Yes, Toshiba seems resigned to some sort of HD disc-free existence, as it continues to mope about HD DVD's loss to Blu-ray and refrains from releasing a player for the once rival format, but let's set all aside for the moment. We got a look at Toshiba's new XD-E500
in action, and we must say: it does what it sets out to do. Most consumers will see a visible quality improvement when playing their DVDs, particularly in the realm of sharpness. Toshiba's new filters are "intelligent" enough to spice up the grass while leaving the sky and clouds free of noise, and while the contrast and color filters are less necessary, many consumers will enjoy their effect -- even if video purists would scoff at such alterations. As for usability, it couldn't really be much easier to flip on and off the three different enhancements, but there's also no customization of those modes to speak of. This $150 player isn't in any way Toshiba's Blu-ray killer, but thankfully the company actually seems to recognize that, and plans to market to Joe consumer who doesn't want to fork over the dough for a Blu-ray player or doesn't want to invest in a brand new video library, and won't be insulting videophiles' intelligence with claims to the contrary. If you're looking for something to magically make DVDs look like HD, this isn't it, but it bests Toshiba's best upconverter easily, and we'd venture to guess it's probably tops yours as well. All that said, Toshiba will have in store demos of the player at major retailers, and we'd highly recommend taking a gander for yourself before you take the plunge.