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Toshiba heads for winners' enclosure

World's first HD-DVD player displayed

Hot on the heels of its launch in Japan, Toshiba has given the UK press its first look at the world's first HD-DVD player, the HD-XA1.

The black-and-silver player is a chunky device that stands 11cm tall, in contrast with the ever-sleeker DVD players and other consumer entertainment devices currently on the market. It supports 5.1 Dolby surround sound and DTS (Digital Theater System) and has built-in LAN capabilities.

The purity of the HD (high-definition) signal will be ensured by Toshiba's inclusion of an HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) output. Unlike other connection types such as composite RGB and Scart, HDMI is digital from end to end, as is the signal from the HD-ready TV connections.

The HD-XA1 is launching in the US on 18 April having debuted in Japan on 30 March. It will not be ready for a UK launch until the autumn. Despite this, a Toshiba spokesman stated the company firmly believes it "will be the only horse at the races this year", when it comes to HD-DVD players.

The HD-XA1 is backwards-compatible with older DVD media by way of an RGB component connection. This may be just as well, since there has yet to be much in the way of content for early adopters to enjoy, although Toshiba says it has firm agreements with five major Hollywood studios.

Initially, it is likely that pre-recorded HD-DVDs will feature the HD track on one side of the disc and a standard-definition copy on the other side, so the same disc can be read in a range of DVD playback devices.

Toshiba was following the likes of Canon, Philips and Panasonic in showing off its UK consumer product showcase for the year. Other products ranged from an extensive collection of flatscreen LCD TVs to home and business projectors and DVD player-recorders, including several portable DVD players.

Other notable products in Toshiba's 2006 collection include the ET10 and ET20 home cinema projectors costing £1,100 and £1,300 respectively. The ET20 has a built-in DVD player, making it capable of playing movies without the aid of a PC or other input device. Both projectors have the distinction of throwing out a 100cm picture from a distance of just 1.3m.

Toshiba also had an interesting new portable: the FF1 is a dinky box-shaped projector that uses LED lights rather than a lamp, keeping heat and power consumption low. The use of LEDs makes for an estimated usage of 10,000 hours – far in excess of a traditional projector lamp. The FF1 can be connected to a mobile phone.

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