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Toshiba SD-44HK review

More substance than you have the right to expect

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Our Verdict

As a budget all-in-one home cinema system it really is an excellent offering

Toshiba's new all-in-one is rather more substantial than you might expect for the extremely competitive price.

The satellite speakers are larger than the average,with two-way designs and attractive looks.Backed up by the meaty-looking subwoofer, this looks like a capable set-up. Power output is rated at 60W per channel for the sats,with 120W for the sub.

The main unit is very nicely styled and packs a lot of goodies within.For a start there is component video output for PAL progressive scan signals,as well as an RGB Scart for those without a prog-scan monitor.Connectivity is enhanced further by both optical and electrical digital audio inputs, so you can hook up existing equipment to make use of the Dolby Digital,DTS and Pro-Logic II decoding.

A decent amount of cabling is included and feeds into the colour-coded springclip terminals at the rear of the main unit. Take care when doing this because it's easy to have a faulty connection,which will result in no sound coming from the speaker concerned.

Be careful also that you have the output selector at the rear switched to the right setting - Scart or component.You can't have both at the same time.

Unusually, there is no sound output from the Scart socket. You have to use the onboard sound system at all times.

The set-up menu includes the option to tailor sound output for different speaker types.The factory setting is for 'small' speakers, as you would expect for a sub/sat system, but you can change this,which would be useful if you upgrade to a more highly-specified speaker system in the future.

Playback features run to freeze frame, slow motion and a zoom with six levels.There is a high-speed picture search,but there is no dedicated button for it on the remote,which is awkward.You have to press and hold the chapter skip button for two seconds for high-speed search to be activated.

Images from the RGB Scart feed are extremely impressive on the SD-44HK.There is a pleasing stability to the picture,with very good colour rendition and no nasty artifacts.

High-quality source material will reward you with a high-quality picture and this is enhanced when you switch to a progressive scan feed,with the picture becoming deeper,smoother and more filmic.

The sound performance on movies is similarly impressive.There is a surprising level of impact from the subwoofer,although it needs to be drastically trimmed from its factory setting.Cut down to size it adds a reassuring strength to the bottom end of the frequency range and delivers believable slam when needed.

The effect is not so good on music. CDs are average and a DTS recording of The Eagles' Hotel California features uncontrollably booming bass even with the sub tamed.

This is not a system for all needs, then, but as a budget all-in-one home cinema system (which is, after all, its main selling point) it really is an excellent offering.