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There are several reasons why you might buy a DVD recorder instead of a combined DVD/hard-disk unit. Perhaps you don’t watch TV enough to justify a large hard-disk capacity and can make do with the smaller storage space offered by DVD. Perhaps you already own a hard-disk PVR and want a way of archiving programmes or making copies for friends and family. Or perhaps you simply have no use for the complex features found on DVD/HDD combis and want to keep things as simple as possible. Whatever the reason, Toshiba’s latest DVD recorder could be just what you’re looking for.
The DR18DT is basically the RD-98DT with the hard-disk stripped out. It supports two rewritable disc formats, the most useful of which is DVD-RW, which can be formatted in Video Recording mode (which allows you to edit your recordings afterwards) or Video mode, which makes the disc more widely compatible with other DVD players but rules out advanced editing. The other rewritable format is DVD+RW, which offers a basic set of editing features, while the supported write-once formats are DVD-R and DVD+R, but sadly it doesn’t accept dual-layer DVD-R and DVD+R discs, so the maximum recording time you’ll get is eight hours.
Toshiba has crafted a very sleek-looking unit featuring the company’s classic all-black finish with a silver strip running across the middle. There’s an LED display panel that gives all the relevant information, but it’s fairly hard to read from a normal viewing distance and could have done with being a bit bigger. Build quality is solid though, and its slimline dimensions won’t take up too much room on your AV stand.
The unit features a built-in Freeview tuner, with full support for Freeview Playback features such as series and split recording. This makes life a lot easier when recording your favourite programmes as you don’t have to set the timer every time - it records the whole series automatically and recognises when a programme has been split into two parts. However, the lack of a hard-disk makes this feature more problematic, as you have to make sure there’s enough space on a disc every time it’s about to record - with a hard-disk you can set it and forget it.
If you want to make recordings from external cable or satellite set-top boxes then the DR18DT comes equipped with two SCART sockets for this purpose. However, neither socket accepts RGB video signals, which offers the best-possible picture quality, and therefore your recordings won’t look as good as they could. We checked this by running the RGB-capable SCART output of a Sky HD box into both inputs and the resulting pictures show the unmistakable signs of composite video (tizzing edges and paler colours than RGB). On the plus side, the SCART inputs support Sat Link, which works in tandem with a timer-equipped external recorder and starts recording when it detects a signal.