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Toshiba HD-A3 HD DVD Player
Best Buy brings Christmas early to some customers

Best Buy often gets a reputation of not having the best customer service and looking down on "devil customers" who only come to Best Buy locations to score hot deals.

Over the past few years, Best Buy has done much to better its image. The store ditched mail-in rebates which many customers complained about -- all Best Buy merchandise now carries instant savings instead.

Best Buy's latest move, however, may be one of the best yet for "devil customers."
It was reported yesterday on DailyTech that Wal-Mart would have the Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD player on sale for $98.97 Friday morning. Best Buy followed suit by offering the HD-A2 online and in-store for $99.99.

As one might imagine, Best Buy stores were quickly depleted of stock and BestBuy.com was hammered with excess orders. Although some orders were able to get through, an overwhelming majority of customers who purchased HD-A2s from BestBuy.com received backorder notices.

Given that the HD-A2 is now discontinued, one would have expected that Best Buy would just cancel all of the orders and be done with it -- but you would be wrong. Best Buy instead is replacing all backordered HD-A2 players with the new third-generation HD-A3 which retails for $299.99.

A letter sent to Toshiba HD-A2 customers reads as follows:

Dear Valued Best Buy Customer,

You are receiving this email because you recently ordered a Toshiba HD DVD Player (model # HD-A2) from www.bestbuy.com and your order was placed in a backorder status while we awaited additional inventory. Unfortunately, the manufacturer has discontinued this item and we are not anticipating receiving any more inventory.

Because we value your business, we will be fulfilling your order with the next generation Toshiba HD DVD Player (model # HD-A3) that is replacing the HD-A2 in Toshiba's lineup of HD DVD Players. There is no need for you to do anything to receive this upgraded model. We will simply fulfill your original order and your packing slip will be updated to show you received the HD-A3 and serve as your order receipt.

If you are not interested in receiving the Toshiba HD-A3 as a replacement for the discontinued HD-A2, you may return the unopened item to your nearest Best Buy store or simply contact one of our Customer Service Representatives at (888)-BestBuy for more information about how to return the product for a complete refund.

Please accept our apology for any inconvenience. We look forward to your next visit to Best Buy.

Sincerely,
Best Buy Customer Care 

Those persons who were sad to get a backorders notice should be delighted that they will be receiving a brand new third-generation unit instead.

The excitement should build even further considering that all third-generation Toshiba HD DVD player (including the HD-A3) come bundled with "300" and "The Bourne Identity” in addition to the five free movies that can be had after a mail-in rebate [PDF].



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Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By Slaimus on 11/3/2007 10:41:53 AM , Rating: 3
If you read the forums, most actually sat the A2 is a better player than the A3. The A3 is designed as more of a cost cutting than improving revision. But having those 2 free DVDs does it put on top overall.




RE: Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By walk2k on 11/3/07, Rating: -1
RE: Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By therealnickdanger on 11/3/2007 2:36:12 PM , Rating: 5
The HD-A2 and HD-A3 are almost identical, but the primary difference is rather unsettling:

HD-A2 allows non-HDMI users to downsample all audio to a 1.5Mbps DTS optical out.

HD-A3 allows non-HDMI users to downsample all audio to a 640kbps DD optical out.

If you use HDMI as your audio source, then they are the same. If you use optical, the HD-A3 is crippled in the audio department. I believe that the A3 may have an updated scaling chip, but I haven't torn them apart to see for myself.

One other thing: not only do you get two HD-DVDs in the A3 box, but Best Buy lets you select any* two from off the shelf, AND you get five via mail-in. That's NINE free movies.


RE: Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By walk2k on 11/3/2007 3:01:48 PM , Rating: 2
Correct.


RE: Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By Alexstarfire on 11/3/2007 3:03:54 PM , Rating: 2
I've got to say that unless you are doing surround sound, which I don't see why you wouldn't, then this isn't a problem. I've done tons of video converting on my computer and know that I can go well below 100 kbps for mono. I can even keep it under 100kbps for stereo as well. That sound EXACTLY like the original. Well, the mono one won't on anything more than one speaker, but that's obvious.

