Toshiba's home theater system lets you keep your VHS collection and join the 21st century of video: It has a VCR and a DVD in one unit, plus surround-sound speakers, all for $299.
You won't need to hire a home theater technician to install and set it up. The integrated DVD-VCR-receiver and matched 5.1 speaker set arrives in a single midsize box that doesn't require a forklift to carry. Color-coded speaker wires make connecting the speakers almost foolproof. Its streamlined rear panel keeps things from getting confusing, though it will limit your expansion options later. The SD-V55HT has an RF-out for connecting to TVs that lack an RCA video-in or S-Video connection; that's unusual for a DVD player and should appeal to people who don't want to buy a new TV just so they can watch DVDs.
Using the included RCA video cable, the DVD player produced rich colors including accurate flesh tones, but the images lacked detail: Actors who should have had pocked skin appeared unblemished. The system's unpowered subwoofer produced clear bass tones, though DVD sound through the Dolby Digital decoder didn't create an envelope of sound.
Though DVD video playback was acceptable, mechanical background noise was audible while I listened to CDs. I've encountered this with other Toshiba players, too. During low-volume portions of a CD--such as a quiet section of an orchestral piece--you can hear a clicking sound. If you mostly listen to rock, this is unlikely to bother you, but classical fans will be pulling their hair out.
Toshiba packs a lot of features into a small and very affordable box. You get more than you pay for in features, but the sound quality won't satisfy persnickety folks.
This story, "Toshiba SD-V55HT" was originally published by PCWorld.