Toshiba SD-V391 DVD/VCR Combo Reviewed

Toshiba SD-V391 DVD/VCR Combo Reviewed

Many people still have a big library of VHS tapes that they occasionally like to watch. Maybe its old home movies, or TV shows recorded off the air. Toshiba's SD-V391 has a bunch of cool features to make it worth a look. So we did, putting it to the test.

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Toshiba, one of the co-inventors of DVD technology and a longtime VCR technological innovator, now embraces the DVD/VCR Combo category by offering a top-of-the-line model with superior and innovative features.

It should be remembered that Toshiba was the first manufacturer to add component video (called ColorStream by Toshiba) to DVDs to improve picture image quality over the then standard S-Video. As well, in the VCR arena, Toshiba was one of the first manufacturers to embrace 'Auto Clock Set' and 19 micron video heads.

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Unique Features -While other companies have been producing combination products for years, Toshiba brings its expertise in both DVD and VCR areas to bear in the impressive SD-V391 DVD/VCR player. First and foremost, this is a progressive scan DVD player featuring 3/2 pull-down (what Toshiba calls Digital Cinema Progressive). Progressive scan does several things to improve the video image over a standard DVD player. While most standard DVD-Video players process digital video information at a rate of 4:2:2, progressive scan DVD players use digital video processing that is done at 4:4:4. This doubles horizontal color resolution, providing greater detail and more brilliant colors. Progressive scan DVD players also use something called "a reversed 3-2 pull-down algorithm." A 3-2 pull-down algorithm is used in transforming movies (shot at 24 frames/sec.) into NTSC videos that require 30 frames/sec. The bottom line--progressive scan further eliminates NTSC artifacts such as jagged edges, flickering lines, the visible scanning structure, and shaky images producing a much smoother-looking image. In turn, the SD-V391 offers a 10-bit/54Mhz video digital-to-analog conversion for excellent color purity, detail and resolution.

Besides employing progressive scan technology, the SD-V391 includes a 24-bit/192kHz PCM audio digital-to-analog converter that helps deliver high quality audio playback for several types of discs. The model also plays back CD-Rs, CD-RWs, MP3 & WMA-encoded discs, plus the JPEG Viewer (using Photo CDs), enabling the user to display digital photographs on a television in the JPEG digital format. Like most DVD players today, it plays back both Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, passing the signal via either digital coaxial or optical outputs. This model also features Spatializer virtual surround for enhanced aural quality for two
speaker setups.

On the VCR side of the equation, this model includes 4 video heads with 19 micron head technology and VHS HiFi Stereo. 19 micron head technology improves the overall picture quality of recordings made at the slowest (SLP) speed for enhanced performance. This works well and makes slow-speed recording more watchable. The V391 features S-VHS quasi playback and other handy features, such as a 181-channel tuner with 8-event/365-day programmability, commercial skip (advances the tape in 30-second increments), and auto clock set that accurately sets the clock as soon as the unit is plugged in. It comes with a 46-button remote with 6 control 'glow-in-the-dark' keys. It also has a front AN input for easy camcorder attachment. The model SD-V391, which is housed in a sleek silver cabinet with dark gray trim, is priced at $249.95 retail.
Click to Page 2 for
Installation, Evaluation, and the Final Take.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - Connection is easy and
straight-forward. There are two ways to hook up this model to your
system. If you have a standard TV without component video inputs, simply
use the DVD/VCR common audio (L/R) and video jacks located on right
side of the back panel. Within this square, you will find composite
video and audio out RCA-type jacks. Also within this square, there are
standard audio and video inputs and antenna/cable RF. Using this
configuration, all signals (both DVD and VCR) are passed through these
outputs.

However, if you want to take advantage of the improved S-Video or
superior component video outputs for DVD playback only, you'll have to
employ the connections found on the left-side of the player. In turn,
there is a switch for progressive scan (if you have an HD-capable
television). There are also digital audio outputs (coaxial and optical)
here for attachment to an audio system for superior aural quality. Just
remember, if you use the component video or S-Video, you will have to
change the input selector on your television each time you want to use
the DVD player. If you don't want to hassle with changing video inputs
of your television or you are not interested in using component video
now, simply use the common audio and video jacks. Of course, you can
always just use the RF out jack on the back of the SD-V391 and set your
television to either Ch.3 or Ch.4, but you will not receive any audio or
video signal improvements.

Final Take - As a long-time fan of Toshiba products, I was dutifully
impressed with the SD V391. Like other Toshiba DVD players, this model
lived up to its reputation of producing excellent images from both
movies and music videos. Aurally, this model passes both Dolby Digital
and DTS soundtracks. Recording TV programs was a simple and easy process
for the SD-V391. Just remember to hit the 'Timer Rec' button on the
remote at the end of the programming process.

Video images were excellent for a VHS VCR at both SP and SLP speeds.
19 micron technology does work, and can readily be seen when compared to
other VCRs that don't use the technology. An added bonus here is that
DVDs or CDs without copy protection can be copied onto a VHS tape. This
may be just the thing for recording some of your child's favorite DVDs
onto tape for long car trips. For those of us that can't stand
commercials, the commercial skip button is a handy feature that quickly
advances the tape in 30-second increments for each tapping of the key on
the remote.

My one frustration with this player (and most others) is the fact
that you are penalized for using component video by having to change
inputs each and every time you want to watch a DVD. The whole purpose of
using a progressive scan DVD player (with a progressive scan television
display) is to have the highest quality video signals currently
available. For some people, it's cumbersome to constantly switch back
and forth between TV inputs. The same is also true with audio because
digital audio outputs only pass DVD audio signals (if they are tethered
to an audio system). The VCR's sound is only passed via analog audio
jacks. If you have a home theater system, you are using two sets of
inputs for one product.

Otherwise, with that caveat out of the way, the Toshiba SD-V391 is an
admirable performer, bridging "the best of both video worlds" and
producing some of the best images from any recently tested DVD/VCR
combo. As long as you don't mind switching video and audio inputs each
time you want to watch DVDs, I can easily recommend Toshiba's SD-V391.
It will make an excellent replacement VCR so that you can continue to
record your favorite television programs plus playback your favorite VHS
videos. It gives the added bonus of bringing you into the 21st century
with a top-of-the-line progressive scan DVD player. Image quality is
among the best available. To me, this makes for a perfect combo.

Toshiba SD-V391 DVD/VCR Combo
Single-play Progressive Scan DVD
w/3-2 pull-down
Simultaneous recording of television programs
while watching a DVD
Plays back DVD, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, Video CD,
MP3, WMA & JPEG CD
ColorStream Pro component video output
Recording a non-copy --protected DVD/CD to tape
CD Shuffle-play
Karaoke playback
4-Head HiFi VCR w/19 Micron Head
S-VHS Quasi Playback
Auto Clock & Channel Set
3 7/8"H x 16 15/16" W x 9 7/8" D
Weight: 7.9 lbs.
MSRP: $249

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