22nd Jan 2009 | 10:29
With a tiny 160GB HDD, this Toshiba recorder will have to impress elsewhere
The Toshiba RD88DT HDD/DVD recorder is a natural style partner for Toshiba's Regza LCD TVs.
Features include both Freeview and analogue TV tuners, chasing-playback, frontpanel AV inputs (including i.Link), and an HDMI port that combines CEC device-control with upscaling up to 1080p.
The RD88DT will play DivX, JPEG and MP3 discs, although it lacks a memory card reader or USB port. Freeview+ functionality is offered, including Series Link.
Limited recording options
The RD88DT will play and dub from DVD-RAMs, but cannot record to them – surprising, given that Toshiba was an early backer of the format.
A greater disappointment is that you cannot record to dual-layer DVDs. But in all other respects the Toshiba RD88DT is multiformat.
The RD98DT's 36-event timer can be programmed manually, or via the 7-day DTT EPG. There's no GuidePlus, but in my experience that's only of real value to those with external set-top boxes.
Five preset recording modes are included; it's a pity you don't get the 32 manual 'steps' of some earlier Tosh DVDRs. Recordings to both the HDD and DVDs are automatically chaptered, which is more than can be said of Panasonic's DMR-EX88.
Editing your recordings
The RD88DT has inherited the excellent editing and dubbing facilities of previous Toshibas; chapters can be easily added to recordings, which can also be divided or trimmed with minimal effort.
Recordings can be dubbed from HDD to DVD (and vice versa), losslessly at high speed or in 'real-time' to a different mode.
The menus added by the recorder to self-made DVDs are as dull as a Coldplay album – gone is the ability to grab a frame from your video and use that as a custom menu background...
The choice is yours
Freeview recordings in the top two (XP/SP) modes are hard to tell apart from the original broadcasts. However, the LP mode (4 hours per single-layer disc) softens the picture noticeably. Matters worsen in EP, which suffers from distinct motion-judder – possibly because the vertical-resolution has been halved in order to pare down bitrates.
The SLP mode adds to this an unhealthy dose of artifacting; the overall result is akin to a video clip that's been downloaded from the net. And, like the Sony counterpart, interactive 'red-dot' banners are burnt into manual and timed DTT recordings alike.
If you also receive digital TV via Sky or cable, you'll be horrified to discover that the RD88DT is the only machine in this group to refuse RGB via Scart. Although an S-video option is available here, few cable and Sky boxes support it, and you'll probably be stuck with lousy composite video.
HDMI upscaling and audio quality are both acceptable, while DVD playback is excellent with vivid colours, strong detail and dynamic range. The Toshiba RD88DT no match for Toshiba's own 'super-upscaling' XD-E500 player – but no current recorders are.
Were Toshiba to embed that deck's proprietary XDE technology into a future generation of recorders – and address some of the flaws described above – it could have a winner on its hands.