Review After the big bang of the HD disc format war, the dust has settled a little. There are players available on both the Blu-ray and HD DVD sides and now manufacturers are expanding their product lines - adding a feature here and an enhancement there.
Since the launch of the Toshiba's relatively bargain priced HD-E1 player, a couple of things have changed. Firstly, Sony has finally shipped the PlayStation 3, bringing a budget - well, cheaper at least - Blu-ray player to the UK market. It's still got some way to go to beat the HD-E1 on price, but it does play games as well.
TV manufacturers have also started shipping what's dubbed 'Full HD' TVs - screens that support 1080p signals in addition to the normal 720p and 1080i HD resolutions. Support for 1080p only makes sense on large screens - on a 32in LCD you'd be hard pushed to tell the difference. But given it's the maximum resolution HD DVD offers it seems silly not to take advantage of it if it's there.
So, Toshiba's latest model, the HD-XE1, aims to compete not on price but on features. Unlike the HD-E1, it can output at 1080p if you've got a TV than can handle that resolution and it also supports version 1.3 of the HDMI cable standard which promises enhanced colour.
Design-wise, the HD-XE1 is a sleek-looking machine that wouldn't look out of place among other high-end AV separates. The front of the unit is sparse and uncluttered, with just a power switch, eject button and LED display on show. An array of control buttons is neatly hidden beneath a fold-down flap which also conceals two (currently not functional) USB ports. There's a blue light that shines out at the bottom, although if you find it distracting there's a button on the remote control to turn it off. You can also dim or turn off the LED display, if you so desire.