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Toshiba SD2900 review: Toshiba SD2900

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The Good Inexpensive; compatible with MP3, WMA, and JPEG files; easy setup and use.

The Bad Below-average anamorphic down-conversion; limited picture customization.

The Bottom Line This bargain unit makes a competent choice for DVD and MP3 playback, but it's not ideal for larger nonwide-screen TVs.

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7.0 Overall

Toshiba's SD2900 is the company's 2003 entry-level player. Available for less than $80 online, it faces off against similar bargain players from Panasonic, JVC, Samsung, and Sony--as well as a host of less well-known manufacturers such as Apex.

A clean-looking, black, tabletop DVD player, the SD2900 has a slim profile and narrow depth. The remote is the same sort of well-laid-out, functional unit that has accompanied Toshiba DVD players for the past six years. Onscreen menus are simple and serviceable. All the standard A/V connections are here, including composite, S-Video, and component-video outputs, as well as analog stereo and coaxial digital audio.

This player outputs standard interlaced video. Those looking for progressive-scan output should focus on slightly more expensive players such as the Panasonic DVD-S35S. Our biggest complaint had to do with anamorphic down-conversion, the process used to convert "enhanced for wide-screen" DVDs for display on nonwide-screen TVs. The Samsung DVD-P231 and the Sony DVP-NS315S both offer a substantially more stable picture than this Toshiba, especially in scenes with pans or other camera movement. The faint undulations caused by the 2900's processing will be less visible on smaller sets.

While the SD2900 exhibited some weird brightness fluctuations in our tests, they seemed limited to the Gateway GTW-P42M102 plasma display--hardly the type of TV we expect most SD2900 buyers to own. Annoyingly, the SD2900's black-level adjustment and picture mode are part of a combined setting, forcing one to choose between black-level preference or customized brightness and color settings.

The player proved compatible with a wide variety of disc formats. In addition to standard CDs and DVDs, it handled our DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD+RW, VCD, CD-R, and CD-RW discs, as well as standard MP3 files and Windows Media (WMA) audio files. And while the SD2900 did a fairly good job of reading JPEG photos--taking about 10 seconds to pull up eight thumbnails, and 2 to 3 seconds per full-screen photo--it failed to load some photo CD-Rs that worked fine on other players. In addition, it recognized only the photos on mixed-media CDs, whereas the Panasonic DVD-S35S had no trouble accessing music and photos on the same disc.

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