April 17, 2006 Thursday: 11am. A series of planned phone calls are placed to four Best Buy stores within reasonable driving distance. Each is asked one simple question to answer. Each provides a different response ranging from "I don't think we carry that product. What is it?" to "Yeah, that will be here in a few weeks." Shouldn't arguably the nation's most recognizable electronics store have a finger on the pulse of Toshiba's HD-A1 HD-DVD player launch and realize the first piece of equipment for an entirely new video format is due in stores any day?
As it turns out that day was Friday, the next day, when each Best Buy store (at least on the west coast) received exactly 3 units and haphazardly tossed them onto shelves. I strutted in early Saturday morning shortly after the doors opened to find no cool display, price tag or even a unit to gawk at. There were two boxes shoved into an open slot next to scores of DVD players. A casual observer would never know these were any different. Knowing better I snagged number 2 of 3 and shelled out over 500 clams for a peek at potentially the next greatest evolution in home video. What you'll read below are my quick first impressions with scores of accompanying pictures.