The manual is full of the usual safety precaution messages, and also contains one of the most worrying messages I have ever read about moisture condensation on the optical lens. The final pages of the manual also contain a list of the abbreviated language codes it uses and what they actually mean, although there still isn't an explanation of the code for English That Is Wildly Variant From The Actual Dialogue, a common subtitle for many Warner Home Video releases. While this list is a thoughtful inclusion, it does highlight the fact that more players need to be made with comprehensive language codes (it would make reviewing discs much easier for me).
The model I evaluated was a solid rectangular black shape, very basic in appearance, and without all the pointless aerodynamics that some other players come with. The SD-2109 is a moderately attractive player with everything that a serious movie buff would need, and nothing that the casual user wouldn't. The left side of the front panel carries the power switch, the state of which is indicated by a fluorescent light that switches from green to red. The middle of the front panel carries the disc tray and a digital display that displays such polite, friendly messages as "Welcome to Toshiba DVD" when the player is switched on, and "Goodbye" when the player is put in standby mode. I must say that it is wonderful to see such manners from a piece of electronic equipment, and yes, that is a hint to not only Microsoft but also most of the electronics industry. It is also worth nothing that the player sends a very attractive DVD logo to the screen when switched on, which is a nice little touch if you're into flashy graphics. The fluorescent display is also dimmable, which in spite of only being dimmable in two steps (dim and completely dark), can provide a man like myself with a few seconds of amusement while reviewing a particularly bad movie.
Placing a disc into the tray is an extremely easy affair, which is a major advantage over any player on the market I've seen that is priced any lower than this. Although it misses out on a feature that I would like to see become standard, the ability to do the turning over of flippers for you by some means (double-sided heads would be the next wonderful step), it is otherwise a very helpful and thoughtful player in terms of physical layout. The ability to eject a disc by use of the remote control is a handy feature unless you always close your cabinet doors after putting a disc in, in which case you might find yourself suddenly leaping up to run to open the cabinet doors before the tray jams against them.
While the front panel of this player may be somewhat minimal and inefficient in terms of arrangement and operation, the back panel most certainly isn't. All of the essential connectors for basic playback are present and accounted for, and some nice bonuses are included. The video output jacks give you three options, but the manual, which I ignored, states that only one set of video outputs should be used at a time. In any case, the SD-2109 provides the viewer with a choice between S-Video, composite, and component connectors. The only shortcoming as far as choice between video connectors goes is that there is no RGB output, or input for that matter. This is a minor oversight that may worry some completist nutcases, but this player was not really designed with them in mind. Audio output consists of a left and right analogue audio output, and a bitstream (PCM) digital audio output. In spite of being warned against it by sources other than the manual, I used both outputs at once, plugging the analogue outputs into the television set and the bitstream output into the amplifier.
Connecting all the necessary cables to the back of the player is a quick and easy task, although the close proximity of all the connectors means that you need to have a clear and precise plan of how the cables will be arranged before you do it. Adding cables later can be something of a headache unless you unplug all the existing cables and start again from scratch, which is what I normally do anyway. Connecting the supplied AC power cable, on the other hand, was a relatively simple affair with no fuss required, although the connection allows for a lot of worrying wobble. The setup menu mentions a Karaoke option, but no connectors or dials relating to any such function exist on either panel of the player. This would be a most suspicious omission if I had the slightest interest in Karaoke, but I feel that Karaoke is an atrocity against mankind that Japan should be bombed again for, much like most of the crappy music that Sony are responsible for foisting upon us. Still, mentioning this option in the menu appears to be something of an oversight, given that it is not mentioned in the user's manual.
As I have said, the only real problem with the remote control is that the layout is very cluttered, with nearly twice as many functions as on the remote for my other player (a Grundig) in half as much space. However, where this remote excels is the amount of options and choices it gives the user without necessitating the removal of their buttocks from the lounge chair. If only there was an option to purchase a machine that takes care of the removal and replacement of discs in your player for you, but then, I don't think anyone would ever leave the house again. The ability to turn off subtitles without actually going to the menu, through use of the directional keys, is a very nice touch which I believe should be a compulsory standard with all players.
The manual and the player itself are marked as Zone 4, but as I have already mentioned, reputable dealers are selling region-modified versions right out of the showroom. My advice here is to hunt around for a reputable dealer that has intimate knowledge of consumer needs. As I have already mentioned, I strongly recommend specialist retailers such as Sydney Hi-Fi because they're expected to have some knowledge of what they are selling. The region-modified version I purchased there will play back any DVD you throw at it, although it still won't play CD-Rs. This is a minor quibble in my view because I have a CD player to do that for me, although others might find it somewhat more worrying.
The fast forward and fast reverse functions are smooth, with x2, x8, and x30 speeds available in either direction, although the video output during the use of these functions does not properly reflect the position of the heads, time-wise. Near as I can tell, it is almost always out by around five seconds, which is just enough to become an annoyance in moments when you're not paying close attention. The chapter skip functions are somewhat clumsy, with not enough time being given by the player to work out whether the user is finished moving backwards. However, if there is one strange thing in this department, it is that the stop button brings up a message stating that if I want to stop the disc, I must press the stop button again, or if I want to go back to the start of the current chapter, I must press play. If I didn't want to stop the disc in the first place, why would I have hit the button that is quite clearly marked STOP?
RSDL layer changes are still very noticeable on discs where they are placed in less than ideal spots, but on discs where effort has been made to conceal the layer change, this player performs wonderfully. On Total Recall, the layer change time was cut down by about a quarter, making it slightly less bothersome than previously experienced. The layer change in Darkman, as I mentioned in my review, was completely and utterly unnoticeable. As I previously mentioned, this player will not play back CD-Rs, even if they are simply music discs, and the amount of problems you have with this will vary according to intent with regards to usage.
|Value For Money|
|Product Type:||DVD-Video, Video CD and Audio CD player|
|Region:||Zone 4 (Australia, New Zealand, Central and South America, Mexico). Units are available from some retailers with the ability to play all zones for an extra $100.|
|Signal System:||PAL / NTSC|
|Audio Frequency Response:||DVD linear sound:
48 kHz sampling 4 Hz to 22 kHz
96 kHz sampling 4 Hz to 44 kHz
|Signal to Noise Ratio:||More than 112 dB|
|Dynamic Range:||More than 96 dB|
|Total Harmonic Distortion:||Less than 0.006%|
|Dimensions:||430 (w) x 305 (d) x 61 (h)|
|Price:||$699 (approximately $800 with region modification)|
|Distributor:||Castel Electronics Pty Ltd
103-119 Gipps Street
Collingwood VIC 3066
© Dean McIntosh
February 10, 2000