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First Time User Review HD-XA2 (BD comparison)

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Old 01-30-2007, 05:08 PM   #1  
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Default First Time User Review HD-XA2 (BD comparison)

I Just got this player about 3 hours ago. As some may know, I previously had a Samsung BD-P1000, which I returned. I didn't make it to the store last night to pick up any HD DVD's, so this first part of my review will be an overall comparison between the 2 players based on quality, etc., and also a comparison on SD DVD playback.

First, I should start with the negative. The only major thing that I found that this player lacked compared to the BD-P1000 is that there is no input for SD cards. That was a cool feature on the Samsung, because you could slide the SD card out of a digital camera and pop it in the BD player to use your monitor for photograph slideshows. Most people probably don't care, but as I am into photography, I thought that was pretty cool. The second thing I noticed is Toshiba doesn't give you any cables beyond RCA cables. The Samsung included HDMI, S-Video, RCA, and Component cables. Other than that, however, this unit honestly does blow the Samsung away.

So now on to the positives. First off, it is immediately apparent that this is a High-end component. The overall fit and finish of the product, and the feel of the product is extremely impressive. The Samsung was a nice shiney looking unit, but this Toshiba has the look and feel of a high-end receiver, yet it is very sleek also. The materials and overall construction of this Toshiba just puts the Samsung to shame. For instance, on the Samsung, the front panel door just flopped open and snapped shut, yet on this Toshiba the panel drops down nice and smooth just like on my Yamaha RXV Receiver. I don't know the exact weights, but this Toshiba feels at least twice as heavy (I think a lot more actually) than the Samsung did, yet the Toshiba has nearly the same dimensions of the Samsung.

The next thing that really struck me pulling it out of the box was the remote for the unit. Simply put, it most likely the nicest remote I've come across for a DVD player type component. It is completely full functional, extremely heavy, well made, and backlit. It's got a black brushed aluminum casing and the buttons have a polished silver finish. By contrast, the Samsung remote was probably one of the chinsiest controllers I've ever seen, especially for a component in it's price range. Actually, the same goes for the nearly identical remote that came with my Samsung HLS 61" TV. Samsung remotes are junk.

Another immediate thing I liked about this Toshiba over the Samsung was the display lighting. When the Toshiba is in standby, the ring around the power button is lit in red. When the Toshiba is turned on, the ring switches (you guessed it) to blue. A soft blue light also eminates from the bottom of the front panel door and the display is lit in blue as well. I like lights, however, you may not. One ability that the Toshiba has over the Samsung is that all the lighting can be disabled if you choose.

So now onto some of the features I've discovered so far. Basically, the Samsung had very little PQ and SQ features beyond what is standard for nearly any basic DVD player these days. However, this Toshiba honestly blew me away with PQ options. In addition to black level increase, and picture mode settings, it has the same PQ controls that can be found in my display. Contrast, Brightness, Color, Tint, Selective Color Enhancement, Edge Enhancement (2 different levels), and 3 individual noise reduction features (Mosquito, Block, and Random) which can be activate/deactivated separately. This just gives you yet another way to tweak your display to your liking. In fact, I've been trying to get my display dialed in for a week, and I was unable to find satisfaction until I used the controls within the Toshiba in addition to the controls on the display. Also, for the first time I can remember the PQ ACTUALLY DOES look better with all the enhancements and NR features set to on! It is of note that all the NR features are disabled in HD DVD playback automatically.

Now onto the real reason you buy this player, PQ and SQ. First off, in my setup, I ran HDMI from player to display, with optical AND coaxial from player to receiver. My display is 1080p native so I also set the Toshiba to it's max 1080p resolution.

