6/11 Toshiba SD3900 (Double Production)
The Toshiba SD3900 is another entry in the increasingly crowded market for bargain progressive-scan DVD players. Its progressive-scan capability moves it a step up from Toshiba's entry-level SD2900.
Interestingly, its chassis is different from its little brother's: slimmer with a silver finish. The setup menus have their own look and feel, as well. But the flat, candy bar-style remote control, adapted from the manufacturer's VCR remotes, is a huge step backward. We found it unintuitive and difficult to navigate.
In terms of features, the SD3900 falls squarely in the middle of the progressive-scan pack. Along with the standard array of A/V outputs and surround decoders, the unit offers 3:2 pull-down--a nice addition. Filmed material such as Star Trek: Insurrection benefited from progressive-scan mode, but the video processor remained engaged during some 30-frames-per-second video discs. As a result, concert DVDs and other video-based material looked poor, with jaggy artifacts and an overprocessed appearance. Overall performance in interlaced mode was all right, though the lines crawling on the space pod's curved edges in 2001: A Space Odyssey indicated imperfect anamorphic downconversion, the process that converts Enhanced For Widescreen discs for display on non-wide-screen TVs.
The SD3900 had no trouble with DVD+RWs, DVD+Rs, and DVD-Rs, though it choked on our DVD-RW test. It also did a much better job with digital-music (MP3 and WMA) CD-Rs and JPEG-photo discs than the SD2900. Astonishingly, however, the player could not handle Enhanced CDs such as Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Sonic Youth's Murray Street; they appeared as photo/digital-music CDs with empty directories. In other words, the SD3900 seems unable to play many of today's top audio CDs.
The Toshiba SD3900 is a decent but undistinguished DVD player, and anyone planning to play CDs should stay away. Consider instead the Panasonic DVD-S35S, which is in the same price range.