the joy of high-definition viewing. They top out at a resolution of 1080i, though Toshiba has said it'll soon sell a player that can do 1080p, for those with a TV set that can handle it and a set of eyes that can tell the difference.
The new player still suffers too many glitches in viewingit'll stop unexpectedly, but not as often as the original model. It also has an active Ethernet port on the back for downloading updates that might fix that sort of shortcoming.
It's still too early for these players to become popular, particularly because we don't know if HD DVD or Blu-Ray technology will win the high-def war. And it's too much to gamble at today's pricesthe HD-A2 costs about $400 online. Maybe I'd pay half that, and only then because I don't have to buy the movies, as Netflix and Blockbuster now carry disks in high-def formats. So we can only hope the price will come down in future generations as fast as the size has.