When talk of a new Ellion recorder was bandied around the HCC office, the most frequent response was 'Ellen who?' Relatively little is known about the brand, but a quick shufty of the company's website suggests there's an expansive history of DVD players, recorders, combi-decks (with HDD) and home theatre kit, so it clearly knows what its doing.

The most striking thing about the DVR-530S is the meagre height of the recorder itself. This is possibly the slimmest DVD machine, recorder or otherwise, we've yet to come in contact with. And looking like a retro Seventies radio-alarm clock is a big design plus in my book.

The Ellion is a second-generation machine; it's worth noting that previous decks had no RGB Scart input (and some had no Scart inputs at all). Not so in this case. There are two input/outputs, both RGB-enabled thereby making the most of digital TV platforms such as Sky and cable.

Impressively, the DVR-530S also includes a component video output supporting PAL/NTSC progressive scan, composite video/audio ins and outs (two of the latter, one of which is front-mounted), optical digital audio out, a Firewire link for digital camcorders and USB socket. Plug a suitable card reader into here and you'll be able to show digital photos on your TV (or copy them to disc as a slide show).

Like most import machines (which rely on technology licensed from Philips), the DVR-530S records on to DVD R/ RW discs and, surprisingly for its £200 price tag, offers the full array of editing tools you can expect on the format.

Using a RW disc you can split (and thus partially-delete) recordings, delete or rename them, change the thumbnail and insert chapters - auto chaptering is the easy alternative - and they're all easy to implement.

Industry standard

It also opts for what is now industry standard when it comes to recording modes. There's five in total: HQ (1hr on a 4.7GB disc), SP (2hrs), LP (3hrs), EP (4hrs), and SLP (6hrs). Obviously the bitrates drop quite dramatically after SP, and SLP is - while displaying none of the dreaded 'strobe effect' - riddled with artefacts.

DVD playback, especially with pre-packaged movies is good. Pictures are sharp with decent detail retrieval. Colours are also rich, however, the overall image is slightly dark. Great for black levels, but this kind of presentation may be off-putting to some.

Oddly, with recording and TV loop-through from a RGB source it's a different kettle of fish. Instead, the pictures are searingly bright, possibly too much so. There's no way of counteracting this either, so it really depends on whether you care or not.

Sound performance

On the whole, sound can be considered functional and accurate, but there's the occasional moment, usually after two hours of footage, where the audio can suffer from minor glitches. I also found that with SLP recordings the audio almost gives up on the quality front. It adds a sibilance to dialogue that effectively negates the use of the mode entirely.

The DVR-530S is a cheap option and, in some cases, plays true to form. But it does most of its tasks well. Shop around online and you might find this for as little as £160.