The pastel-coloured onscreen menus are easy on the eye and simple to digest, particularly the no-nonsense setup menu that thankfully isn’t overburdened with unnecessary submenus. The EPG is similarly neat and tidy, cramming in a lot of information without looking cluttered. You can switch between daily and weekly views and use the remote’s colour-coded keys to view series details or set the timer.
The RD-97DT’s remote hasn’t been improved however, which means there are still banks of similar-looking buttons and the programme change keys aren’t obvious enough. That said, the well-placed central controls allow for intuitive menu navigation, and the dedicated HDMI resolution and recording mode buttons are handy.
If you plan to use the RD-98DT to watch digital TV, then live Freeview picture quality is excellent, particularly when upscaled to 1080p and viewed on a Full HD TV. Colours are rich and natural looking, edge-definition is razor-sharp and fine detail is crisply reproduced. There’s no escaping the shimmering pixel noise that surrounds moving objects and blights camera pans – an unfortunate part of the Freeview experience, we’re afraid – but on the whole pictures are highly watchable.
When recorded onto the hard-disk in XP mode the results are impressive, keeping colour and detail levels the same as the live broadcast without increasing the amount of noise. SP pictures look a little twitchier but the difference is almost imperceptible. In LP there’s a big drop in picture quality, with the image suddenly looking blurry and alive with noise – much more so than Panasonic’s LP mode. And the EP and SLP modes make the picture look like a YouTube clip blown up on a big screen, so they’re best avoided unless you’re desperate.
The great work in the picture department continues with pre-recorded DVD playback. The kaleidoscopic colour palette and busy intergalactic landscapes of ”The Fifth Element” look utterly gorgeous through the RD-98DT’s HDMI output, thanks to the sharp detail reproduction, vibrant colours and artefact-free upscaling. It’s backed up by top-notch Dolby Digital playback (delivered as a bitstream via HDMI).
MP3, JPEG and DivX playback is also highly enjoyable, but as we’ve grown used to playing them directly from the hard-disk or bunging in a USB stick, loading up discs felt like a slight imposition (lazy though it may sound).
The RD-98DT is a very competent combi recorder that demonstrates a huge improvement over previous versions. The unit is a lot more responsive, the onscreen design is more accessible and the addition of Freeview Playback takes the hassle out of everyday TV recording. What’s more, its 1080p upscaling, useful recording/editing features and excellent picture quality make it a terrific all-rounder.
But even though Toshiba’s improvements have paid off, the RD-98DT still suffers by comparison to its more sophisticated rivals from Pioneer, Panasonic and Philips, which offer HDD media centre functionality, dual-layer recording and USB ports – none of which you’ll find on the Toshiba. Perhaps next year we’ll get the all-singing, all-dancing Toshiba recorder that we’ve been waiting for.
Score in detail
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.