Apart from looks, there are many similarities between this 'big-brand' Tatung recorder and its rival, the Ellion DVR-530S. Indeed, one could be forgiven for thinking that both machines - or, at the very least, their innards - are sourced from the same factory. And as this machine is generally more expensive in retail, the major query is what your extra pennies buy you...

Aesthetically, this is more 'standard-AV' fare than the Ellion and, while there's no originality in its design, the brushed-metal fascia brings the deck into more familiar territory as far as home-entertainment enthusiasts are concerned.

It also has a nicer remote control than most machines. Similarly, there's nothing astoundingly unique about it, but the blue buttons are clearly labelled and the intuitive layout has everything in its right place.

The back-panel connectivity is identical to that of the Ellion. It features two RGB Scart input/outputs, component video outputs capable of PAL/NTSC progressive scan, inputs and outputs for composite/S-video and stereo audio, plus both coaxial and optical digital audio outputs.

Under a flap on the front there's an i.Link terminal, together with composite video and audio inputs. The DVR-530S's USB port, meanwhile, has been replaced with an S-video input.

Similarities with the Ellion continue apace when using the machine. The same options and editing functions are present - title rename, thumbnail choosing and chapter setting. And, like the DVR-530S, it's a dedicated DVD R/RW machine.

However, there's the addition of a 'one-touch' timer mode; each press of the timer button changes the specified length of the recording and chooses a relevant bitrate to ensure it will all fit into the remaining disc space.

Recording modes

Recording modes are the expected provision; HQ (1hr on a 4.7GB disc), SP (2hrs), LP (3hrs), EP (4hrs), and SLP (6hrs). Unfortunately, there's no dedicated button to switch between them on the remote. If you want to set the bitrate manually, you have to delve into the menu system to choose the mode you want.

Picture performance demonstrates clear differences from the DVR-530S. There's none of the unnatural brightness levels of the rival deck when a feed is run through the RGB Scarts. Nor are DVD-playback images mildly dark.

Colour fidelity and edge sharpness are both commendable; however, there's a minor drop in background details but you'd have to invest in a (more expensive) dedicated player to improve on that.

And while there's an obvious drop of quality as you work through the record modes, visuals captured by the unit can be exceptional. Even with the VHS-like SLP mode there's no strobing, and the result is surprisingly watchable.

But - and this is a major minus - the machine suffers from momentary freezes during playback of its own recordings (DVD movies aren't affected). It doesn't happen consistently, and the deck's mechanism was heard to 'whirr' more than usual during these random pauses. A sample fault? I sincerely hope so!

Flawless sound

In contrast there are absolutely no audio glitches whatsoever. The TDVDR600S creates a decent soundscape and copes admirably with subtle dialogue and dynamic sound effects alike, on both commercial and self-recorded discs in all modes.

This machine is better than the Ellion, even though it possibly shares much of the same componentry, and in many aspects is as good as any other recorder in its price range. Some online retailers are selling this for as little as £170, so at least it is cheap...