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Toshiba unveils 3rd generation HD DVD players

Toshiba has announced a new line of entry-level, mid-range and high-end players that will retail for under $500.

The first new model is the entry-level HD-A3. Toshiba didn't divulge many details on the HD-A3 other than the fact that it features 1080i output. The mid-range HD-A30 adds support for 1080p output along with what Toshiba calls "CE-Link" or HDMI-CEC. CE-Link allows for a two-way connection between the HD DVD player and TV over HMDI.

The high-end HD-A35 also features 1080p support and CE-Link, but also adds support for Deep Color over HDMI, 5.1 channel analog audio output and High Bit Rate 7.1 Audio over HDMI.

All three players feature a slimmer exterior design with rounded edges and a high-gloss black finish. According to Toshiba, the third generation players are half as tall as the first generation units.

"With a majority market share in unit sales of next-generation DVD players, consumers are speaking loud and clear, and they are adopting HD DVD as their HD movie format of choice," said Jodi Sally, VP of Marketing for Toshiba's Digital A/V Group. "Because of the proven manufacturing efficiencies of the HD DVD format, Toshiba can bring this level of innovation in technology to a new generation of players with cutting-edge functionality at affordable prices."

Toshiba's HD-A30 will be available in September at a price of $399.99. The HD-A3 and HD-A35 will be available in October with price tags of $299.99 and $499.99 respectively.

In response to Toshiba’s announcement, the Blu-ray camp is speaking out and claiming that cheaper players will not help win the format war.

Pioneer’s Andy Parsons, spokesperson for the Blu-ray Disc Association, said, “Without the content I just can’t see, no matter how inexpensive their players are, how they are going to build (HD DVD) into a mass market format. If you can’t watch Disney films or Spider-Man on your inexpensive Toshiba player, I can’t see how (price) is going to make much difference.”

Blu-ray still has most of the studio support, which Parsons states is crucial in what he describes is a content-driven business. However, Blu-ray hasn’t ruled out competing price cuts from Blu-ray manufacturers as a spokesman said, “If pricing of hardware becomes a relevant factor as we move further into this early adopter phase then I’m certain manufacturers will respond accordingly.”

Story filed 13.08.07

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