We’re not impressed by the remote. It’s packed with buttons laid out in a regimented way that makes it hard to find certain functions quickly, plus the EPG and programme change keys are awkwardly placed towards the top of the handset. Thankfully the often-used menu controls are intuitively placed.
The RD329DT’s live Freeview pictures didn’t blow us away either, due to the presence of block noise and jagged edges in the picture, slightly more that we’d normally expect there to be. Certain channels look worse than others (ITV’s channels in particular) and they have a gauzy, jittery look that doesn’t help with the legibility of small text or fine detail. It’s not a disaster by any stretch of the imagination – pictures are generally watchable, and with Freeview many of the problems stem from limitations of the platform itself – but there’s no denying that images aren’t as clean and sharp as some other combis and PVRs we’ve tested.
And because XP mode recordings look identical to the live broadcast, these artefacts rear their ugly heads when watched from the hard-disk too – but hats off to Toshiba for its faithful video encoding quality. SP recordings also look strong but from LP downwards the low recordings bitrates start to introduce extra levels of blurriness and block noise that should only be tolerated for temporary timeshifting and not archived DVD recordings.
When upscaled to 1080p, the Toshiba produces solid DVD pictures that boast lots of detail, natural colours and judder-free motion. The DVD version of Avatar, for example, is a visual treat, with the RD329DT reproducing Pandora’s vibrant colours with the requisite vivacity, plus the small leaves and shading amid the jungle scenery look sharp and well-defined, without excessive artefacts to sully the clarity.
The RD329DT also reproduces TV audio with pleasing clarity, particularly when it comes to speech, and it also makes a serviceable CD player.
On the whole the RD329DT is a basic DVD/HDD recorder that does a good job at the basics without pushing the boat out. In the cons column, we’d have to list the dated onscreen presentation, limited USB format support, lack of dual-layer recording, average Freeview pictures and cluttered EPG, plus the lack of a Freeview HD tuner will be an instant turn-off for many. But among the pros are a useful range of recording and editing features, a 320GB hard-disk, solid DVD upscaling and generally smooth operation.