Toshiba's XDE DVD players won't hurt Blu-ray Disc

By , IDG News Service |  Personal Tech, DVD, HD

When Toshiba announced its new XDE DVD player promising it could convert the picture quality of standard DVDs up to the HD, industry watchers took note.

The company has been a champion of video technologies for years and its own high definition disc standard, HD DVD (high definition DVD), had been beaten as the HD successor to DVDs earlier in the year by Sony's Blu-ray Disc standard.

It looked like maybe the XDE DVD player was a way for Toshiba to take some revenge on Sony.

Toshiba has already announced a loss of ¥108.5 billion (US$992.2 million) related to its withdrawal from the HD DVD business and said it expects further losses.

But despite some nice technology aboard the XDE DVD player and a lower price, there are several reasons to believe it won't hurt Blu-ray Disc at all.

"The impact will likely be minimal," said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at The NPD Group.

"There is now great industry support behind Blu-ray and the format is moving forward with enhancements that move beyond high-definition such as the BD-Live spec that integrates Internet connectivity options with the disc," he said.

One of the main problems is that DVD technology simply does not measure up to Blu-ray Disc. A person buying an XDE DVD player or any other upconverting DVD player is really making a choice to accept a nice visual experience at a lower cost.

"The reality is that when you start with standard definition, there's only so much you can do to it to make it look better at a higher resolution," said Jake Richter, analyst at Jon Peddie Research.

"The best upscaling technology in the world can't make average quality standard definition content look like high quality HD content because the content just isn't there," he added.

Still, Toshiba's new player strikes a few chords on the economic front.

Pinched by high gas prices, a declining housing market and a greater jobless rate than in the past few years, people may choose to buy DVD upconverters so they can keep using DVD collections they've spent years building.

XDE DVD players cost about half the price of a Blu-ray Disc player.

"Blu-ray is too expensive," said Michelle Abraham, principal analyst at In-Stat. Consumers are interested in Blu-ray Disc, but they are looking more at players that cost less than US$200, she said.

XDE DVD players come with a suggested price of $149.99, which while lower than Blu-ray Disc player prices, is higher than many other DVD players that also upconvert picture quality.

Sony's DVP NS700H/B is also billed as a DVD upconverter that raises picture quality to the best HD levels, but it only costs $79.99, according to Sony.

One advantage the XDE DVD player has over other upconverters is the ability to detect what kind of HDTV it's being used on, and upconvert DVD pictures to the same quality as the TV, 720p/1080i or 1080p.

And there is a wide divergence in quality among DVD players that claim to raise DVD picture quality to high definition.

"Not all up-converters are equal," said Carl Gressum, principal advisor at Premonvision.

"There are different quality levels, as the up-converter guesses how the DVD would look in 720/1080p. A more advanced converter will therefore provide better estimates and therefore its replication will be closer to a native 1080p source," he said.

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