So onto picture quality and during movie playback the SD-480E delivers assured, fluid images, handling the beautiful cinematography of Apocalypto with pleasing depth and clarity. Mel Gibson’s Mayan masterpiece is absolutely bursting with detail and the Toshiba lets very little slip through its grasp, while the varied colour palette looks rich and natural. Displayed in 1080p on a Full HD Toshiba LCD (set to Exact Scan), it’s hard to spot any artefacts caused by the upscaling process. We’re not saying the picture is free from noise completely – some twitchy fine detail and muddy edges are evidence to the contrary – but it’s kept within acceptable limits.
The scene that best demonstrates the deck’s capabilities is when the captured tribe reach the Mayan city and wait in line to be sacrificed – shots of the baying crowd below and the surrounding temples look sharp and focused, while the blood, tribal decorations and glittering trinkets are displayed with real vibrancy.
And as Jaguar Paw is being chased through the jungle, the deck tracks our hero with conviction and keeps motion artefacts like smearing and block noise at bay. Dark scenes aren’t completely free from noise but objects are discernable enough.
It’s only when you slip the Tosh some test patterns that cracks start to appear. High-frequency detail bars are steady and sharp and the colour swatch is smooth, but it goes haywire with the rotating bars of the jaggies test, juddering and stuttering uncomfortably and making the diagonal lines look like staircases. Fine patterns also twitch and fidget during the detail tests, which upsets the clarity of the overall picture.
As a CD player the SD-480E isn’t bad, offering a respectful rendition of Miles Davis’ Blue in Green – the mere fact that his muted trumpet doesn’t put your teeth on edge means it must be doing something right. It doesn’t sparkle like the best players would but it’s enjoyable enough for unfussy tastes. Movie sound is also excellent – Apocalypto’s DTS track is scintillating through an Onkyo TX-SR576, particularly during the high-octane escape scene as arrows whizz from the fronts to the rears.
The SD-480E certainly isn’t the last word in DVD picture quality, with some problems thrown up by test patterns, but despite this there’s still a lot to admire about its images, particularly when playing back movies. What’s more, there’s a decent range of connections, it’s easy to use and there are some useful features, all of which means you could do a lot worse for £50.