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With Toshiba still stubbornly refusing to launch a Blu-ray player, its upscaling DVD decks are the nearest you'll get to hi-def movie playback from the company - for the time being anyway. Thankfully, its DVD disc spinners are pretty impressive, mixing solid feature sets with tempting price tags and strong picture quality, a combination that's proving very popular with the British public - more than five million players and recorders were sold in 2008, of which Toshiba had an eight per cent share, making it the number two brand in the UK
The 2009 range is still spearheaded by the detail-boosting XDE-500, but in terms of 'regular' upscaling players the SD-590E is the best specified model in the range. It replaces last year's SD-580E and the spec sheet looks remarkably similar, as does the price tag.
The design isn't a radical departure either, although there are some subtle cosmetic changes on the fascia - the circular standby button on the far right is gone, the logos and labels have been moved around and it's more angular than the 580E.
Sure it's light and has budget build quality but its wafer thin shape and sleek gloss-black finish will make it a very welcome addition to any home cinema system. Our only wish is that the display panel could be extended beyond the basic four-digit arrangement.
Around the back the changes are a little more radical. The component video outputs found on the 580E have been jettisoned, probably because they're used less and less in these HDMI-dominated times. But otherwise the roster is the same and includes HDMI, composite, RGB SCART, analogue stereo and coaxial digital audio outputs.
On the front you'll find a USB port, which would previously have been reserved for the top-end model but this year you'll also find it on the cheaper SD-290E. It allows you to liberate digital content trapped on your PC without the hassle of burning them onto CD or DVD first - it's a simple plug and play procedure. The deck supports MP3, DivX, hi-res JPEG and m4a, but not DivX HD, WMV or WMA. We're particularly pleased by how quickly it recognises the USB flash drive and loads up content.
Elsewhere you'll find a very familiar-looking feature list, which includes Dolby Digital and DTS bitstream output, 720p, 1080i and 1080p upscaling via the HDMI output together with Toshiba stalwarts like Regza Link and the Enhanced Audio Mode (EAM), which adds a '3D' virtual surround effect when listening through two speakers. The Enhanced Picture Mode (EPM) lets you alter elements of the picture, but don't expect enthusiast levels of tweaking - you get brightness and contrast settings and that's it.
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