Again, I have no HD DVD's to try at this time, so I popped in SD DVD Pirate's of the Caribbean 2. I chose this film because of all the dark and light scenes, the water, and the special effects. I also thought the soundtrack for the film would be great for the test.
What did I think? In a couple words, HOLY SHIT! Sorry for the profanity, but I think we all can agree that a Holy Shit (HS) moment outdoes a Wow moment any day. The first time I tried the Samsung, it was barely a Wow moment and I had a BD in. The Toshiba gave me a HS moment with just an SD DVD. I was initially more surprised at my Samsungs SD DVD upconversion than I was with it's BD playback, but once I got my display dialed in, BD really did look phenomenal. However, the SD DVD upconversion this Toshiba did was head and shoulders better than the Samsung. Honestly, there were many scenes that I was just amazed. One huge picture quality difference between BD and SD DVD was in water effects. On BD, water looked as if my TV was an aquarium. Water effects on SD DVD in this Toshiba looked very much the same!!! I couldn't get over how clear the picture was, and there were virtually 0 anomolies in the picture that my eye could detect. I don't know what more I can say. Simply put, SD DVD playback looked at least twice as good as any SD DVD image I have ever seen.

To close, I will address the SQ. Honestly, it was just as impressive as the PQ. Another HS moment indeed. Again, the extra SQ features, such as Dynamic Range Control and Dialog Enhancement actually made a positive impact, namely the Dialog Enhancement. I have always thought my center speaker was slightly too small for the rest of my configuration, I just never got around to an upgrade. You can see my speaker configuration below for more information. Anyway, with Dialog Enhancement on, I was no longer dissatisfied with the sound level I was getting out of my center channel speaker. It really did work wonders for me. The overall sound was rich, crisp, and full. Simply put it was the best sound I've ever gotten out of my home theater. I cannot wait for a receiver upgrade so I can try out HDMI sound. I can't imagine?

That concludes my review so far. Currently, I have no regrets over returning my Sammy BD player. This Toshiba is simply one of the most exciting components I've ever purchased. Every review I've read on the product was true. Sometimes when I spend so much on a component ($799), I get a slightly sick feeling over how much I spent. That was not the case with this unit. I actually feel a sense of sheer pride in owning it. I would recommend this unit to ANYONE. My advice is, buy it right this minute if you can afford it now, but if not, purchase it as soon as you find a price on it that matches your wallet. I can't see them improving on this thing by leaps and bounds. It's completely up to date, HDMI 1.3, etc, so you really have nothing to lose whatsoever, and so much to gain if you don't own it. I cannot believe it was only $65 more than that Samsung BD-P1000.

Now I am off to pick up a few HD DVD titles and possibly a set of 5.1 analog connections. I will give a continued review on it's HD DVD and audio CD playback abilities at my next opportunity. In the meantime, if anyone has any questions, just throw them out there and I'll answer them.

The score so far:
Samsung BD-P1000=wow(slightly)
Toshiba HD-XA2=HOLY SHIT!!!!

p.s. I am still format neutral, but I honestly don't know why anymore.

Last edited by El Despairado; 01-30-2007 at 05:25 PM..
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Old 01-30-2007, 05:24 PM   #2  
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Nice review! I have on eof these babies too and love it. I don't mind the lack of the SD or CF inputs since the PS3 has those and, if I remember right, the XA2 has USB inputs allowing flash memory sticks to be used. I can see how that could be a nice feature though.

Like you, that blue light in the lower front center of the unit is impressive... just screams COOLNESS!
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Old 01-30-2007, 06:09 PM   #3  
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Great review I look forward to it's continuation with the HD DVD part. This just confirms what I've been reading on this unit and I will definatley be picking one up when I visit the US this summer. Do you have a HDMI reciever or are you using analog.
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Old 01-30-2007, 06:14 PM   #4  
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I can say for my use of the XA2, I use HDMI only, using my receiever as the HDMI switcher. The PQ is great, utterly fantastic! I am projecting the picture on an 8 foot wide screen. I have seen ZERO pixelation. I watched Pitch Black on it and was blown away.

