Toshiba SD-2300

With the SD-2300, Toshiba is sending a NUON-enhanced DVD player in the market that is clearly out to kill the competition.

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After having reviewed the first NUON-player in the market, the Samsung Extiva, my interest in the technology was definitely piqued. Since now DVD publishers are also beginning to release dedicated NUON content on a number of releases, I felt I should also give the next player, that has NUON capabilities, a look. Currently five publishers are committed to releasing NUON-enhanced content on selected DVDs, and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s release of “Bedazzled” is only the first in a number of titles we will see this year.

All of which makes Toshiba’s SD-2300 even more interesting. At a suggested retail price of $399, like the Samsung Extiva, Toshiba’s NUON-player is geared towards the lower mid range of DVD player pricing. The player is coming in a solid chassis and is surprisingly light. The matte black aluminum chassis makes a good impression and the few controls on the front are well placed and cover the most basic functions of the player, and also features the NUON-connector, hidden under a small, removable blind panel.

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The back of the player is clean, featuring a non-removable power cord and the output connector panel. A quick look at the connector panel of the player reveals that Toshiba has been saving a bit of money on this model, giving the SD-2300 plain RCA connectors. No gold plating or other high quality pieces are found here, which isn’t really surprising given the price range of this particular model.

A second look reveals an even bigger surprise, the entire lack of an optical output for the digital audio bit stream. A digital audio connection is only made possible through a coaxial connection, a solution that is much less desirable than a fiber optic link.

While I can understand the lack of gold plated connectors in a competitively priced DVD player such as this, I feel that no matter how low the retail price of a DVD player, an optical output is something that simply has to be part of the hardware, in order to allow for the best possible connection. Especially given the fact that the cost to implement an optical output is entirely negligible with today’s circuitry, I am unable to follow Toshiba’s decision making process here. The player has component outputs for best possible video presentation, but no optical connector for the audio.

Although I consider the lack of an optical output a serious flaw in the Toshiba SD-2300, everything else about this machine is rock solid. Unlike the Samsung NUON-enhanced DVD player, the Toshiba SD-2300 does not contain nearly as much show-off features, remaining true to Toshiba’s reputation that is built on quality and functionality rather than bells and whistles. And quality and functionality is what this player is all about. From the moment you insert a disc into the drive to the moment you turn it off, this player oozes elegance and slick, understated technology. The spin-up time of a DVD is quite good and while some other players are still trying to go through the disc’s boot-up sequence, the Toshiba is already launching the disc’s content.

Features

· NUON Enhanced Processing
· Dual Joystick/Peripheral Ports
· 16x Power Picture Zoom
· Black-level Expansion
· Pluge Display
· Single Game Pad Included
· HDCD® Decoding
· Spatializer Virtual Surround
· Component Video Outputs
· Dolby Digital Decoder
· DTS® Compatible Audio Output
· 10-Bit 27 mHz Video DAC
· 24 Bit / 96kHz Audio Converters

Once ready, we get to witness the superior image quality of the player, which is immediately noticeable. Unlike some players I have seen, the SD-2300 creates an image that is extremely vibrant and rich in colors, yet always neutral in tone and extremely well defined. Image contours are always razor sharp and blacks are simply... black. Without any noise! Evaluating the image quality of the player with some reference discs of varying material, it quickly becomes evident that Toshiba still has some of the best MPEG-2 decoders in the market.

Never does the player introduce digital artifacts and not once did I notice the player emphasized existing compression artifacts. The image is always pleasing and entirely devoid of video noise. Combined with the 10-bit, 27MHz video DAC that the player houses, the level of detail is incredible - especially if viewed through the component outputs - with a flawless color balance and faithfulness that is remarkable. The picture never appears muddy - not even under the most challenging circumstances - and the level of detail is always well maintained by the player.
Edges, while sharp, never appear emphasized, always making sure the player reproduces the image that comes from the disc exactly as it is, without adding any information or degradation to it.

Overall the SD-2300 behaves like any regular DVD player. There is no NUON-button on the remote control that triggers a spiffy NUON-menu and some of the superficial functions of the Samsung player are missing entirely - which is a good thing. The power of the SD-2300 becomes evident when you start using standard functions, like fast-forward. Suddenly the image glides by much smoother than on any regular DVD player. While still not perfect, and still without sound, this mode is beautiful, although it requires some getting used to. The same is true for the slow motion and fast-rewind. Although implemented transparently in the player I sometimes found myself wondering why the picture was moving so slowly in a fast-rewind mode, only to find that I was going in absolutely smooth slow motion. Well, old habits are hard to break, I guess, and a few more presses on the rewind button quickly solved the problem.

