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Toshiba SD-590E DVD Player - Toshiba SD-590E
The player's setup menu is smart and functional, using big blue boxes and clear white text. Like last year's model it's quick to respond to remote commands and requires no brain power to work out what's what. There's a smaller banner that can be called up during disc playback containing various details about the disc, which makes up for the poor front panel display.
The remote also remains the same as the 580E, and therefore shares its logical button layout for the core controls and decent labelling. But it all gets a bit busy towards the bottom and all the buttons are the same colour - some attempt to separate them out would have been welcome.
But what matters most is picture quality, and on that score the SD-590E delivers a performance that belies its price tag. With Peter Jackson's King Kong, images are generally sharp, vivid and stand up to scrutiny on a bigscreen TV - it's almost impossible to discern any unwanted upscaling artefacts. There's some noise crawling around on certain backgrounds but no major problems.
Skin tones are eminently natural and subtly shaded, punchy blacks permeate the picture and edges are drawn definitively. We also love the strength and fidelity of colours - everything from the yellow New York cabs at the start to the neon lights at the end have real depth and character.
The deck also dredges up loads of detail, reproducing Kong's strands of fur and the cracks and crevices on Skull Island's rocks with effortless poise and focus. On the whole, a great effort for the money.
Audio performance is also hugely entertaining. Digitally-piped Dolby Digital and DTS tracks are of course the highlight, but reveal nothing of the decks' own audio chops - a better indication is the smooth and well-balanced analogue stereo playback from the phono outputs with films and CDs.
The SD-590E feels a bit like a middle-aged footballer approaching retirement, doing a solid, workmanlike job but unable to dazzle and excite like it did in the good old days. The lack of any radical design changes or new, dynamic additions to the previous generation's feature list makes it feel like Toshiba is resting on its laurels, happy that it has pushed DVD technology as far as it can. If it ain't broke don't fix it, so they say.
Perhaps Toshiba is treading water until the Net Player comes along, but at least one new trick would have been nice, just to give people an incentive to upgrade - DivX HD playback perhaps or a daring new design concept à la LG and Samsung.
But this lack of progression doesn't detract from the deck's inherent quality - the SD-590E is a superb little DVD player. The USB port and HDMI output bring it bang up to date with today's connection requirements, and the picture and sound quality is among the best you'll see at this sort of price. It's good enough to use as your main movie source in the living room, but would be equally at home in the bedroom thanks to its remarkably slim design. We just wish it played Blu-ray but let's not get bogged down in that again…
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