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TOSHIBA SD-220E, £180

 

STANDFIRST

Brand leader Toshiba is taking on the budget DVD player manufacturers at their own game, and doing a pretty good job of it, as the recently launched SD-220E very convincingly demonstrates

 

COPY

It used to be possible to spot a budget DVD player at thirty paces but itís getting a lot harder now that A-brand companies like Toshiba are getting in on the act. The SD-220 has the look and feel of a classy up market model but the core specification bears a striking similarity to itís budget stablemate the SD110 (see HE101) however this time thereís a few more controls on the front panel an extra feature or two and the compact casework shows definite signs of having passed through the styling department with lots of sharply sculptured edges and graduated tints around the front panel display window.

 

Despite all that the SD220 still sells for less than £200 and at least one on-line retailer has it listed at £170, but if you were expecting a worthy but dull entry-level machine you would be wrong. True there are no on-board 5.1 surround decoders but the audio facilities are far from basic and Toshiba has managed to squeeze in a 2-mode spatial sound system and MP3 replay. It also has a small handful of picture enhancements, a multi-mode zoom/shrink facility plus a set of component video outputs. Unfortunately the latter will only be of interest to those who opt for a chipped version of the 220 (there are no handset hacks for this or any other Toshiba player) and a suitably equipped TV or projector because component video only benefits NTSC material, most of which is coded for Region 1.

 

The only indication that Toshiba has tried to shave a few bob off the price is in the range of trick-play speeds -- it has forward only slomo -- and the remote handset could easily belong to a no-name budget player. The picture enhancements mentioned a few moments ago are known collectively as EPM or electronic picture management. They consist of four preset modes (Movie 1 & 2, animation and light) that vary brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness, to bring out the best in different types of material.

 

On our sample the EPM facility did most good when it was left on the ĎNormalí or off mode, as on-screen performance is perfectly fine without it and most of the time the alternate settings only succeeded in degrading what is otherwise an excellent picture. The 220 copes easily with dark and moody movies like Se7en and Moulin Rouge. Backgrounds in gloomy interior shots in Se7en -- often ending up as a muddy mush -- are crisply rendered revealing plenty of texture and detail. The 220ís picture appears to be an artefact free zone; it is completely unfazed by rapid movement and sudden changes in brightness. This player is definitely worth short-listing if you watch a lot of action blockbuster and sci-fi movies and can appreciate a good explosion or laser blastÖ

 

With only modest amounts of noise on the analogue stereo output Dolby Surround soundtracks it can generate a big lively soundstage with plenty of sharply defined effects. Better yet, connect the optical or coaxial bitstream outputs to a Dolby Digital/dts decoder and amp for full-blown digital surround. The 220 can also double up as a CD audio deck; performance is in the top-end budget/mid-range hi-fi ballpark, delivering a clean and for the most part quite pleasing sound. MP3 replay appears to be a bit of an afterthought with only sparse information available from the on-screen displays, and thatís buried quite deeply in sub menus. Nevertheless it sounds pretty good, the high-levels of compression can be quite noticeable but itís certainly up to providing background music.

 

Combine the Toshiba name with above average performance and facilities, smart good looks and very reasonable price and youíve got a DVD player that deserves your very serious attention!

 

Contact Toshiba (01276) 62222, www.toshiba.co.uk

 

Overall              5

Picture Quality            5

Sound Quality            5

Features                       4

Ease of Use                  3

Build Quality            4

Value for Money            4

 

DETAIL

Toshiba has produced some excellent remote control handsets in the past but the one that comes with the SD-220 is not one of them. The main problem concerns the size and layout of the transport keys. Theyíre way too small and not that easy to distinguish and bunching the track skip and picture search buttons together at the top is a pain, making the player really difficult to drive, especially in subdued light.

 

DVD BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

 

TOSHIBA SD-220E

£                                  £180

VERDICT                      4

STATUS                       

COMMENTS            Outstanding budget play, well specified with excellent AV performance

TYPE                            DVD

5.1 OUT                        N

OUTPUT                       Dig

COMP'NT VID            Y

SCARTS                       1

ISSUE              104      

 

TECH SPEC

Region 2, PAL/NTSC replay, MP3 replay, multi-speed replay, 4-mode picture zoom/shrink, EAM 3D sound, EPM picture control

 

AV out (1 x SCART), S-Video (mini DIN), composite video, mixed stereo, component video and coaxial bitstream (phono), optical bitstream (TOSlink)

 

(ZorV2)

 

 

HEAD

JVC HR-DVS3, £1000

 