El Despairado, your turn.
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Old 01-30-2007, 06:27 PM   #5  
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Desperado, I agree the XA2 is a quality piece of electronics but next time you compare it to a BD player, don't compare it to the least impressive BD player on the market. That's like comparing the PS3 to the Nintendo 64.
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Old 01-30-2007, 06:51 PM   #6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GLOW
Desperado, I agree the XA2 is a quality piece of electronics but next time you compare it to a BD player, don't compare it to the least impressive BD player on the market. That's like comparing the PS3 to the Nintendo 64.
Glow, good point. I can only compare the PS3 to the XA2 for HD. I can say the PS3 does a nice job playing HD content. That is as close as I can get for a comparison.
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Old 01-30-2007, 06:53 PM   #7  
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OMG, Despairado, you got me crunching numbers right now to see how soon I can get one of these babies in my house. Great write up!
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Old 01-30-2007, 07:36 PM   #8  
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This has been the review I have been waiting for. I have been waiting for a long review on a XA2 for weeks. Thank you for posting this review. Please continue your review when you get some HD titles. All of us are extremely anxious to hear about this reciever. I should have my XA2 in a few weeks once my tax return hits my bank account. My wife has already allowed me to buy the lower model for 400-500 dollars. Try spending an hour plus trying to explain to her as to why I want to get the XA2 at 800+ dollars. I am still working out that part. I am open for suggestions. *laugh*

Last edited by DallasDan; 01-30-2007 at 07:38 PM..
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Old 01-30-2007, 09:08 PM   #9  
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*sniff*

That's such a beautiful review that it just choked me up. Since 1/3 of the movies I still buy are SD DVD's, now you've got me wondering if I can somehow squeeze in a HDTV and HD-XA2 upgrade next holiday season. I'm glad that you had a HS moment, as that is the dream high end player that most of us want. I'm actually surprised that Toshiba got cheap on the cables with the XA2. My HD-A1 came with the composite RCA's, stereo rca's, S-video, and a really cheap HDMI cable. I upgraded to a set of Monsters the next day and noticed an improvement in color depth and accuracy. Some people doubt that, but my eyes don't lie to me as i'm an ultra anal person. Well, quit talking on the forum and go watch some more movies! I expect an HD-DVD review from you by the end of this week



Quote:
Originally Posted by El Despairado
I Just got this player about 3 hours ago. As some may know, I previously had a Samsung BD-P1000, which I returned. I didn't make it to the store last night to pick up any HD DVD's, so this first part of my review will be an overall comparison between the 2 players based on quality, etc., and also a comparison on SD DVD playback.

First, I should start with the negative. The only major thing that I found that this player lacked compared to the BD-P1000 is that there is no input for SD cards. That was a cool feature on the Samsung, because you could slide the SD card out of a digital camera and pop it in the BD player to use your monitor for photograph slideshows. Most people probably don't care, but as I am into photography, I thought that was pretty cool. The second thing I noticed is Toshiba doesn't give you any cables beyond RCA cables. The Samsung included HDMI, S-Video, RCA, and Component cables. Other than that, however, this unit honestly does blow the Samsung away.

So now on to the positives. First off, it is immediately apparent that this is a High-end component. The overall fit and finish of the product, and the feel of the product is extremely impressive. The Samsung was a nice shiney looking unit, but this Toshiba has the look and feel of a high-end receiver, yet it is very sleek also. The materials and overall construction of this Toshiba just puts the Samsung to shame. For instance, on the Samsung, the front panel door just flopped open and snapped shut, yet on this Toshiba the panel drops down nice and smooth just like on my Yamaha RXV Receiver. I don't know the exact weights, but this Toshiba feels at least twice as heavy (I think a lot more actually) than the Samsung did, yet the Toshiba has nearly the same dimensions of the Samsung.

The next thing that really struck me pulling it out of the box was the remote for the unit. Simply put, it most likely the nicest remote I've come across for a DVD player type component. It is completely full functional, extremely heavy, well made, and backlit. It's got a black brushed aluminum casing and the buttons have a polished silver finish. By contrast, the Samsung remote was probably one of the chinsiest controllers I've ever seen, especially for a component in it's price range. Actually, the same goes for the nearly identical remote that came with my Samsung HLS 61" TV. Samsung remotes are junk.

Another immediate thing I liked about this Toshiba over the Samsung was the display lighting. When the Toshiba is in standby, the ring around the power button is lit in red. When the Toshiba is turned on, the ring switches (you guessed it) to blue. A soft blue light also eminates from the bottom of the front panel door and the display is lit in blue as well. I like lights, however, you may not. One ability that the Toshiba has over the Samsung is that all the lighting can be disabled if you choose.

