Sometimes 'cheap' can just mean that - the cost is low, but the product may not necessarily be crap. However, the word can also be a happy bedfellow with its best friend, 'nasty' - a double-act that applies, sadly, to this new Yamada recorder.

Ironically, first impressions are good as there's something strangely alluring about the look of the machine. It has an almost retro feel to it. And the remote, while a bit plasticky, is very well laid-out and clean-looking.

However, when I took the machine out of the box it had a disconcerting rattle that suggested the disc mechanism wasn't fitted with much care and attention. Indeed, the review sample's tray tended to wobble when extended; in my opinion, an accident waiting to happen.

The no-frills approach continues with the connections. A surprise omission is the complete lack of S-video connectivity, whether input or output. In fact, the only way to get an external feed into the recorder is through one of the two rear Scart inputs (which are RGB-capable - sing Hosanna!), or via the camcorder input that resides under a front-panel flap.

Unusually, there's also a stereo audio output (but no analogue video input) here. But the DVR-8220 does have a prog scan-capable component output, which gives the machine a small advantage over its Samsung and Philips rivals.

The DVR-8220 opts for the DVD R/ RW formats. However, editing is much more basic. You'll find only chapter setting, thumbnail selection and renaming options available - there's no capacity to split a recorded title. Furthermore, the menus are extraordinarily basic and unpleasant to look at.

They work fairly well and are easy enough to use, but look like they were generated on an old Commodore 64 computer - ahh, those were the days. Hardly the cutting-edge of new technology, though.

Featureless

The manual states that five recording modes are available for use: HQ (1hr), SP (2hrs), LP (3hrs), EP (4hrs) and SLP (6hrs) - nothing out of the ordinary, then. In practice, though, I could only find four of them on the menu screen - LP was missing. And, in terms of other features, there's little else. In fact, it has VideoPlus , PDC and a one-touch recording option and, er, that's it.

Here's the rub; picture quality is just not good enough. On DVD playback there's nothing especially wrong, although colours seem slightly downplayed. But detail retrieval is okay and edges are sharp with no obvious artefacts. However, with material recorded from an RGB source (digital cable, for example) it just doesn't compare. Even in the highest-quality mode, captured images seem fuzzy.

Funnily enough, SP, in comparison, isn't too bad - there's very little difference. But it all takes a turn for the worse from there, ending with a SLP mode that looks like an extremely low quality VHS recording.

Top sound

One saving grace is the sound quality throughout. Although it's slightly soft, the Yamada retains all nuances in dialogue and musical soundtracks. There are also no specific problems on recorded material, apart from extremely minute 'pops' that affect the six-hour mode on rare occasions.

I couldn't recommend the Yamada to anyone who cares about their home entertainment. As a bedroom recorder, or to replace a dying VHS machine in a non-enthusiast's home, it does a reasonable job.

But there are far better machines available for a similar price. You would need a very good reason to buy this over any of its rivals.