Initial impressions of the H&B DRX-430 are that it's identical to the Ellion DVR- 530S. And, for the most part, it is. There's two major differences, though; DivX playback compatibility and a £50 drop in price.

While the CyberHome is the dinkiest recorder around, the DRX-430 must be the slimmest. There's nothing cheaplooking about the aesthetics and, unlike its rival here, the front-mounted connections are politely hidden behind a flap.

It is here that you find a DV-Link, analogue stereo audio and composite video inputs and a USB 1.1 port (for connecting a memory stick with viewable JPEGs). The back also offers more than CyberHome's cheaper machine. Two Scarts are present but, again, only one is RGB-enabled. So you'll have to set-up your set-top box to output composite video only. There's a further set of composite video and analogue stereo audio inputs, as well as an S-video in, and all are matched with equivalent outputs. Digital audio is also catered for with both coaxial and optical digital audio outs, but most notably, component outputs are on offer, allowing for PAL and NTSC prog scan.

Unfortunately, operational use fails to match the connectivity. Menus are, to be blunt, pig ugly serving a purpose but little else. Their over complicated treestructure seems nonsensical too. And, there's only the same five recording modes for use with DVD R and DVD RW discs: HQ, SP, LP, EP and SLP - each offering identical recording capacity, up to six hours. Nor is there any improvement in the editing functions, except the ability to hide chapters. However, one major attraction is MPEG4 playback compatibility (including DivX and Xvid), and it copes well with a wide variety of codecs; a quibble of many DivX-certified players.

Recorded images are okay at the top two bitrates, but degrade rapidly thereafter. They're also dependent on the signal input and as that's composite at best you'll notice some detail loss however good your source.

Playback is more impressive, mainly because of the prog scan-capable component outputs. Image quality is comparable with a sub-£100 dedicated player; nice detail retention, no colourbleed and decent blacks. And, it seems, that my initial complaints of the audio on the lookalike Ellion machine reviewed previously are confined to that deck. There are no worries, sonically, here.

As a cheap deck, you can do much worse than the DRX-430, but it falls slightly short in almost all areas to compete with the big boys, especially as an extra £50 could buy you a Panasonic DMR-ES10, a superior machine all round.