Toshiba's latest range of LCD TVs has been doing well, but when it comes to digital recorders the company has never enjoyed the same level of success. Sluggish software and an unwillingness to push the boat out have left Toshiba's DVD/HDD combis trailing behind slick, user-friendly machines from the likes of Panasonic, Sony and Pioneer.
But like a true champ, Toshiba has taken the criticism on board and at its preview back in February the company claimed to have put things right with its latest range, which includes the RD-98DT DVD/HDD recorder. It's the replacement for last year's RD-97DT and we've been dying to get our hands on it to see if these improvements really do make a difference.
Aesthetically it looks exactly the same as the RD-97DT, with an additional DVB logo on the fascia being the only way of telling them apart. However, this isn't a bad thing, as the sleek black and silver styling works extremely well, giving the unit a hi-tech vibe that perfectly compliments the company's gorgeous flat-panel TVs. It's also surprisingly slim compared to most of its rivals.
Toshiba hasn't overburdened the fascia with buttons, providing just play, stop, record and keys for switching between the hard-disk and DVD. There's also a tiny info display and a small flap on the right that hides a selection of AV inputs, including DV, S-video, composite and stereo audio. Like the RD-97DT this unit lacks USB ports or card slots for playing media files stored on your PC, which isn't essential but is a handy feature that comes as standard on most of Toshiba's big-name rivals.
Taking centre stage on the rear panel is an HDMI output, and thanks to the unit's built-in video upscaling you can send 576p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p to a compatible display (and you even get an HDMI lead in the box) but those who prefer to keep it analogue can use the progressive scan capable component or RGB SCART outputs. The coaxial digital and analogue stereo audio outputs let you hook the unit up to your AV receiver, though the addition of an optical output may have made life easier if you have other kit fighting over your coaxial inputs. You can use the SCART input to make recordings from external TV receivers and the Satellite Link feature starts the unit recording when it detects an incoming signal. However, because the input doesn't support RGB (as indicated by the tizzing, noisy edges of our Sky HD feed), recordings don't look as good as they do from the internal Freeview tuner.
Now for the vital statistics. The hard-disk capacity is 250GB, which offers up to 424 hours of recording time on the hard-disk, but you'll only get that if you record everything in the lowest quality SLP recording mode. Using recording modes with higher bitrates improves the picture quality but eats up more space, although with 53 hours available in the best quality XP mode, you probably won't need to change modes very often. In between XP and SLP are three other modes - SP, LP and EP - which offer 106, 212 and 318 hours on the hard disk respectively.