Harman Kardon's DVD 22 is blessed with a beautiful design, sporting a chic black fascia and low profile. The subtle LED display and slimline disc-transport controls complete the minimalist look. It's the sort of appearance that has your mind half-way made up before even plugging it in.

That's not to say that everything is rosy - there are some omissions in the feature count that will put some people off. For a start there is no HDMI or DVI output. There is a component video out for progressive scan, but those who own HDMI-equipped monitors could rule this deck out at once.

Secondly, there is no DVD-Audio or SACD playback.This is not nearly so serious,but may still put one or two noses out of joint.

Those noses may, however, be pushed back into place by a couple of neat features that the DVD 22 does have. The first is a test screen feature that helps you calibrate your monitor to get the most out of the deck. The second is pixel-by-pixel deinterlacing for the progressive scan image, which Harman Kardon believes creates an even more believable image than standard line-by-line deinterlacing.

The Scart socket features 'Direct RGB',that is a pure RGB signal with no conversion processes to impede picture quality.The zoom goes up to 5x and the remote is backlit, always welcome when you need to hit the pause button while watching in a darkened room.

Back to that test screen.In conjunction with the detailed manual you are guided through a step-by-step procedure to adjust contrast,brightness and colour.The results may surprise you,as you are likely to finish up with considerably less garish images than when you started (over-enthusiastic colour settings are common!).

The deck is easily hackable and you should ask your dealer to do this for you (it just takes a few presses on the remote).

Finally, it's worth noting that the deck's firmware is upgradable via the Harman Kardon website.Simply burn an upgrade CD, follow the instructions online and you're away.

The picture delivered by the DVD 22 is really superb. Perhaps it is the test screen fine-tuning that gets your monitor to work in harmony with the deck,or perhaps it is just an excellent performer in its own right - whatever the reason,the image is wonderful.

An RGB Scart feed delivers one of the best such pictures we have seen, with clinically sharp rendition of images,smooth movement and excellent colour rendition.

Switching to a prog-scan feed to an LCD monitor, there is a noticeable step-up in picture detail.The image instantly becomes far more solid,with an added dimension created by the increased resolution and depth.

It's a shame there is no HDMI output,but this prog-scan image is as good as we've seen on a deck in this price range and better than a good many more expensive models.

We partnered this deck with a decent mid-range amp and speaker system and were mightily impressed by the audio performance as well. DVD soundtracks are lively and imposing,and even audio CDs are nicely handled.

The lack of DVD-Audio playback could be seen as a letdown here,but if you want it then you can opt for the DVD 31.Bearing this in mind,the omission is more fairly viewed as a cost-saving measure for those who don't want the feature - and the evidence is that there are many of these people out there.

If you're happy to forego DVD-Audio and an HDMI output then there really is nothing more you could ask for.The DVD 22 is a sublime deck that not only looks the business but closes the deal as well.