I got in my new DVD player last night. (it is the Toshiba HD-A2 that Wal-Mart had on special) I hooked it up to my TV with an HDMI cable and to my Pre/Pro with an optical cable.
I did have a Sony upconverting player that was in use with component cables. (so no upconverting for me) I was able to use it with an HDMI cable for about a week and found the picture slightly more detailed, but very soft looking. It has been replaced with the A2.
From an HDMI perspective, as goofy as it sounds, I like the fact that I can just play a DVD and listen to sound through my TV speakers without turning on my entire Stereo. (I did not have this option before - remember?) For older TV shows in mono or stereo or for most of the kids pokemon movies – it works out great. I can still turn on the stereo and get 5.1 when I want to for movies, but it is nice not to have to turn everything on every time I want to watch an episode of Home Improvement.
For the sound:
HD is a big improvement over most SD disks. (since you cannot send an HD sound signal over optical, the A2 converts the HD sound signal into the highest bit rate DTS signal it can send over an optical connection. (1.5meg) It sounds awesome and every aspect of the sound is improved. (over a standard DVD) The sound level would be similar to what you get from Superbit tiles on a standard definition DVD. (but with extra’s that you don’t get on superbit titles)
For the image:
Standard Def – the A2 is an excellent upconverting player. The Sony player I had before also upconverted but the image was rather soft. (the edges were kind of blurry) it made the picture seem to have a little more detail, but seem kind of off. The A2 upconverts great and the image looks very very close to HD in my situation (Sitting 12-14' away from a 50" screen).
HD – HD images look great as you would expect, but really not that much better than standard def upconverted on the A2. The colors do seem to pop a little more, but 12-14feet back from a 50” screen is just to far to see many additional details in the image that HD is providing. I have not seen every HD disk (obviously) but for movies like Seabiscut, there is not much image improvement that you can see going from the upconverted SD image to the HD-DVD version of the movie.
For the price paid, it is an awesome upconverting player and will make watching my DVD collection that much better and the sound improvements are very welcome in the HD format. My current stash of SD disks are safe though (except some that I want to improve the sound of) because there is just not that much difference in image from this player with my current TV and viewing distance between an upconverted SD disk and an HD-DVD disk. This is as much a function of how good this player is at upconverting as it is TV size and seating distance though.
I have not had it long, but that is what I have noticed so far. (It seems most people who purchase HD-DVD are running projectors, just wanted you to get the impression of someone using a normal tv from a medium to long seating distance.