The zoom of the SD-2300 is also beautiful. Using additional filters to anti-alias the filter as you zoom in, the player manages to magnify portions of the image extremely without ever introducing the pixel-look of traditional players.

The Toshiba SD-2300 makes a very solid impression, and the responsiveness of the player is generally good. It is not perfect however and could (should) be improved. While some functions kick in almost immediately upon pressing the according button on the remote control, others, such as fast-forwarding, show a noticeable response delay. Especially in the really fast forward mode, this delay constantly causes you to overshoot your navigation. Until the player realizes that you have hit the “Stop” button, the scene you wanted to stop has already passed and the player returns to standard playback mode a good few frames after the desired position. (On a side note I would like to remark that this problem was extremely noticeable in the SD-6200 model, where the player overshot scenes by up to 20 seconds!) And why it takes a player 5 seconds or more to shut down when I hit the “Power Off” button is something I simply do not understand.

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Without wanting to sound too nitpicky, there is one thing I found slightly distracting with the SD2300, as well as the SD6200 that I also had available for test. Toshiba has changed the layout of their remote controls for all DVD player models and has practically swapped the Chapter forward and fast forward buttons. As a result I constantly found myself skipping chapters when in fact I only wanted to fast forward. I know it is a minor quibble, but after having used an older generation Toshiba player for so long, I just couldn’t get used to the new layout. To make general navigation through menus easier, the remote control also features a joystick like controller. Unlike the typical arrow up or down keys, such joysticks truly help to make navigation faster and less tedious. The “Enter” function is activated by pressing down on the joystick handle, also a procedure that is ergonomic and works extremely well.

The SD-2300 has a well designed on-screen user interface that is much more modern-looking that in previous models. Using beautiful 3-dimensional icons, the system gives you access to all the setup information and options the player has to offer. Switching from 4:3 mode to 16x9 widescreen output is a matter of a few seconds only, as is turning on DTS output. All in all, the user interface is slick and works extremely efficiently, clearly making the SD-2300 a next-generation player. However, with this next-generation feel comes a bit of bloat, as many current players, sadly. Gone are the times of instant response, where you press a button and the player door opens or the PLAY function is activated. Everything takes a little, which can be quite distracting at times. While I understand that with new generations new feature sets have to be implemented in modern consumer electronics, the question remains, does it have to be implemented in such a sluggish way? This is not a fault of the Toshiba player only, but can be noticed in new players across the board, even in high-end players in the $1200 segment.

In a compatibility test, the Toshiba SD-2300 fared also very well. Throwing some of the toughest releases at the player didn’t cause any problems. Whether it is “The Matrix” - the mother of all incompatibility triggers - “Terminator 2” with its seamless branching or any other DVD that we tried, the SD-2300 worked through all of them without the slightest hiccups. This is not really surprising, given the fact that these titles were released some time before the player, but it is always good to see that player manufacturers keep working on their firmware to ensure maximum compatibility of existing titles.

And to make sure it remains that way, Toshiba seems to have put a very good firmware update plan in place with the SD-2300 player. On their website you can obtain detailed information about current versions and SD-2300 firmware upgrades.

Layer changes are handled very well, although the typical pause is still evident. Here once again comes my plea to all hardware manufacturers to finally install enough memory in their players to make seamless layer changes and seamless branching a reality.

Toshiba’s SD2300 is the second NUON-enabled DVD player that hit the market. It is a noticeable improvement over the Samsung N2000 in my eyes, and has managed to integrate NUON-technology absolutely transparently. Without the bells and whistles, the player holds its horses, until otherwise requested. Insert a NUON-enhanced disc, like 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s “Bedazzled” or any of the NUON games, and you will quickly realize that there is much more under the hood of this unsuspecting player than immediately meets the eye. Combine that with the players fabulous video and audio quality, and you have one of the most solid players in the market. For its suggested retail price of $399, my verdict is clear. There is no better player in the market with the same price tag!

SD-2300

Manufacturer
Toshiba

Suggested Retail Price
$399.95

Audio
Coaxial digital out: 1 set
2 Ch Audio Out (L/R): 1 set

Video
Composite video out: 1 sets
Component video out: 1 set
S-video: 1 set

Rating
Very Good

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rect

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