By Sarah Falson

SYDNEY: Toshiba distributor, Castel Electronics, today announced the details of two new Toshiba HD DVD players which will launch through retailers on 10 December, hot on the heels of Samsung and Panasonic’s rival high definition Blu-Ray Disc players.

HD DVD and Blu-ray high definition optical discs are expected to eventually replace regular DVDs for high-quality home theatre due to their superior sound and picture quality and increased storage capacity.

Blu-ray is supported by Sony Pictures, MGM, Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox movie studios, while Warner Brothers and Paramount support both formats and Universal Pictures supports only the HD DVD format.

Though the two formats are expected to battle it out for the top disc format honours, Liz van Hooven from Universal Studios today said she foresees markets for both formats in Australia.

However Paul Astbury, product manager for Toshiba at Castel, is confident the HD DVD format will win-out over Blu-ray.

“The ease of adoption for companies is simpler with HD DVD. HD DVD is a completely logical successor to DVD – it slips into DVD’s place like a hand into a glove," Astbury said.

“Content is king: the more content a customer has, the more successful HD DVD will be.”

The entry-level Toshiba HD-E1 (RRP $1099) will be available for Christmas, and the premium-model Toshiba HD-EX1 (RRP $1599) is expected to arrive at retail in February 2007 or earlier. Both players will come packaged with a copy of Apollo 13 on HD DVD.

At the moment, there is a limited amount of HD DVD titles out on the market, with Jarhead, Doom and King Kong from Universal Pictures and Mission Impossible I, II and III from Paramount all expected to be released in time for Christmas.

However, both players are ‘backwards compatible’, meaning they can play content from regular DVDs and CDs, as well as HD DVDs. The HD-EX1 will also have the ability to ‘upscale’ regular DVDs to HDMI for playback on high definition plasmas, LCDs and other high definition displays. 

Astbury believes that, to stop consumers from confusing the two DVD formats, it is very important for Castel and Toshiba to properly educate floor staff. Details of this education process haven’t been confirmed as yet, but Castel will hold retailer roadshows nationally throughout November.

The DVD players will retail in Harvey Norman, Myer, Wow Sight and Sound, Retravision, West Coast HiFi and some AV specialists such as Audio Connection and Todd’s Hi-Fi.

HD DVD discs are expected to be sold in Myer, Virgin and Sanity, though Castel is currently in discussion with Harvey Norman to stock the discs. Castel and Universal Pictures both said they are currently in negotiations with JB Hi-Fi CEO Richard Uechtritz, but no distribution has been confirmed at this stage.

A partnership with DVD rental website,, is pending, in which unlimited HD DVD discs will be available for rent for $5 for a month after purchasing a Toshiba HD DVD player.