I bought the HD-A2 about a month ago.
I was an early adopter of DVD when it was released, there was a small spinner rack in the back corner of the store with DVDs, everything else was just VHS or the occasional Laserdisc.
It has been over 3 years since I first migrated to HDTV, I've got HDTVs in all major rooms, so it was only a matter of time before I upgraded to the next generation. Then came the question of whether to get HD DVD or Blu Ray. I initially had wanted HD DVD, then wavered thinking maybe I'd get a Blu Ray for a matter of time, then decided upon the HD-A2 when I had a coupon to purchase one and that, combined with the 5 free movies swayed my decision.
I'd initially thought about purchasing the first generation A1 for its analog output for 5.1 surround. Then I decided eventually I'll be upgrading the receiver in the bedroom where I use this, so why get the first generation one? I still may if I can get another cheap one but that is another story.
The biggest worry with purchasing these is the format war between HD DVD and Blu Ray. I don't see Sony succeeding with this one for one simple reason, cost. I think the same thing that did in Beta will spell the death of Blu Ray, at least as a movie format. The bulk majority of Blu Ray players sold are simply PS3s. How many PS3s are being used for movie viewing or even on HDTVs? People buy an HD DVD for the sole purpose of watching movies, not simply because its part of a game console (even though an add on is available for the Xbox 360). The buyer knows what it is for and uses it as such. The HD DVD players are dropping in cost, much quicker than Blu Ray, and there are already Chinese players in the works which will drive down costs even more.
So if thats the case why buy an HD-A2 now? Simple, get in and enjoy. As I learned with my first DVD player, the build quality seems to go down as generations of the products progress so why not buy a decent one now? Plus you can enjoy it and start collecting your movies while everyone else is still in the dark.
I purchased the A2 because I'm using this with an LCD flat panel (Ilo 3200 purchased over a year and a half ago) in my bedroom home theater system. I don't need 1080p output for this TV as it does not support it. So I didn't wish to waste the extra cost with something that won't do me any good. I hooked the TV up to the HDMI port on this TV (every other input is used by another device save for VGA, so this worked perfectly).
I've noticed no glitches using the HDMI connection and this TV certainly is too old to support the newer HDMI standards. I have however encountered a few operation glitches that may be corrected in later firmware releases. I've had it freeze when going back to the Universal screen saver. I've had it freeze once during playback of a title (which required me to unplug the player to get it to respond). This was not an issue with the title since I've watched it since and noticed no problems.
Picture quality of the discs itself is generally quite good. Some of the better filmed stuff is absolutely stunning. I can watch some of these movies over and over again simply because of the picture. Others are so so. Much like DVD or Laserdisc, a lot probably has to do with the mastering and how good the original film was filmed. I waited until I'd sampled enough movies to get a general idea of how it is before writing the review, but even old movies can look absolutely beautiful. But a new movie can look equally good. And a new movie can also look so so. So much of this is up in the air you'd almost have to view them to get an idea, but movies like Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift, or Corpse Bride are so amazing you'll marvel at the picture quality.
What I do like is, when properly done, unlike DVD you'll notice none of the annoying compression artifacts you're used to with DVD. It will likely look much crisper. Fans of the old Laserdisc format due to the lack of compression artifacts probably will like this as they are way fewer (mainly noticable in titles with poor transfers and a likely result of the poor transfer more than the format itself). Colors and contrast are much better seems there is more color depth more punchiness to the picture and it gives a more realistic fee, you get more of that real movie feel from these than you're used to in your home theater.
Sound is good. I'm not even using the full potential here as I've yet to upgrade the HT receiver here in the bedroom, but I am using good speakers and the sound quality is excellent. You're certainly not losing anything from DVD and depending on your sound equipment you'll probably gain something with the extra channels.
As a standard DVD player it does good. While no DVD player I've used, upconverting, progressive scan or otherwise has come to offer the picture quality of my old ProScan which does a better job of creating a wider contrast than I've experienced with anything up until HD DVDs themselves, this player is more than adequate for upconverting your old DVDs.
The remote is rather straightforward but utilitarian. The buttons are adequately spaced and easy enough to learn to use but it is certainly not easy to read in the dark.
My advice, don't hold out, buy it now and take advantage of the free movie offers. While the cost may come down those free movies will add up to more than you're likely to save in the near term. This player would be the logical choice for anyone who doesn't have a 1080p TV and just wants to experience what an HD DVD can do on their present setup at the best possible cost. You'll likely enjoy it, in a month I've racked up 16 movies, not including the free ones, more than I've purchased with any format in that short a period, and once you see the picture you'll be doing the same.
I have upgraded the firmware for this player which is a fairly simple process. The player still has little glitches here and there with occasional movies (I own about 50 movies as of now), so the latest firmware has not ironed this out. I've had a chance to compare it to a first generation unit (I purchased two cheaply and decided to use them in other rooms). The A2 loads much quicker than the first generation units, doesn't really have any added problems (each generation has a few quirks, hopefully next time around Toshiba will iron out some more of the issues in the firmware update).
Toshiba also recently announced the lowering of the MSRP of their HD DVD players, which in my opinion makes them an even better deal than when I bought this, so operational glithes aside, which I believe they will be able to iron out in the firmware, I'd be more inclined to recommend it now that the price is lower.
I now own about 94 movies for this player. I finally received my 5 free HD DVDs as well, that took quite a while, something to keep in mind if buying to take advantage of that promotion, took about 10 weeks. Overall I have experienced very few operational glitches, especially since Toshiba sent another firmware update disc relatively recently. I have not had a freeze or lockup since the most recent update. Toshiba seems to have fixed most of the operational glitches, with the price likely to be low now that the A3 has been announced as a sucessor, it might be a good time to pick one of these up as they've had many sales on them in the past few weeks.
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Amount Paid (US$): 345