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TOSHIBA SD-100, £300


Toshiba (01276) 62222


Ordinarily the Toshiba SD-100 would have rated a worthy but dull kind of review. With a £300 price ticket it’s about as close as Toshiba is likely to get to the budget end of the market and the feature list is fairly brief, but down in the small print there’s one rather interesting titbit. From now on all Toshiba players – the SD-100 is the first -- will be able to have their ‘firmware’ updated by loading a special disc. So what’s that all about? Firmware is the player’s operating software. The official story is that Toshiba is mindful of the problems that have affected several other manufacturers, where discs with multimedia content like ‘The Matrix’, ‘The Mummy’ and ‘There’s Something About Mary’, have caused problems or refused to play. Ironically Toshiba were not affected, but if something like that happens again all the owner has to do is nip down to their local dealer, who will pop in a special service disc, and Bob’s your uncle.


All very laudable, but here’s a thought. Could it be that a firmware revision might also be able to change or switch off the player’s Regional coding locks, and since there’s no messing around inside the machine presumably the warranty would stay intact? It’s pure speculation of course, but wouldn’t it be neat if someone were to market such a disc or make the information available on the Internet. Not Toshiba of course, perish the thought, but – and again this is complete conjecture – it would certainly be a good reason to buy a Toshiba player, especially in a highly competitive market, where budget players with ‘loose’ or non-existent region locks have been selling like hot cakes. As we said, just a thought¼


So put all that right out of your mind and look at what the SD-100 has to offer. It’s an entry-level model, which means no on-board Dolby Digital decoding or fancy toys, but all of the usual suspects are there, including multi-speed replay (2x, 8x, & 30x in both directions, fwd slomo & still), 3D spatial sound, 3-mode picture zoom; the optical and coaxial bitstream outputs are DTS compatible and there’s even a Karaoke voice cut facility. The machine is housed in a smart-looking two-tone silver/grey box and around the back there’s a single SCART (carrying RGB output) plus separate composite and S-Video outputs.


Toshiba is not a budget brand but like everyone else it has had to move its prices down to stay in contention, and it’s fairly obvious where some of the savings have been made. On screen displays are very basic, no flashy menus or graphics here, just basic status information (time, track, chapter etc.), most controls are shifted onto the remote, which explains why there’s so many buttons, for such a basic machine. This wouldn’t be so bad except that a lot of frequently used buttons are all the same size, and difficult to distinguish, or too small and fiddly.


Thankfully Toshiba hasn’t cut any corners when it comes to picture or sound quality. Images are rich and detailed, colours sharply defined and shades are faithfully rendered. The dynamic range is a touch wider than usual, which means comparatively little picture information ends up being lost in shadows or gloomy scenes. There were no processing artefacts to speak of, even on the worst of our tests discs; trick play performance is faultless and our sample had no difficulty with mixed-media titles, but it’s a relief to know that should a problem arise it can be swiftly rectified¼ Layer change is fairly sedate worst case was a little over half a second but the image remains stable.


Dolby Surround information on the mixed stereo output is very cleanly resolved, effects are tightly located within the soundfield especially loud bass material which deliver a most satisfying rumble when piped through a decent sub. The bitstream output is squeaky clean, dialogue and effects are sharply focused and again it seems to really get behind the big bass sounds on action blockbusters.


Even though AV performance are both very good, but for the upgradeable firmware facility the SD-100 would rank only as a mildly interesting newcomer. Right now, for the same sort of money there are some very well specified machines on the market, including models with advanced disc navigation features and on-board Dolby Digital decoders. Nevertheless, keep an eye on the SD-100, and Toshiba players to come; it’s possible we’ll be hearing a lot more about upgradeable firmware.



It’s the sort of remote handset you get with cheap VCRs and mini hi-fi systems. The main problem is the number of small identically sized buttons, but the real horror is the microscopic Enter button in the middle of the four-way cursor cluster. It’s so small that more often than not you end up pressing the adjacent buttons as well.




TOSHIBA SD-100                  


SCART             1

S-Video             1

RGB out                        yes

Optical digital            yes

Coaxial digital            yes

5.1 decoder                   no



Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, DTS compatible bitstream output, multi-speed replay, 3D spatial sound, 3 stage picture zoom, display dimmer, disc upgradeable firmware



AV performance, future prospects



Nasty little remote buttons


Ease of use            4

Picture  5

Sound               4

Features            3

Overall  4



Price                 £300


S-Video 1

Digital out            coaxial, optical

Decoder            none


Good Points

AV performance, future prospects


Bad points

Nasty little remote buttons







© R. Maybury 2000, 0704



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