So now onto some of the features I've discovered so far. Basically, the Samsung had very little PQ and SQ features beyond what is standard for nearly any basic DVD player these days. However, this Toshiba honestly blew me away with PQ options. In addition to black level increase, and picture mode settings, it has the same PQ controls that can be found in my display. Contrast, Brightness, Color, Tint, Selective Color Enhancement, Edge Enhancement (2 different levels), and 3 individual noise reduction features (Mosquito, Block, and Random) which can be activate/deactivated separately. This just gives you yet another way to tweak your display to your liking. In fact, I've been trying to get my display dialed in for a week, and I was unable to find satisfaction until I used the controls within the Toshiba in addition to the controls on the display. Also, for the first time I can remember the PQ ACTUALLY DOES look better with all the enhancements and NR features set to on! It is of note that all the NR features are disabled in HD DVD playback automatically.

Now onto the real reason you buy this player, PQ and SQ. First off, in my setup, I ran HDMI from player to display, with optical AND coaxial from player to receiver. My display is 1080p native so I also set the Toshiba to it's max 1080p resolution.

Again, I have no HD DVD's to try at this time, so I popped in SD DVD Pirate's of the Caribbean 2. I chose this film because of all the dark and light scenes, the water, and the special effects. I also thought the soundtrack for the film would be great for the test.
What did I think? In a couple words, HOLY SHIT! Sorry for the profanity, but I think we all can agree that a Holy Shit (HS) moment outdoes a Wow moment any day. The first time I tried the Samsung, it was barely a Wow moment and I had a BD in. The Toshiba gave me a HS moment with just an SD DVD. I was initially more surprised at my Samsungs SD DVD upconversion than I was with it's BD playback, but once I got my display dialed in, BD really did look phenomenal. However, the SD DVD upconversion this Toshiba did was head and shoulders better than the Samsung. Honestly, there were many scenes that I was just amazed. One huge picture quality difference between BD and SD DVD was in water effects. On BD, water looked as if my TV was an aquarium. Water effects on SD DVD in this Toshiba looked very much the same!!! I couldn't get over how clear the picture was, and there were virtually 0 anomolies in the picture that my eye could detect. I don't know what more I can say. Simply put, SD DVD playback looked at least twice as good as any SD DVD image I have ever seen.

To close, I will address the SQ. Honestly, it was just as impressive as the PQ. Another HS moment indeed. Again, the extra SQ features, such as Dynamic Range Control and Dialog Enhancement actually made a positive impact, namely the Dialog Enhancement. I have always thought my center speaker was slightly too small for the rest of my configuration, I just never got around to an upgrade. You can see my speaker configuration below for more information. Anyway, with Dialog Enhancement on, I was no longer dissatisfied with the sound level I was getting out of my center channel speaker. It really did work wonders for me. The overall sound was rich, crisp, and full. Simply put it was the best sound I've ever gotten out of my home theater. I cannot wait for a receiver upgrade so I can try out HDMI sound. I can't imagine?

That concludes my review so far. Currently, I have no regrets over returning my Sammy BD player. This Toshiba is simply one of the most exciting components I've ever purchased. Every review I've read on the product was true. Sometimes when I spend so much on a component ($799), I get a slightly sick feeling over how much I spent. That was not the case with this unit. I actually feel a sense of sheer pride in owning it. I would recommend this unit to ANYONE. My advice is, buy it right this minute if you can afford it now, but if not, purchase it as soon as you find a price on it that matches your wallet. I can't see them improving on this thing by leaps and bounds. It's completely up to date, HDMI 1.3, etc, so you really have nothing to lose whatsoever, and so much to gain if you don't own it. I cannot believe it was only $65 more than that Samsung BD-P1000.

Now I am off to pick up a few HD DVD titles and possibly a set of 5.1 analog connections. I will give a continued review on it's HD DVD and audio CD playback abilities at my next opportunity. In the meantime, if anyone has any questions, just throw them out there and I'll answer them.

