Toshiba SD-44HK £230

1st Mar 2005 | 00:00

Its looks bely the budget-friendly price tag

TechRadar rating:

5 stars

As a budget all-in-one home cinema system it really is an excellent offering

Toshiba has been a little slow to jump on the one-box home cinema bandwagon, with just a handful of models under its belt to date. With the SD-44H, however, it seems the brand has finally cottoned on to the mass market demand for home cinema, as it is priced at a budget-friendly £230.

Don't be fooled by the entry-level price tag, however - the SD-44HK looks a lot more expensive than it is. While not quite up to the design standards set by the Toshiba's flagship system, the SD-63HK, the attention to detail is obvious, the simplistic styling is easy on the eye and all the components look and feel well-made.

The slender main unit is a mix of silver and mirror finish, and the neat arrangement of buttons take care of basic navigation. The speaker package is similarly aesthetically pleasing, and while the subwoofer is a bit formidable, its size and large port should be capable of producing some mighty bass levels. This group test is certainly proving that budget home cinema doesn't have to look cheap.

The usual suspects

The SD-44HK is equipped with the usual features to help you get the most from DVD movies and music. Both Dolby Digital and DTS decoders are here, along with Dolby Pro-Logic II to convert stereo sources into a convincing surround sound experience. Video connections, meanwhile, thankfully include component video outputs for delivering best-quality images to a suitably equipped flatscreen TV. If your TV can't take component, however, (and if it can't, we recommend you pick a new one from among the pages of this magazine!) RGB Scart, Svideo and basic-quality composite video connections are available.

Red or dead

We slotted our Spider-Man 2 DVD into the SD-44HK's slimline unit, and found that our favourite superhero had rarely looked better. Progressive scan images via the component connections are extremely well judged. Colour reproduction, in particular, impressed us: reds were striking, making Peter Parker's Spider-Man costume look more vibrant than ever, while this wasn't at the expense of naturalism - skin-tones weren't overcooked. Black levels are already impressive with the system's out-of-the-box settings (which gave our test movie great depth) but switching on Toshiba's black level expansion mode improved matters further, resulting in an almost cinematic picture depth.

While the SD-44HK's picture performance is more or less flawless, its surround sound does its very best to keep up. As we suspected, our test movie's many bass effects are spectacularly handled via the sizeable subwoofer, which meant that those all-important Spidey vs Doc Ock action sequences were given a surprising amount of power at the price. Surround effects were effectively placed around our test room, creating a real sense of tension. The only way in which the Toshiba's speakers don't quite live up to its picture performance is with some unclear dialogue through the centre speaker, and the fact that voices sounded a bit nasal on occasion.

Musically, the SD-44HK doesn't let itself down, and could double as a reasonable music system. It delivered a big sound that filled our room with impressive bass while spinning Duran Duran's Astronaut album.

Toshiba may not be the most prolific manufacturer when it comes to one-box home cinema production, but if the SD-44HK is anything to go by, this is because it follows the 'quality, not quantity' rule. This setup looks stylish and delivers near-flawless pictures and good sound, at a reasonable price. If you're after a budget home cinema, you can't ask for much more than that.

ToshibaSpeakersHome cinemaHi-Fi/audio
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