Marketing ploy, or last-ditch effort to stem the tide toward Blu-ray?
Toshiba has cut prices on its three HD DVD players to $150 for its entry-level model to $300 for the top-of-the-line unit. The company says it reduced everyday prices because of success with promotional pricing over the holidays.
However, the timing of the cuts—just two weeks after Warner Bros. announced that it would support Blu-ray exclusively—could just as easily be taken as a last-ditch effort to keep HD DVD alive. Price cuts could boost the installed base of HD DVD players enough to keep the two studios still exclusively backing the format, Paramount/DreamWorks and Universal, in its camp.
The new HD DVD pricing is already in effect. The entry-level 1080i model, the HD-A3 (click on image above for a closer look.), is now $150, and the step-up 1080p model, the HD-A30, is now $200. The flagship HD-A35 player is now priced at $300. Toshiba is still running its free software promotion, which gives HD DVD buyers a choice of five free HD DVD titles from a list of 15 movies. To help bolster education and satisfaction with HD DVD players, Toshiba recently launched an "HD DVD Concierge" program, which provides a toll-free number where customers can receive answers to general questions or help using a player.
Given the uncertain future of the HD DVD format, it's hard to recommend purchasing an HD DVD player, even at the lower price. However, if you need to replace a standard-def DVD (and weren't really considering a high-def model), an HD DVD player could be an option if you can find one at close to the same price. These players will play—and upconvert—standard DVDs, and a decent library of high-def movies in this format is still available. And if HD DVD loses the format war, there may be some great deals on HD DVD movies as retailers clean out their inventories.
—James K. Willcox