Putting the “tosh” in Toshiba
Well, I got home today from work (and from visiting my granny, who is seriously ill) to find that my Toshiba HD-EP30 had arrived from Amazon.co.uk. After extracting the two free HD DVDs (300 and The Bourne Supremacy), I hooked the thing up and decided to give it a whirl.
Physically speaking at any rate, it’s an improvement on my first HD DVD player, the venerable HD-A1. It’s about half the height, and weighs significantly less. Also, from a standpoint of pure convenience, because this is a European model, it doesn’t require a step-down transformer. (Good old HD DVD and its lack of region coding!) That’s about where the differences end, though, as the Windows CE-based interface is virtually identical, and it takes almost as long as its predecessor to power up and load discs. The Xbox 360 add-on, in comparison, was positively sprightly.
Of far greater concern than the speed, however, is the issue of image quality. When I switched the machine on, my first port of call was the picture menu to change the output mode from 1080i to 1080p. As soon as I popped in my first disc (The Bourne Ultimatum, which I hope to finally get reviewed by the beginning of next week), I knew something was up. The Bourne Ultimatum is one of the best-looking discs released on either format - an extremely detailed encode with no sign of artificial sharpening or detail reduction, and yet, on the HD-EP30, there was ringing in abundance, and a distinct lack of fine detail. A couple more high quality HD DVDs later, and I ruled out any possibility of the discs themselves being at fault.
Lyris suggested that the problem might be the 1080p output. Rather predictably, he was right: setting the output to 1080i immediately resolved the ringing problem and returned the detail to its rightful place. All well and good - but I paid for a device with 1080p output, and 1080p24 output at that. Why should I have to limit myself to 1080i60 just because Microsoft and Toshiba couldn’t get their acts together? Lyris’ projector correctly resolves 1080i film mode, but it means we’re still stuck with 60 Hz output rather than pure 24p, resulting in the infamous 3:2 pull-down judder that many viewers raised on a lifetime of PAL material find extremely difficult to ignore when watching NTSC content.
So, what do I do now? Do I attempt to return the player and attempt to explain to Amazon that I don’t want it because its 1080p output introduces ringing? (Somehow, I don’t think there’s an option that quite fits that description on their returns form.) Is there even any point? For all I know, all Toshiba’s standalone players could exhibit this problem. I’ve spent the last half-hour on Google and have yet to come across a single review or report that mentions the bug, so I have no realistic way of knowing whether I’d be any better off with one of the other 1080p-capable models.
Urgh! This just makes me respect Sony’s Playstation 3 all the more.
Update, February 25th, 2007 09:01 PM: I updated the firmware to version 2.0 at the recommendation of others. Alas, the image quality is still as rotten as ever. See photographic evidence of the disgrace at Lyris Lite.