Sony's top-of-the-range HDD/DVD recorder combi has a bulging spec sheet, headlined by a generous 250GB hard disk, allowing an impressive maximum of 387 hours of recording.

The Freeview tuner is next to catch the eye. It is joined by an analogue tuner as well, although this will only be useful for a few more years.

The Freeview tuner comes with an EPG, which features the Series Timer function beloved by Sky users. The broadcaster in question must make the facility available, but it potentially allows you to never miss an episode of your favourite programme.

Artificial intelligence

Recordings can benefit from auto-chaptering at six-minute intervals, but the Intelligent Chaptering of previous Sony models is absent. Also, automatically inserted chapters are not transferred when dubbing to a DVD for archiving, which is just plain annoying.

Recordings can be made on all recordable types except for DVD-RAM and DVD-R DL discs.

A raft of video enhancement modes includes Frame Noise Reduction, Block Noise Reduction and Mosquito Noise Reduction.

Connectivity includes an HDMI output that can upscale to 720p and 1080i levels. No full-on 1080p upscaling is available, however.

In action, the upscaled picture looks mighty fine. On our reference Panasonic TH-37PV500, we engaged 720p upscaling and the image from a Region 2 DVD of Fantastic Four was as good as we've seen. Colours are deep, detail is abundant and movement is smooth.

Switching to recordings, we used an HD recording of the Super Bowl. The Sony obviously cannot record an HD image, but it was illuminating to see how good the image remained in HQ mode. Long shots filled with sprinting players retain bags of detail and are characterised by clean colours and a welcome crispness.

This impression continues through lower recording modes, until you hit the two hours and 30 minute setting (LSP mode). Here the additional grain becomes noticeable, but not too distracting. Pleasingly, motion remains smooth. At the ESP level (three hours on a DVD), digital noise increases (but is fine for less demanding fare).

Unfair trade

At levels below this, the trade off between capacity and quality becomes unpalatable, but with a 250GB hard disk you still have loads of space at high recording settings.

Audio is extremely impressive and only ease of use is a genuine niggle (the on-screen menu is slow to respond to presses on the remote)

Top marks almost across the board therefore make this sleek thoroughbred a superb piece of kit.