Toshiba D-R150 review

Toshiba cuts the cost. What else suffers?

Our Verdict

Although not without its charms, Toshiba could have done a better job here

For

  • DVD-RAM dubbing

  • finalised DVD menus
  • live TV zoom

Against

  • No RGB input

  • unresponsive user interface
  • no DVD RW playback

Despite its lowish cost,Toshiba's latest DVD-only recorder manages to include some interesting features, like a progressive-scan capable component output for the latest TVs,a zoom that works with TV/AV sources as well as DVDs and multiformat recording.

The D-R150 is quite attractive by virtue of a slimline design. Its front panel sports a basic LED display and the bare minimum of controls. One of the operations that is possible from the front-panel controls - timeslip - lets you play the recording currently in progress, providing you're using DVD-RAM. The flap-concealed front-panel AV inputs only cater for composite video analogue sources.

Rear-panel connectivity fares little better.We thought that Toshiba had learnt from its past mistakes as far as RGB Scart inputs are concerned.The D-R150,alas, demonstrates otherwise; the input Scart accepts composite or S-video only.Thankfully,the output Scart delivers RGB,composite or S-video to a component-unfriendly display. Alongside these are discrete composite/S-video and analogue phono audio outputs.Digital-audio feeds to an external decoder are coaxial-only.

Key to using the D-R150 is the 'navigator', a collection of onscreen menus that cater for various tasks including timer-programming,disc formatting/finalisation,access to recordings, editing, titling and setup.

As far as the latter is concerned, the D-R150 will automatically find (analogue) TV channels and set the clock.These tasks can also be conducted manually.Recordings cannot be made if the clock isn't set! The navigator's first option sets the 32-event timer,which - incredibly! - lacks VideoPlus,although PDC is supported.

Accessing self-made recordings, an operation that relies on the navigator, is not as quick as it could be - ridiculously, the remote's DVD menu buttons only work with commercial and finalised DVDRWs/- Rs! It has to be said that the menus are tremendously slow,and as a result it's easy to shoot past the option you're after.

Loading discs is also slow.There's a choice of five fixed recording modes offering between 1 and 6 hr per disc.Recordings appear in the play contents menu alongside a (changeable) thumbnail.

If you're working with videomode discs,the only editing options available are rename, thumbnail changes and delete.Chapters can't be changed here,and so you're best off using automatic-chaptering to start with.DVD-RAMs,in contrast, benefit from user chapter definition, partial delete and playlist editing.An unexpected high-speed dubbing facility losslessly copies a playlist to another section of a DVD-RAM. The original contents can then be deleted.Disappointingly,you can't 'downconvert' to a lower mode.

The D-R150's top two recording modes retain much of the original source's detail - which includes the edge 'shimmer' of composite-video sources. Ironically, the lower resolution of the three lowest-quality modes help to mask such artefacts. Indeed,quite acceptable visuals were achieved in the 3 and 4hr modes; detail is sacrificed,but colour rendition and contrast range are left largely intact. But the quality conscious should forget the 6hr mode,which is spoilt by noise and obvious blurring

Audio quality is also fair,the Dolby Digital soundtrack certainly doing justice to regular TV programming. In terms of playback, the D-R150 is suggestive of a decent budget DVD player.

Overall,the D-R150 disappoints. The lack of RGB output is a step backwards for Toshiba and the user interface needs some work. But it is fairly affordable, better specified than unknown brand supermarket recorders and makes acceptable recordings. Martin Pipe