Toshiba RD-98DT £280
2nd Sep 2008 | 09:10
A solid recorder let down by a lack of key features
The Toshiba RD-98DT can store up to 424hr of programmes onto its 250GB hard disk and is compatible with a range of recordable DVD formats ensuring that most archiving and editing needs are met.
The lack of dual-layer DVD-R/+R support is a shame, though, as it limits the maximum disc recording time to eight hours instead of 14.
There are two Scart sockets in the connection lineup, but sadly the input doesn't support RGB (as we
discovered when we fed in an RGB signal from a Sky box).
One important addition to Toshiba's latest recorder range is Freeview+, which makes recording TV far easier.
It brings indispensable features such as series link and automatic schedule tracking to the table, and when you hit the series recording button, the unit lists the next six episodes of that programme and the dates when they're being shown.
The RD-98DT boasts a wide range of recording and editing features. The ﬁve recording modes go from
the best-quality XP mode (53hr on the hard disk or 1hr on DVD) down to the lowest-quality SLP mode.
Recordings are stored in the Title List with a moving thumbnail and all the relevant details, and if you want to make a copy, the 32x high speed dubbing makes it a quick process.
Hard-disk and DVD-RW editing features include non-linear playlist creation and scene delete, while +RW discs let you hide chapters.
The recorder's biggest Achilles' heel when compared with its rivals is that the hard disk only stores
That means you can't use the unit as a media centre-style entertainment hub as you can with the latest machines from some rival manufacturers. The only way to play MP3, DiVX or JPEG ﬁles, too, is from a CD or DVD.
Toshiba promised big improvements to its operating systems on this year's range and, sure enough, the RD-98DT is slicker and more responsive than its predecessors. It ﬂicks from channel to channel quickly and glides round menus with ease, making for a pleasant user experience.
A much improved EPG enables you to switch between a daily and weekly view, and while the menu system isn't as instantly welcoming as a Panasonic recorder, it is logical and avoids excessive submenus. Anyone with common sense will be able to edit or dub DVDs with ease.
The remote control, meanwhile, has too many similar-looking buttons for our liking, making it awkward to use in the dark. Having said that, the menu controls are well placed and there are dedicated keys for changing the HDMI resolution and the recording mode.
Recordings made in XP mode from the built-in Freeview tuner are imbued with fulsome colours, sharp edges and accurate detail, and in a taste test between recorded and live pictures it's nigh-on impossible to tell the difference between them.
The RD-98DT's talents are best demonstrated by some of Freeview's better quality broadcasts, such as studio footage during news bulletins on BBC One. Also impressive are the low noise levels with fast-moving objects during the Beeb's coverage of the Olympics.
Programmes recorded using other modes also look as good or bad as you'd expect, with SP enjoying similar levels of colour, detail and noise as XP, while LP, EP and SLP modes suffer from increasingly high amounts of blurring and pixel noise, which is par for the course as the bitrate drops.
With such a sizeable hard disk on board there should be enough room to record everything in XP, but recording onto DVD is more of an issue; the lack of dual-layer recording means those lower-quality modes are essential.
Recordings from an external digital TV receiver are poor, with tizzing edges and weaker colour reproduction than recordings from the internal tuner, all of which could have been avoided with an RGB-capable Scart input.
On a more positive note, though, pre-recorded DVD playback is superb, making a range of discs from Se7en to Finding Nemo look sharp and noise free, particularly when upscaled to 1080p.
There are absolutely no concerns on the sonic front. Dolby Digital or DTS bitstreams are piped to an AV receiver without a hitch and CD playback from the stereo audio output is surprisingly pleasant.
The stereo Dolby Digital encoder also does a great job of capturing the sounds of everyday TV viewing, with speech-based material sounding perfectly audible and free from distortion.
The Toshiba RD-98DT is a smart, functional hard-disk combi that offers excellent picture quality and does most of the recording and editing basics well. But if you want a machine that goes above and beyond the call of duty, then this isn't the one.
It lacks several features that make rivals from Panasonic, Pioneer and Philips seem much better value for money, even though the Toshiba is cheaper than all of them.