We’ve long been impressed by Toshiba’s flagship HD-EX1 deck and this new model, the HD-EP35, is the young pretender to the older player’s crown.
In some ways – chiefly, that it manages to send high-definition audio from its HDMI output – it eclipses its bigger brother. Given that it costs nearly half as much, that’s some achievement.
Cheap but also cheerful
But before you go running off to the shops, let’s clear a few things up. Unlike the HD-XE1, this new Toshiba has clearly been built to hit a price. That’s not to say it’s necessarily cheap or nasty: more that next to its spare-no-expense sibling, it feels as affordable as it is.
However, on the upside, this deck meets all the latest specifications. For example, its HDMI 1.3 output can stream Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio: all you need is a suitable surround sound receiver, such as Onkyo’s £400 TX-SR605, and you’re away.
The only downside regarding audio outputs is that the player only has an optical digital socket: if the only available input on your surround receiver is a coaxial socket, you may have a problem.
Pictures? This being a new-generation player, the Toshiba will provide a 1080p/24fps output into suitable displays (such as most Toshibas), while its Ethernet connection makes downloading any specification upgrades easy.
The same connector also serves to enable much of the web-related content being encoded on to modern HD DVD players.
Amazing value for money
Once wired and fired, the Toshiba swiftly reveals itself to be a tied-on bargain. It has excellent image quality: even old DVDs have ample depth and considerable sharpness when scaled to 1080p, while HD DVD content is plain fabulous.
Those hyper-real pectorals in 300 shine out with all their digitally enhanced buffness gloriously evident, while the astounding colours and definition of Transformers are sure to stun, however big your telly.
But if that’s impressive, the HD-EP35’s sound is even more remarkable. For a player at this price to deliver hi-def audio is both a rarity and a bonus: for the end results to sound as good as they do beggars belief.
With that TX-605 receiver in harness, your home cinema will deliver surround steering speed and plain, good old-fashioned dynamic guts to match far expensive high-end systems. All you need is forgiving neighbours.