Monday, November 26, 2007

Gear: Toshiba HD-A3

I cracked.

I'm not proud to say it, but I've given up on my HD-DVD-on-HTPC experiment. It was fun for a while, getting HD-DVDs to play on the cheap -- Xbox360 HD-DVD drive connected to the HTPC, playing the discs with PowerDVD and output to the HDTV through HDMI -- but sometimes klugey is just klugey and you have to move on.

Things were fine with all discs through the first half of this year, but recently I've been having more and more problems playing HD-DVD rentals from Netflix. Fortunately, I was always able to make them work and I happen to enjoy working through those kind of problems. That is, until Transformers arrived. Whatever they did with that disc simply doesn't like my setup and I was never able to make it work. That seriously pissed me off, since I'm almost sure it has to do with some new quirk of HD-DVD Digital Rights Management (DRM). Goddamn corporations making it so legitimate hardware owners can't view legitimate content...ugh....that's a diatribe for another time.

Anyway, since it finally failed me I've decided I'm sick of futzing around with this setup and it's time for a dedicated set-top box. A couple Fridays ago, Wal-Mart and Best Buy both put the entry-level Toshiba HD-A2 on sale for just $98, apparently trying to move stock to make room for the new HD-A3. Unfortunately, I didn't know about it until it was over. Some other online stores had left-overs in the days after that sale at prices only a little above $98 and I tried grabbing one. They ended up running out of stock as well. Oh well.

Last Wednesday, I received an email from Amazon advertising the HD-A3 for $197 with 10 free HD-DVDs and I jumped on it. Word is that the player is basically the same as the HD-A2, just a refresh of some of the internal components to cut production costs. It differs from the higher end models primarily in that it only outputs video at 1080i as opposed to 1080p. My HDTV is only 1080i, so that's no problem for me. The 10 free discs includes the two in the HD-A3 box (300 and The Bourne Identity), 3 immediately free from Amazon (from a selection of about 15), and the on-going Toshiba promotion for 5 free with a mail-in rebate. Seemed too good to pass up so I went with it.

It should be here sometime this week and I'll have another post talking about my experience with my new toy.

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