Sony's flagship digital recorder, the RDR-HX1000, is able to record to both rewriteable DVD formats, DVD-RW and DVD RW, as well as the cheaper recordonce DVD-R and DVD R disks. And with a massive 250GB HDD on board, it has plenty of versatility.

It boasts two Scarts (both RGB and S-video in/out), and component video phonos to carry superior progressive scan pictures to your screen. There's a Chasing Playback facility for DVD-RW discs formatted in the edit-friendly VR mode, allowing simultaneous playing and recording from the same disc, while the 250GB HDD should be large enough for even the most ardent of telly-heads.

Plus points

The Sony's best HDD recording mode is HQ , which, with a bitrate at 15Mbps, is higher than commercial DVDs and still allows for a very generous 34hrs or programming. Using variable bitrate recording, the Sony's regular HQ mode manages 53hrs on HDD or 1hr on DVD. HQ is a real boon - but only when the broadcast is of the highest quality. There's little point maximising quality on those broadcasts that have had their bitrate wings clipped (step forward some of Sky's digital programming!)

When it comes to the RDR-HX1000's functionality, there are some strange foibles. Titles cannot be divided, or Playlists' sequences edited on the HDD - only on VR-mode DVD-RW recordings. And, other than deleting, no editing options are available on DVD RW and DVD-RW in video mode recordings. This means that recordings made from the HDD to a DVD have to be the exact length you want. If the recording runs even a little over two hours, the RDR-HX1000 will record the entire programme in 3hr mode, slashing the overall quality while leaving space on the disc.

Processing power

Although recordings are reliant on their source broadcast, the video processing on board the Sony seems to improve pictures - particularly in HDD HQ . On DVD, 1hr can be recorded to in very high quality or, in HSP mode, 1.5hrs of digital TV broadcast-quality.

The SP mode fits 2hrs on a DVD by softening the picture, while LP (3hrs on DVD) creates digital artefacts on motion - football suffers particularly. EP (4hrs) is too blocky, like bad computer graphics, and SLP (6hrs) is a waste of time - you might as well go back to VHS.

Your pre-recorded DVD movies will look sharp on the Sony, with realistic colours - particularly with progressive scan via the component video connection. And with audio the RDR-HX1000 really impresses, creating the best surround soundstage in this group via the optical or coaxial outputs. Open Water was even more menacing here than elsewhere in this group test, making the RDR-HX1000 the best home cinema sound machine this month. CDs also sound good - better than on many midrange CD players.

The massive 250GB hard disk alone makes the RDR-HX1000 great value for money, and its impressive picture and sound performances justify the price of admission too - thanks especially to HQ and the audio performance with prerecorded DVDs. However, the absence of GuidePlus and the strangely random editing and dubbing choices are a bit of a letdown. If picture and sound performance are all-important to you, and you're not much of an editor, then this could be the machine for you.