STANDFIRST

It takes more than a fancy digital camcorder to make great home movies and editing digital recordings can be a complicated business, unless youíve got a JVC HR-DVS3 twin deckÖ

 

COPY

Digital camcorders have taken home video movie making to new levels with stunning picture and sound quality yet for all their technical merit most homemade epics can still be painful to watch with a few good shots strung together with a lot of very bad onesÖ

 

These days you can edit digital video (DV) recordings on a PC but if all you want is a quick and easy way to cut out the wonky bits and copy the footage to VHS, so you can send a tape to aunt Maud, the JVC HR-DVS3 might be what youíve be waiting for. Itís a twin deck (mini-DV and S-VHS-ET) VCR with a built-in edit controller but itís more than just a specialised edit-copy deck, itís a well-equipped home cinema machine as well with NICAM and stereo hi-fi sound, Video Plus+ with PDC, satellite control, a good range of trick play functions and it comes with a multi brand TV/satellite box remote handset.

 

The basic recording options are the same for both decks and they can record off-air TV programmes, from an external source or from each other but we reckon JVC has missed a trick by not allowing the two decks to record simultaneously, (handy for recording programs on terrestrial and digital TV at the same time). In addition to all of the usual analogue audio and video inputs and outputs the DVS3 has a FireWire (aka iLink or IEE 1394) DV in/out socket so it can connect to a video printer or record directly to or from a digital camcorder (models with enabled DV input).

 

Editing facilities include direct tape-to-tape copy or you can specify up to 8 selected scenes at a time using the built-in Random Assemble Edit feature. Thereís also an audio dub facility that lets you replace the original soundtrack with music or narration, and Insert Editing, where new scenes are slotted into an existing recording but this only works on the S-VHS deck.

 

DV performance is excellent and at least as good as most DV camcorders. In playback mode home movies retain all of their original pin-sharp clarity and it faithfully renders colours and shades but the most noticeable feature is the almost complete absence of picture noise. The lack of noise also helps with off-air recordings on the DV tape deck, they look superb, even at LP speed; itís a shame mini-DV tapes are so expensive otherwise you might be seriously tempted to ditch your VHS VCR. Off-air recordings made on the S-VHS-ET deck look only marginally better than top-end VHS, itís not down to any reduction in resolution (compared with mini DV), the picture carries a lot of fine detail but thereís a just perceptible overlay of noise on both pre-recorded tapes, and recordings made on the machine that gives the picture a slightly soft textured appearance. To be fair itís not something you would normally take much notice of but it is more apparent on this machine because it is so easy to make instant side-by-side comparisons.  

 

The stereo soundtracks on DV recordings (4 x 12-bit channels or 2 x 16-bit channels) are into hi-fi territory with a broad and flat response that easily captures anything NICAM or home movie soundtracks can throw at it and background hiss is at a very low level. Noise levels jump appreciably on the VHS hi-fi audio channels but it is fairly well suppressed and not at all intrusive during movie playback allowing plenty of space for loud and dynamic Dolby Surround effects.

 

No question, an impressive piece of kit but itís quite an investment and you would need to make good use of the editing and copying facilities to make it worthwhile. 

 

JVC 020 8450 3282, www.jvc-europe.com

 

Overall              4

Picture Quality            5

Sound Quality            4

Features                       4

Ease of Use                  3

Build Quality            4

Value for Money            3

 

DETAIL

The handset supplied with the DVS3 is a tried and tested design thatís been around on JVC VCRs and DVD players for several years. Button layout and labelling is generally good and in spite of the added complications brought about by the twin tape decks and the extra TV and satellite functions, basic operation is not too bad though timer programming can get a bit involved as several buttons have dual functions

 

DVD BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

 

JVC HR-DVS3EU

£                                  £1000

VERDICT                      4

SCARTS                       2

COMMENTS            Great performance but pricey and fairly specialised appeal

SAT CONT                    Y

NTSC                            Y

ISSUE              104

 

 

FEATURES

Twin deck (DV & S-VHS), NICAM, stereo hi-fi sound, Video Plus + timer with PDC, auto installation, NTSC playback, multi-speed replay, satellite control, audio dub, insert edit, 8-scene assemble edit, multi-brand TV/satellite remote

           

Sockets            Rear: 2 x SCART AV in/out, S-Video out (min DIN) stereo line audio out (phono), RF in/out (coaxial). Front: AV in (phono), S-Video in (mini DIN), DV in/out FireWire/IEEE 13294/iLink

 

 

 

---end---

 

R. Maybury 2002, 0504

 

 

 

 

 

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