The presence of a built-in DVD drive means you can record directly onto DVD, or copy hard-disk recordings onto disc at up to 32x normal speed. The unit supports DVD-RW/-R and DVD+RW/+R, which is enough to earn it the ‘multi-format’ tag but not in the truest sense as it lacks DVD-RAM, DVD-R (DL) and DVD+R (DL) recording. With a hard-disk on board, the lack of RAM is no big deal, but the absence of dual-layer recording means you can only fit a maximum of one hour onto a write-once DVD in XP mode (as opposed to almost two).
One of the most significant additions to Toshiba’s new recorder range is Freeview Playback, which means the RD-98DT sports a digital tuner and can record an entire series after setting the timer once; automatically record split programmes and make suggestions when timer events clash. The process of recording a series initially seems more convoluted than most recorders but unusually it shows you a list of the next six episodes that will be recorded, which is a useful tool. There’s also an analogue tuner on board, but you can’t watch one tuner while recording on another.
There are loads of recording and editing features on board. Recordings stored in the Title List menu are displayed with a moving thumbnail, alongside all the relevant details including whether the recording is new. Select a title and you’re presented with a list of editing options, which allow you to delete a scene, add chapter markers, divide/combine titles or change the name. For recordings made on the hard-disk or a DVD-RW (VR mode), you can add titles to a separate playlist and watch them back in the order of your choosing. DVD+RW recording is more limited, allowing you to hide chapters instead of deleting a section completely.
The unit also performs the usual collection of hard-disk tricks, such as pausing live TV (using the Time Slip button), simultaneous recording/playback, and the ability to watch a programme from the start while it’s still being recorded. If you’re using pause live TV, however, it’s worth bearing in mind that the time-delayed pictures are displayed in the current recording mode, so unless XP or SP is selected, the picture quality will be reduced.
In terms of multimedia support, the RD-98DT isn’t one of the more sophisticated machines on the market. Unlike its media centre-mimicking rivals, the RD-98DT doesn’t let you to store music, photos or video on the hard-disk, limiting MP3, JPEG and DivX playback to DVD and CDs only. Combined with the lack of USB ports and lack of WMA support, this is not the recorder to buy if you want to bring your media library into the living room.
But on a more positive note, we’re impressed by the improvements to the operating system that make the RD-98DT much easier to use than its predecessor. You can move through setup menu options quickly and channel changing is a lot faster too, all of which results in a slicker and less frustrating user experience.