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Toshiba recently unveiled a new range of DVD and hard-disk recorders, due out in the next couple of months, but if you can't wait that long then it might be worth tracking down this deck from its current range for a knock-down price. The D-R17DT is a standalone DVD recorder, which means there's no hard-disk on board, making it better suited to people who don't want to pause live TV or edit recordings before dubbing them to disc.
Its recording capabilities are limited to four formats - DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD-R and DVD+R. The lack of DVD-RAM might disappoint those who favour the format's non-linear versatility, but those people can seek solace in the presence of DVD-RW's Video Recording mode, which makes non-linear editing a possibility. Write-once duties are handled by DVD-R and DVD+R, but the lack of DVD-R Dual Layer and DVD+R Double Layer means eight hours is the maximum recording time you can squeeze out of this machine.
The deck boasts a built-in Freeview tuner, a feature you'll find on most new recorders in 2008 as digital switchover gathers pace, and with it comes digital text and a 7-day EPG. That means you can set the timer simply by clicking on the relevant programme in the guide, which is still one of the best things about Freeview-equipped recorders. You can't series link a particular programme though - that talent is reserved for the hard-disk models in Toshiba's 2008 range.
As for the outside, the recorder is styled in the same sleek black finish that made the company's HD DVD players (R.I.P.) look so darn sexy. Buttons are sparse, and a small flap on the fascia hides the AV inputs to preserve the minimal aesthetic. The front connections include S-video, composite and stereo audio inputs, but sadly there's no DV input or USB port for playing digital media files from flash memory drives.
The rear panel is much more generous. The most interesting socket is the HDMI output, which offers upscaled pictures in 1080p, 1080i or 720p flavours and it applies to TV recordings as well as regular DVD playback. To record pictures from an external source such as a Sky box, the unit provides a SCART input alongside a SCART output for non-HDMI equipped TVs. Component video, electrical digital audio and stereo audio outputs complete the decent connections roster.
The five recording modes (XP, SP, LP, EP and SLP) enable you to fit between one and eight hours of recordings onto a disc, but the picture quality decreases the lower down the list you go.