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Toshiba SD-63HK review: Toshiba SD-63 HK

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The Good One of the smartest-looking systems on the market. Easy set up. Big bass sound.

The Bad Remote lacks the style and simplicity of the other components. Supports progressive scan for NTSC DVDs only, not PAL. Price still high for feature set.

The Bottom Line The smart-looking Toshiba SD-63 HK DVD Home Cinema Kit is a good performer that is easy to set up, but it might pinch the wallet a bit harder that some other all-in-one systems.

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Review Sections

Design
We have to say that the DVD player on this package is one of the most unique and visually attractive we have seen. It achieves this by simply daring to deviate from the same-old, same-old retangular box design. Instead, this unit sports angular lines with a sloping front plate and side 'wings'. The front plate is also covered in a reflective panel which gives it grey mirrored effect. Another small, but nice touch is that the power light and display window shine blue, and not the typical green or red.

The small silver satellite speakers are not quite as stylishly striking as the player, but echo the angular design with bevelled tops and bottoms. This design projects the face of a shelf-mounted speaker upwards at about a 20 degree angle, inside of straight forward. The speaker side panels are finished in a polished black finish to complement the DVD player.

Unfortunately, the remote control didn't get the same design make-over. It is a big grey plastic number, similar to the remotes on most other Toshiba DVD players and set top boxes. We found the button-laden control a bit confusing at first, and with no backlighting, tough to operate in a darkened room.

Features
The SD-63HK does not want for connectivity options. On the video side you can choose from component video, S-video, composite and SCART outputs and two composite video inputs. There is both digital audio input (optical and coaxial) and two analog audio inputs as well as six analog audio outputs and a headphone jack. There is also an aerial connection for the AM/FM tuner.

The speaker set up is an easy process. The front three speakers hook up together - they have one common plug into the back of the subwoofer, then the flat cable divides into three strands that slot into a colour-coded plug on each sat. Similarly the rear speakers connect as one to the woofer, and again the flat cable splits to connect to the appropriately coloured left and right rears. Perfectly clear for any novice.

Once connected, the set-up system then lets you adjust the volume and delay level for each speaker individually (from 0 to -10). You can use a test tone to check your settings. Other simple set-up adjustments include the ability to set the aspect ratio appropriate to your TV, alter the slideshow timings for JPEG playback and selecting the file display options.

Features include high-speed search, slow-motion and frame advance playback, A-B repeat and random playback. You can also mark up to three scenes and zoom an image to 2x magnification.

Performance
The video quality of the SD-63HK is top notch. We tested it with both a HD TV and an HD projector, and the results with both were crisp and vivid, even on dark battle scenes, such as the ghost march in Prirates of the Carribbean.

On the audio side, Toshiba markets this kit with something called "Human Psycho Acoustic" patented technology. Right. There's not much information about what this actually means, but it's supposed to make the small speakers "punch above" their size in sound. To an extent they succeed. The audio is sonically accurate, but at the end of the day, compact speakers are still best suited for small-to medium-sized rooms.

The star of the speakers in this systems is the subwoofer, which comes with a 'Bass Boost' option. Deep, rumbling bass tracks in the audio are well defined, without becoming overwhelming, and it is effective at both low and high volumes. For our money, we'd like to see better definition in the mid-range. It may be a matter of personal preference, but we felt the dialog benefited after we after we adjusted the speaker balances to promote the centre channel.

The system has decoders to handle Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Digital Surround, so it handles stereo inputs, but audiophiles still wouldn't trade in their two channel set-up for this movie-focused kit.

Strong a performer as the SD-63HK is, with the dropping of price tags on all-in-one packages in the last six months, we think the $1199 price tag might be a bit steep for the feature set. HTIB systems range generally range from $500-$2000, so while this Toshiba package is not over the top, once you pass the $1000 mark, you expect a few more features - such as multi-disc carousels and bigger watt tall boy speakers.

This price pressure, along with the market inroads being made by DVD recorders, many with hard drives, may diminish the attractiveness of single tray DVD players - even those with bundled with a 5.1 speaker package.

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