Toshiba skips Blu-ray, enhances DVD instead

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Tokyo (Japan) – Toshiba may have lost the high-definition format war to Sony, but the company is not yet ready to build Blu-ray players, at least not officially. In a rather surprising turn of events, Toshiba reverts back to the DVD: According to a newspaper article, the company plans to release a DVD player capable of displaying high-resolution video by the end of this year.

The high-definition format war may not be over after all. Even if Toshiba decided to pull its HD DVD out of a costly format battle with Sony earlier this year and the fact that Toshiba has the necessary resources to market Blu-ray drives and players through its 51% stake in Toshiba Samsung Storage Technologies (TSST), the company said that it does not plan to release Blu-ray players under the Toshiba brand.

According to an article published by the Japanese Daily Yomiuri, “Toshiba President Atsutoshi Nishida said his company will not market DVD players that are compatible with Blu-ray.” Instead, Toshiba decided to compete with upgraded DVD players that are described to be capable of displaying “high resolution images from regular DVDs.”

DVD video content is based either on MPEG-2 encoding with up to 9.8 Mb/s or MPEG-1 at up to 1.856 Mb/s. In its NTSC specification, the frame rates of DVD videos are 29.97 or 23.976 fps, while the native resolution can be 720 x 480 (full D1), 704 x 480, 352 x 480 or 352 x 240 pixels. HD DVD as well as Blu-ray content is typically encoded in 1920 x 1080 pixels (and varying bit rates, depending on content and country).

At least on paper, Toshiba’s new high-resolution approach is at a disadvantage. We also wonder how this new DVD player will differ from 1080p upscaling DVD players and if the difference in image quality can be significant. If Daily Yomiuri’s sources are correct, than Toshiba’s new DVD player may actually not be much more than an evolution over current upscaling DVD players. The publication indicated that Toshiba wants to compete against Blu-ray in terms of price – which is not really a bad idea as long as Blu-ray players continue to be priced in the $400 range for entry-level devices.   

Toshiba declined to comment on the report.