Wanye, N.J. — Toshiba is positioning its first DVD player with eXtended Detail Enhancement (XDE) technology as delivering "near-HD" picture quality from standard-definition DVDs and bridging the price and performance gap between current up-scaling DVD players and Blu-ray players.
The XD-E500, available at retail on Aug. 18 for a $149 suggested retail, is targeted to consumers who are heavily invested in DVD collections, aren’t ready to step up to a high-definition player priced at a minimum $400, and would appreciate an up-scaling DVD player "with an added layer of enhancement" that brings picture quality "closer to HD," said Louis Masses, product planning director of Toshiba’s digital A/V group. XDE technology, however, "is not meant to replace, kill or compete with Blu-ray," he said.
The introduction is backed by a print- and Web-based ad campaign urging consumers to "breathe new life into your DVDs."
The single-disc XD-E500 incorporates up-scaling technology similar to that in Toshiba’s $69 player and other up-scaling devices, but XDE adds three user-selectable enhancement modes: sharp, color and contrast. Sharp mode improves edge detail by analyzing an entire image, then adding edge enhancements only in places where the image needs it, not across the entire image, Masses said. Color mode also analyzes the picture and makes green and blue adjustments where needed to deliver more realistic greens and blues without looking artificial and "without a tremendous impact on other colors," he said. It also improves flesh tones. Contrast mode lightens up dark areas in high-contrast scenes without washing out the light areas. With it, consumers see more detail in the darker areas of a scene, Masses explained.
Consumers turn on each mode individually, but only a maximum of two modes can run simultaneously: sharp and color, or sharp and contrast.
In its literature, Toshiba points out that "while XDE, like many DVD players, up-converts DVDs up to 1080p to match the resolution of your HDTV, it goes a step further — thanks to XDE’s special picture-enhancement capabilities. XDE delivers a crisper, more vivid picture quality from your DVDs."
The player defaults to 1080p output from its HDMI port, but owners of older flat-panel TVs can select 720p or 1080i output to match their displays. Output of 24 fps is also available.
The XDE technology was designed specifically for use in DVD players and is focused on maximizing DVD quality, Masses noted. He declined to comment on whether Toshiba would offer additional XDE DVD players or enter the Blu-ray market.
To stimulate sell-through, Toshiba plans a September launch of a print and online ad campaign running through early January. The campaign includes consumer magazines such as Entertainment Weekly, local newspapers in the top 14 markets with a circulation of 7.3 million, and online sites, including NBCOlympics.com. Toshiba will also launch a Web site, www. Toshibaxde.com, to educate consumers.
For the campaign, Toshiba will be "more on-line than in the past," said assistant VP Maria Repole.
For the point of sales, Toshiba is offering shelf talkers and a demo disk that explains the technology’s benefits and features scenes that salespeople can select to demonstrate each mode, Masses said. The disc doesn’t include a side-by-side comparison because the company doesn’t want to "fake" a comparison, Masses said.
Other features of the XD-E500 include HDMI CEC, DivX video playback, playback of MP3- and WMA-encoded CDs, and JPEG playback.