And the winner for best HD player is…

first_imgHD DVDs looked, for the most part, fantastic on my 46-inch Sony LCD set, which is big enough to reveal the flaws in DVDs – they all look like they’re shot through a thin layer of jelly. “Deer Hunter” in HD DVD looked jaw-droppingly sharp and beautiful. An older movie like “Casablanca,” which has many medium shots, gained a dimension when I could clearly see the glints in the characters’ eyes. The HD-A2 will pep up DVDs a little bit by “upconverting” them to faux high-definition, but for most discs, that only works if the player is connected to the TV by a digital High-Definition Multimedia Interface, or HDMI cable. The cheaper and more common three-lead component video cables won’t do. The HD-A2 doesn’t output the very highest-definition signal, called 1080p. The player is limited to a resolution of 1080i, which is 1080 lines of vertical resolution, with alternating lines refreshed every 60th of a second. The BDP-S1 is a big, handsome box that makes you feel like you’re getting a lot for your $999. It was the quietest player in the test. The remote is easier to use and more substantial than the Toshiba’s. It loads a disc in 30 seconds, just like the HD-A2, and it can output 1080p. Just one niggle: It was sometimes slow to respond to commands from the remote. It also has a possible limitation in that, unlike the HD-A2 and the PlayStation, it does not connect to the Internet. The HD-A2 has an Ethernet jack for connecting the unit to an Internet router. The usefulness of that feature is not clear at the moment, though. Future HD DVD discs could connect to the Internet for special features like online games, and Toshiba may send software upgrades to the player that way. Even so, the BDP-S1 is a fine machine. So both the standalone players are good. Should you get one? If you’ve spent $2,000 or more on an HDTV, I’d say “yes.” Get your money’s worth from your TV set. It’s tougher to say which player to get. I liked the HD DVD player, and the discs had a more consistent image quality, probably because they use a more sophisticated mathematical formula, or codec, to pack the movie into the disc. Some Blu-ray movies showed slight smearing of colors in darker scenes, and “The Fifth Element,” an early disc, was not as crisp as it should have been. But the image quality of recent Blu-ray discs was an improvement, and the format has more support from Hollywood. Triple threat A look at three HD DVD and Blu-ray players: TOSHIBA HD-A2 Price: $499 Pros: Slim, responsive and cheap. HD DVD discs look great. Has Internet capability. Cons: HD DVD has less Hollywood support. Needs HDMI cable to convert DVDs to high definition. SONY BDP-S1 Price: $999 Pros: Well built, good looking. Quiet. Blu-ray disc format may be the winner. Cons: Expensive. Blu-ray disc quality is variable, but improving. No Internet connection for updates. SONY PLAYSTATION 3 Price: $599 with 60-gigabyte hard drive as tested, but there is a $499 model with 20 gigabytes. Pros: Does a lot besides play Blu-ray discs. Responsive. Cons: Noisy fan. Wireless game pad works as remote, but you’ll want the $25 video-style remote as well.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! NEW YORK – The two movie disc formats that are competing to replace the DVD have had a rocky start, with clunky first-generation players and an audience that’s been reluctant to buy them for fear of betting on the losing side. But there’s now a second generation of players out, and in our test of three of them, it’s clear that they left the problems of their predecessors behind. Sorry, consumers, but it’s time to choose sides: Blu-ray or HD DVD. From the HD DVD camp I tried Toshiba Corp.’s $499 HD-A2 player. In the other corner of the ring swaggered Sony Corp.’s BDP-S1 Blu-ray disc player, which lists for $999 but is available for less. As a cheaper alternative, I also looked at the Blu-ray function of a $599 PlayStation 3 from Sony. The HD-A2 is a svelte device that looks very much like a regular DVD player. It takes 30 seconds to load a disc, a little slow but not enough to bore you. The fan is louder than you’d expect from a DVD player, but not bothersome in most entertainment centers. last_img read more

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EPA: Only most fuel-efficient in HOV lanes

first_imgStates that allow solo hybrid drivers in car-pool lanes include Arizona, California, Florida, Utah and Virginia, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Lawmakers in Georgia and Colorado have approved similar plans, and the vehicles can also be used in HOV lanes on a Long Island, N.Y., highway, said Scott Nathanson, national field director for the UCS’s clean vehicles program. The EPA measure allows states to choose stricter rules. California, which has an estimated 140,000 hybrid registrations, requires the vehicles to get 45 mpg to use HOV lanes. Nathanson said the proposal would encourage the “best and the brightest” of the hybrid choices instead of “allowing muscle hybrids or hybrids that are not really using the technology to push the envelope.” Hybrids could also qualify as energy-efficient by achieving 50 percent or better in-city fuel economy. Dedicated alternative-fuel vehicles could also qualify to use the lanes. To be considered low-emission, the EPA said, the vehicles must meet federal and California emissions standards. Scott Stapf, executive director of the Hybrid Owners of America, said 37 states have the hybrid HOV provisions or are studying the concept. “This is a pretty hot topic at the state level,” Stapf said. “Hopefully this will help.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WASHINGTON – When it comes to using car-pool lanes, only the most fuel-efficient hybrids need apply, the government said Thursday. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new criteria for certifying vehicles as clean and energy-efficient for states that let hybrid drivers use the special lanes for avoiding rush-hour traffic. Hybrid vehicles would need to achieve 25 percent higher combined fuel efficiency compared with similar gasoline-fueled vehicles to qualify for high-occupancy vehicle lanes, or HOV lanes, allowing only the driver. Only four manufacturers – Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Ford Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. – produce vehicles that would qualify under the plan. A limited number of natural-gas vehicles built by Honda and Ford would also meet the standards. The qualifying vehicles include: the 2004-07 Toyota Prius, 2006-07 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, 2006-07 Lexus RX400h, 2006 Mazda Tribute Hybrid, 2005-07 Ford Escape Hybrid, 2006-07 Mercury Mariner Hybrid, 2003-07 Honda Civic Hybrid, 2003-06 Honda Insight and 2005 and 2007 Honda Accord Hybrid. Natural-gas versions of the 2003-05 Honda Civic and 2003-04 Ford Crown Victoria would also apply. The proposal seeks to balance the government’s interest in promoting the fuel-efficient vehicles with concerns that an influx of hybrids could clog up car-pool lanes in congested cities. Most states require that HOV-lane vehicles carry two or more occupants, but the federal highway bill signed in 2005 allowed an exemption for fuel-efficient vehicles carrying only the driver. last_img read more

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