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Toshiba RD-XS32 review: Toshiba RD-XS32

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DVD recorders are gaining pace in the Australian market and will be a highly sought after gift this Christmas. Toshiba's RD-XS32 goes one step further and includes an 80GB hard disk drive to store hundreds of hours of video. Design
The Toshiba HDD/DVD recorder stands taller than most standalone DVD players with a height of 7.8cm -- quite high compared to Pioneer's slimmer DVD (plus 80GB HDD) recorder.

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Toshiba RD-XS32

The Good

Allows play back of recordings at various speeds. 80GB hard disk drive. Picture-in-picture (PIP) viewing.

The Bad

No digital video connection such as DVI or HDMI. Cannot record onto +R media.

The Bottom Line

DVD recorders are gaining pace in the Australian market and will be a highly sought after gift this Christmas. Toshiba's RD-XS32 goes one step further and includes an 80GB hard disk drive to store hundreds of hours of video.

The front of the RD-XS32 has a flip-down panel that allows access to a set of A/V inputs (S-Video, composite and analog audio) as well a DV input, to which you can easily plug in a video camera. The DVD tray also ejects at the front and there is an information display LCD panel on the right-hand side.

At the back of the unit are the rest of the connections. Toshiba hasn't gone overboard in this department; instead the RS-XS32 presents a simple array of options. Composite video output is available, as well as S-Video for slightly better quality and a component connection on top of this. There is no digital video connection such as DVI or HDMI but there are optical and coaxial digital audio jacks. Although not really relevant to the Australian market, there are two Scart connections on board. Finally, there is an RF input to get a signal to the unit's analog tuner.

Features
The RS-XS32 supports DVD-RAM, DVD-R and DVD-RW, but unfortunately it cannot record onto +R media. Toshiba supplied us with one DVD-RAM disc (with cartridge) to use during our test period and even though the recorder will support standalone discs, Toshiba recommends using cartridges on rewriteable DVDs for protection.

One feature that we like is the Easy Navi button on the remote control. It brings up an intuitive menu and centralises most of recording functionality such as timers, DV recording and dubbing (which allows you to move recorded programs between DVD and hard disk). Another handy feature is the Content Menu, accessible through the remote control, which brings up a 2 x 3 thumbnail display of recordings on-screen.

Time slip, a function where you can begin playback from the beginning of a program currently being recorded, is supported, as is pausing live television (the unit temporarily stores the broadcast on the HDD). Play back of recordings at various speeds is allowed and you can also specify a time, such as one minute, for the RS-XS32 to skip forward when you press Instant Skip on the remote control -- useful for ad breaks.

Picture-in-picture (PIP) allows you to watch TV in a sub-window in the corner of the screen during playback of a recording stored on DVD or the HDD. JPEG photos on CD can be viewed and the recorder will also play MP3/WMA music files.

The RD-XS32 has a range of editing tools allowing you to split recordings into several chapters to access desired scenes or create playlists to skip unwanted scenes for copying your edited video onto DVD.

Performance
Start up time is reasonably quick, taking about 10 seconds. If you have a DVD-RAM in the unit, loading time for the disc can take a little longer.

One downside to the device is that it has a complicated remote control and inconsistent menus. We figure 78 buttons on any remote control could be slightly overwhelming for most users, especially those purchasing their first DVD recorder. The upside of having so many buttons is that you have the ability to replace your TV remote control with its dedicated controls for your set.

However, having a hard disk drive in combination with a DVD recorder makes Toshiba's RS-XS32 an alluring unit to have in your living room. The 80GB drive provides enough space to record over 100 hours at the lowest quality setting. Favourite shows can then be edited and easily archived onto disc using the DVD recorder.