Toshiba's portable DVD deck makes quite an impression when you first clap eyes on it. It's a gorgeous design, very compact and sleek, and is no bulkier than a Filofax (if anybody still knows what they are).
This would once have been very apt, because portable DVD players used to be the preserve of the cash-rich Yuppies. Times have changed, however, and this beautiful piece of AV gear can be yours for around £170.
Open the deck up and you're greeted by a 7in, 16:9 ratio TFT LCD display. This is a bit small by today's standards (the recently tested Philips PET1000 has a 10.2in. screen).Screen resolution is 480 x 234, so there's nothing to write home about there, either.
Connectivity sees the provision of AV inputs and outputs, a jack for routing Dolby Digital or DTS signals to an amp, and a pair of headphone sockets. This is welcome, because listening through headphones is likely to give the best sound quality and the ability to share with a friend is useful.
Playback options include the usual frame advance, slow motion and repeat play options, and there is a 4x zoom.
The Enhanced Audio Mode promises to deliver a 3D sound effect while dynamic range control offers the usual taming of sudden loud noises in a soundtrack. A three-step equaliser gives Jazz, Hall and Stadium settings.
Picture adjustments are available for brightness and colour, and the screen can be set for Normal or Enhanced, which stretches an image to fill the screen - but there doesn't appear to be any automatic anamorphic switching.
The first thing you notice when firing this deck up is how noisy it is. Thankfully, the noise dies away during playback, but it does periodically start up again during viewing, which is distracting. Hit the stop button and an alarming scraping sound comes out from the deck.
The sound quality is poor from the onboard speakers, but via headphones the delivery improves and is certainly good enough. There is some nice placement of stereo effects, but wearing headphones for long periods is tiring. However, they will effectively screen out the noisy operation.
The picture from the LCD screen is average. The screen struggles to handle large amounts of detail, such as the creepy forest at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, or the massed cavalry charge later on.
As regards close-ups, the picture instantly takes a quantum leap, becoming detailed and bold, with good colour rendition, so your experience with this deck will be influenced strongly by the sort of programming you watch.
The battery delivers three hours of playback - plenty for most films (but not The Return of the King!).
Overall, then, this is an average portable at a low price. Whether that equates to a bargain is up to you to decide, but we think the picture is not up to sustained viewing. David Smith