So it appears that the Onkyo's apparent rebadge of the Toshiba XA2 has started appearing in stores, but there might be more to the player than first meets the eye.
I managed to pick one of these up earlier this week and, out of the box at least, it seems like it is pretty much on par with the flagship Toshiba player. I'm only running the player @ 1080i60 since my display (a 70 JVC HD-ILA) doesn't do 24p and I prefer the flexibility of 1080i as I will occasionally zoom 4:3 letterbox supplements and my display won't allow that @ 1080p. Audio is being bitstreamed to a Denon 3808ci.
I've, at one point or another, had the A1, A2, XA2, A35, and now HD805 all in my system. I find the HD805 to be every bit as good and maybe even a hair better than those other players. The HD image is gorgeous. On the XA2, I was never a huge fan of the Reon chip for standard def. I found it to output an overly processed image. I thought the A35 was better with standard def because it gave me a slightly softer, but less edgy picture. Well, either there was something wrong with my XA2 or the Reon in the HD805 is improved as it provides the perfect balance between the two older players. It lacks much of the over-processed look I found in my XA2 with an overall smoother look, but also has the extra sharpness and detail I had always expected with the Reon. For standard def, it's my go-to player now.
The look of the player itself is quite nice. It's a bit blockier than the XA2 or the A35, but with a nice, simplistic black face. One of the things I actually like most about the player is the lack of any bright format light on the face. With the XA2 you get the downward shining blue beam and with the A35 it's the bright blue HD-DVD logo on the face. It would be good for those players to allow users to turn them off and actually stay off when you restart the unit. Those don't, but luckily Onkyo has forgotten any sort of branding light to distract in a darkened theater. Ahh, the little things.
As for loading times and any improvements in that area, there was some mystery at the outset as to the loading times of the HD805. Initial testing on my unit reported boot times and disc loading times very close to those the XA2 and A35. joerod, another member with the Onkyo HD805 initially reported times very much under that. There was a bit of confusion originally as to the variance in performance of the two players, but it seems to be getting clearer. I'll let joerod explain in more detail, but the short story is that there is a potential firmware update that will take this player to the next level in terms of speed and stability.
Overall, I was very hesitant on the long-term viability of the HD805 in my system, but based on joerod's experiences and the potential for firmware upgrades to take this player into the next generation, plus the improved SD DVD performance I now get, I'm looking forward to taking the ride with this player. Is it worth the $800 if you already own the A35 or XA2? Not as much and I would be hard pressed to recommend the player to those people. I do feel comfortable, however, saying that the HD805 is one of the best HD-DVD players out there. Certainly as good as the other two, with the potential to be even better.