The score so far:
Samsung BD-P1000=wow(slightly)
Toshiba HD-XA2=HOLY SHIT!!!!

p.s. I am still format neutral, but I honestly don't know why anymore.
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Old 01-30-2007, 09:10 PM   #10  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bruceames
OMG, Despairado, you got me crunching numbers right now to see how soon I can get one of these babies in my house. Great write up!

Bruce, just DOOOOOOOO ITTTTTTTT!

With a SDDVD collection well into the 4 digit realm, and a HD-DVD collection fast approaching 3 digits, you definately owe it to yourself to hurry up and get it!
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Old 01-30-2007, 09:23 PM   #11  
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This review is fine, as far as it goes, but something nags at me. El Despairado says, "I just got this player about 3 hours ago." What? And not one HD-DVD title? If the player was delivered to him, he had about three days to pick up a hi-def disc. If he bought it at a store, it would have taken him three minutes. Or then again, maybe he couldn't afford to buy a movie. He could shell out for a thousand-dollar player, but was short on cash for a twenty-buck movie. Right.

Okay, I'm being obnoxious, and I deserve to be roasted. I'll take my punishment with the best smile I can muster. But I just wonder if Despairado's enthusiasm is simply caused by the fact that this is the first HD-DVD player he's owned. Admittedly, I haven't seen the XA2 in action, but he isn't describing anything I haven't felt with my A1. I have a strong feeling right now that there is only a scant difference in the video quality of both units, making me wonder why anyone would spend twice as much for the same thing. Wasn't high quality in an economical package the reason that HD-DVD was going to kill BD in the first place?
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Old 01-30-2007, 09:31 PM   #12  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DallasDan
This has been the review I have been waiting for. I have been waiting for a long review on a XA2 for weeks. Thank you for posting this review. Please continue your review when you get some HD titles. All of us are extremely anxious to hear about this reciever. I should have my XA2 in a few weeks once my tax return hits my bank account. My wife has already allowed me to buy the lower model for 400-500 dollars. Try spending an hour plus trying to explain to her as to why I want to get the XA2 at 800+ dollars. I am still working out that part. I am open for suggestions. *laugh*
My suggestion is this and I live by it it is easier to beg for forgiveness then to ask for permission I just bring things home she usually gets over it in short order and it is easier than weeks and weeks of asking if I can LOL.
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Old 01-30-2007, 09:35 PM   #13  
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1080p and HDMI 1.3 are just a couple of the reasons for spending the extra $$ over the A1/XA1/A2. Yeah, HDMI 1.3 means very little at the moment but one day... yeah, one day it might! Not convincing ya, am I? The A2 doesn't have that pretty blue glowing light under the middle front of the unit either, that has to be worth a few dollars! It is packed with some very nice video processors and the build definitely looks and feels better than than the A2.

I hadn't thought about the lack of HD videos until Wyatt mentioned it but.. but.. heck, I went out to BB and bought several movies while I waiting for my A1 to arrive from Crutchfield a few months ago.. Come on Desp! Yer on the hotseat now! LOL
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Old 01-30-2007, 09:56 PM   #14  
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ADWyatt, I think the upscaling review is what sold him on the XA2. That is what he was most anxious to check out I think, so if he didn't have any HD DVD discs on hand, then either he just wasn't that impatient to see one (remember, he knows what HD looks like on a Samsung Blu-ray player), or he just forgot.

I'll be getting one for the upscaling, too.
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Old 01-30-2007, 11:57 PM   #15  
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If you were following EL's adventure into HD-DVD he originally ordered it from an Amazon "partner" over the weekend, but come Monday they lost the order. To make up for the order screwup, they sent it overnight to him so he probably didn't have time to get any HD-DVD movies.

A couple of HD-DVD movies I would suggest are:

King Kong
Batman Begins
Blazing Saddles
Fast & the Furious Tokyo Drift

Those will make your jaw drop and just keep telling yourself that Blazing Saddles is over 30 years old while you watch it in disbelief.

Great review El!
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