This DVD/HDD recorder from Toshiba might not be one of its latest, but with heavy discounts online it could still be worth a look if you want a cost effective way of receiving and recording Freeview channels. We should say right away that the on-board tuner is DVB-T only, which means you won’t get any high-definition Freeview channels, but if you have no interest in hi-def then the RD329DT has plenty of other features to investigate.
Inside the unit is a 320GB hard-disk drive, which allows you record up to 284 hours of digital TV in its lowest-quality recording mode, or 68 hours in the highest. These recordings can be copied onto DVD using the built-in DVD-R/-RW and DVD+RW/+R drive, which also plays DVDs and CDs. Sadly you can’t record onto dual-layer discs, but the eight hours of recording time available on a single-layer disc should be enough for most people.
On the outside the unit is a good-looking machine – slim, sleek and dressed in a dashing all-black finish. A silver stripe runs through the middle of the fascia to break up the blackness and there’s a tiny LED display panel showing the Freeview channel number and other info like elapsed time during playback. The lower half of the fascia drops down to uncover a few buttons and connections. There are DV, composite and analogue stereo inputs, a USB port plus play, stop and record buttons, as well as keys to switch between HDD and DVD.
On the back is a decent selection of sockets, including an HDMI output that provides upscaled DVD and Freeview pictures. You can upscale them to 720p, 1080i or 1080p and switch between resolutions using the dedicated ‘HDMI’ button on the remote or the setup menu. On the fascia, a row of lights indicates the current HDMI output resolution. Non-HDMI TVs can be connected using the component or RGB Scart sockets, while a second Scart allows you to input signals from external equipment for recording or looping through. The Satellite Link feature triggers the Toshiba to start recording when it detects a signal on the Scart input. On the audio side there are analogue stereo and coaxial digital outputs.
The RD329DT’s feature list may not be as plentiful as that of a Panasonic or Sony recorder, but there are some useful inclusions. One of the highlights is the USB port, which makes it possible to play MP3, JPEG and DivX files from USB storage devices. Not an extensive range of formats perhaps, but at least it tackles the main ones.
The deck’s most alluring features are in the recording realm – it’s a Freeview+ model, so that means you get Series Recording, which is programmed in a slightly different way to most recorders. Select a programme in the EPG (which we’ll come to later), hit the yellow button and you get a list containing all the instances when that programme is shown over the coming week. Hit OK and series recording is set. It’s slightly long-winded, but that series overview is still a useful and unusual feature.