Toshiba Expands HDTV, DVD Lines

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Demonstrating its goal to take a leadership position in the digital television market, Toshiba unveiled one of the industry's broadest HDTV and HDTV-ready lineups, which includes one of the lowest entry prices for digital television.

In introducing the 1999 DTV line, Toshiba's consumer products marketing VP Steve Nickerson revealed a number of new products that were not part of the company's announcements during CES in January, including the company's first HDTV-ready 36" direct-view set and a DTV set-top box with DirecTv HD and standard service capability priced at $999 - $500 lower than the originally announced device.

Nickerson reaffirmed his company's commitment to "building the DTV market and the potential of HDTV," adding that he expects digital television sales to be stronger than the consumer media has predicted. He attributes this to prices that are lower than the $7,000 average price frequently pointed out in mainstream media articles.

Additionally, Nickerson said growth will not come at the expense of big-screen analog TV sales.

Toshiba's product planning director Scott Ramirez added that year-to-date his company holds the number-two market share positions in both the "SuperTube" direct-view and projection categories.

In digital this year Toshiba will offer nine models that are capable of displaying the 1080i HDTV format at its native scan rate. All offer two sets of HD component video inputs.

Two sets - the previously announced DW65X91 ($8,499 suggested retail) and the DW56X91 ($6,999) - will offer integrated ATSC/DirecTv decoders and a new six-element PowerFocus HD lens systems with PowerFocus HD CRTs. Both models offer 16:9 screens and are slated for September deliveries.

Seven models are DTV-ready and will require a connection to an external decoder via the component video jacks.

Model TW65X81 ($6,499) and the TW56X81 ($4,999), both shipping in August, are the widescreen sets that are essentially tunerless versions of the two integrated sets. However, the HDTV-ready sets will display 480p programming as 540P, an unusual format that uses the same 33.75KHz scanning frequency as the 1080i format.

Toshiba said its previously announced DST-3000 ATSC/DirecTv set-top decoder is now sourced from a different manufacturer, explaining the drop in price from $1,499 to $999. It is expected to ship in the fourth quarter.

Ramirez said Toshiba will offer a 18.5" x 24" dish needed for DirecTv's HDTV services free with the purchase of a Toshiba integrated HDTV set or package of a Toshiba HDTV-ready set and the DST-3000 set-top box as a limited promotional offer.

Toshiba will also offer the HDTV-ready TW40X81 40" 16:9 TheaterWide model in August at $3,000 suggested retail.

The rest of the HDTV-ready line is comprised of sets with 4:3 aspect ratios. Three models are part of the Cinema Series rear-projection series and include 61", 55" and 50" screens sizes. The TN61X81 ($3,599), TN55X81 ($3,199) and TN50X81 ($2,999) each offer 1,200 lines of horizontal resolution and are slated for July.

Toshiba's first 1080i-capable direct-view set is the Cinema Series CN36X81. It will ship in September at $2,199 and includes Toshiba's FST Perfect naturally flat tube. Ramirez listed the horizontal resolution at 880 lines, but it will display images at the 1080i scan rate.

The company also unveiled a number of DVD players, including the brands first six-disc DVD changer and its first DVD-receiver combination.

Craig Eggers, Toshiba DVD product development director, said the company plans to make DVD-Audio announcements in September, but many of the new DVD-video players offer audio enhancements to maximize their use with audio CDs as well as DVD videos.

The six-disc DVD changer (SD4109X) includes HDCD processing for high-resolution CDs and will ship in October at $699. It adds 96kHz/24-bit audio decoding, a built-in Dolby Digital decoder, DTS pass-through, and Spatializer sound enhancement.

The DVD-receiver is model SD6109C, which is slated for September at $799. It combines a DVD-Video player, Dolby Digital and DTS decoders, AM/FM tuner, and 50-watts per channel amplification.

As a complement to the product, Toshiba is offering a six-speaker package (SSP-500) including two-way front and surround speakers, center-channel speaker and 100-watt powered subwoofer. It ships in July at $699.


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