Just like the RD-98DT, the DR18DT’s operating system has been tweaked since the previous generation to make it a lot faster and easier to use. Now you can change channels or navigate the setup menu with no annoying pauses, and the onscreen design is a lot more attractive.
The EPG is clear and functional, unusually giving you the opportunity to view a list of all the upcoming broadcasts of a particular programme (thanks to the series recording feature). You can also switch between a single channel view and a weekly timeline layout. All of the other displays and menus are logically arranged and attractively presented – the only flaw is that the now/next on screen display doesn’t give you details about the programme, which means you have to enter the full EPG to find out more.
The remote isn’t very inspiring either, sporting loads of similar-looking buttons that makes it hard to find certain functions quickly.
We can’t fault the unit’s Freeview recording capabilities however. XP mode takes the strong colours, plentiful detail and sharp edge definition of live Freeview broadcasts and transfers it to DVD without any visible difference in picture quality. The picture quality does fluctuate depending on the channel (BBC channels tend to look the best) but on the whole the XP encoding is flawless.
SP mode recordings are similarly impressive, but when you get to LP the quality takes a sudden dip. It’s not unwatchable by any means but you wouldn’t use it to archive your wedding video. Likewise, EP and SLP look blurry and juddery, with a smudgy halo of pixel noise surrounding every object on the screen. However, this is par for the course – it’s simply the price you pay for longer recording times and is no worse than any other DVD recorder on the market.
The recorder’s edits are fairly accurate, but do cause a long pause at the edit point, which could frustrate when watching heavily chopped footage.
With the unit’s upscaling set to 1080p, it does a sterling job with movies on DVD. We took ”The Sixth Sense” for a test drive on our Toshiba 40ZF355D and were impressed by how well it presents the movie’s blend of bright and moody visuals. The overall image is pleasingly sharp and boasts a wide contrast range and deep, fulsome colours. The image is also free from unwanted noise or block noise artefacts, which shows that the unit’s MPEG-2 decoding is every bit as good as its encoding.
Sound quality is also impressive. Dolby Digital-encoded stereo recordings are dynamic and easy to hear at low volumes, while bitstream playback of 5.1-channel Dolby Digital soundtracks (in this case via the HDMI output) is superb. Music playback from CD is also more charismatic than you might expect, rounding off a solid performance.
The DR18DT is a solid all-rounder that delivers excellent recording quality and a very useful range of editing features. It’s also easier to use than its predecessors and the inclusion of Freeview Playback adds to its all-round user-friendliness. But just like its hard-disk equipped sibling, the RD-98DT, it lacks certain features that would have taken it to the next level, namely dual-layer DVD-R/+R recording, a USB port and RGB input. But if none of that matters to you, then the DR18DT makes a competent and surprisingly affordable replacement for your VCR.
Score in detail