I gotta say that it's not something that I'd enjoy, but I think that it might still be ok depending on how they actually do it.


RE: Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By therealnickdanger on 11/3/2007 3:33:51 PM , Rating: 1
Looking at it objectively, downsampling is always a negative. You are losing quality. Whether you can tell the difference is completely subjective. Someone with a $500 home-theater-in-a-box will probably not notice. Someone with a $500 remote, however, will.

So basically, the A3 is perfect for the entry-level high-def customer. They typically don't have a 1080p panel or a DTSMA/DDTHD receiver.


RE: Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By essjae on 11/3/2007 6:53:55 PM , Rating: 3
Downsampling is not always negative. You need to look at the initial sample rate, the frequencies recorded, etc before you can determine if downsampling will lose any quality. As long as you stay above Nyquist, you'll be ok.


RE: Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By saratoga on 11/3/2007 10:10:43 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
Looking at it objectively, downsampling is always a negative.


Fortunately, neither player is downsampling. The word you are looking for is transcoding .

And anyway, comparing bitrates when the format isn't the same is a little silly. AC3 is generally a bit more efficient then DTS, so in terms of real quality its not clear from the info you posted which is going to sound better. It will likely depend on which firmware is better implemented.


RE: Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By therealnickdanger on 11/3/07, Rating: -1
RE: Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By Locutus465 on 11/4/2007 10:57:00 AM , Rating: 3
Bitrate isn't everything you know, with the right encoding a lower bitrate can perform much better than a higher bitrate equivilent... Take a look at TMNT for instance... A lot of HD/BD customers complained because the video was encoded at a very low bit rate, and they thought they were getting cheated some how... But in terms of actual performance, if any of these people actually bothered watching the movie they would have realized it's one of the best HD transfers on the market.


RE: Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By walk2k on 11/3/2007 3:34:15 PM , Rating: 2
Yes I am doing surround sound and as mentioned already own the 360+HDVD which does 1.5M DTS, so the A3 would be kind of a downgrade for me. That's just me personally though. I only considered the A2 for $99 because the Xbox is so noisy, I really only use it for Netflix rental HD-DVD movies that aren't also on BD.

For people without any kind of HD player yet and who have a modest HT audio system (or just TV speakers), both are a pretty good deal for $99, especially considering you get at least $100 worth of free discs with that!


RE: Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By RamarC on 11/3/2007 4:49:46 PM , Rating: 3
Only supporting DTS over the optical output was considered a shortcoming of the A2 since Dolby Digital is ubiquitous and DTS has lower market/consumer penetration. That's why the A3 outputs Dolby Digital which by its very nature has lower bandwidth than DTS and is compatible with practically every surround receiver sold since 2000. (The lower bandwidth is also why most DVDs only have DD soundtracks and DTS is reserved for special editions.)

The DD output is still 5.1 (from 6.1/7.1) so unless you've got 3 or more rear speakers you're not losing any channels.


RE: Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By hellokeith on 11/4/2007 3:21:06 PM , Rating: 2
Also, going from DD+ to AC3 is not a huge lossy downconversion, since both are Dolby codecs with shared encoding/decoding logic.


RE: Hardware wise, A2 > A3
By wallijonn on 11/5/2007 11:26:22 AM , Rating: 2
It also seems as if the A3 is built upon a smaller die. The A2 has a fan which can be heard at zero volume levels (which means that it may be heard during silent portions of the film) and the A3 seems to have a smaller fan, implying that it puts out less heat, so it should be quieter than the A2.

It would be interesting to know if it does in fact have a superior up scaling chip as I feel that the Oppo 981HD, due to its ability to set brightness, contrast, sharpness and colour saturation independently of the TV set, along with its superior remote controller, gives a slightly better up converted DVD picture than the A2. They're very close, but when you feed it inferior media material the Oppo can overcome many of the limitations imposed upon the A2 (having to resort to change the TV settings, especially sharpness.)


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