This is the first DVD recorder from Hitachi that we've had the pleasure of reviewing and it's definitely been worth the wait - this deck is a beauty.

Verging on the minimalist, the standards of design that have gone into this model are exemplary. It features a dark fascia, with a sweep of silver that incorporates the disc-transport controls and the tray itself. An LED display shines through the dark portion of the fascia beneath the disc tray, creating an arresting impression.

Connectivity is good, but there is no component video output. This rules out progressive scan images and although consumers able to make use of this high-end source are still in the minority, it will quite simply rule out this deck for them. However, there are input and output Scart sockets, with RGB an option for both, so Hitachi has sidestepped this potential pitfall - one that continues to claim DVD recorders at a baffling rate.

Digital audio outputs come in optical and electrical types, while at the front of the deck you'll find a DV input for camcorder enthusiasts.

So far so good. Hitachi has opted for the DVD-RAM/-R/-RW formats and there are four recording modes, allowing for 1, 2, 4 and 6hrs of recording. There is also a Flexible Recording feature, which automatically selects the best mode, depending on how much space is left on the disc and how much programming you are trying to fit onto it.

Editing functions are most powerful when using either DVD-RAM or DVD-RW discs in VR mode. Both allow you to set up play lists, delete sections of a title, and rearrange disc content.

On -RW discs in video mode, or plain old -R discs, you have very few options as far as editing goes. You can name a title or erase it and that's it. On a -R disc, erasing a title doesn't even free up the disc space for reuse, but -R discs are more compatible with other DVD players and are cheaper than -RAM or -RW platters.

You can also only set chapter marks on RAM or -RW VR mode discs. They are referred to as 'markers' rather than chapters, but they do the same job and are easily created or deleted as required.

Other functions of the DV-RX7000 will be familiar to aficionados of the RAM and -RW VR formats. There is an instant replay, known as Time Slip, and the ability to watch the beginning of a programme while it continues to record (chasing playback).

Hitachi also offers what it calls a CM Skip (commercial skip) function. Don't get too excited, though. It doesn't automatically sense a commercial break and zoom through it, it simply skips forward a specified number of seconds.

A picture-in-picture mode lets you watch a DVD while keeping an eye on a live broadcast, or vice versa, and you can set bookmarks on a disc for easy return to a scene, but bookmarks disappear when the disc is ejected.

Looking first at pre-recorded DVDs, this Hitachi deck does a simply stunning job on picture rendition. Using the testing Return of the King disc, with bags of complicated onscreen detail to handle, the image is brilliant.

Colour rendition is accurate and realistic (if you can call the colours on a four-tusked, 60ft high elephant realistic) and there are no problems with the most high-speed sequences. The cavalry charge in particular, with thousands of figures moving at breakneck speed over the entire screen, is a revelation. There is no sign whatsoever of pixellation or artefacts.

Sound performance is just as good. This is a superb disc to show off your home cinema system and the DV-RX7000 won't cause any embarrassment.

Switching to recorded images, there is still more praise to heap on this deck. In the highest-quality setting, the recorded image is perfect. You simply cannot tell the difference between the broadcast picture and the recorded one. Using a Sky box, feeding an RGB signal into the deck, you can be sure of preserving a programme in its original quality.

The two-hour SP mode is only marginally less detailed. You start to get a hint of digital artefacts on material such as American football, but this is barely noticeable. Even in the four-hour mode the picture remains hugely enjoyable, miles better than VHS.

The lowest-quality setting retains quite a lot of detail, but does have the strobe effect, where the picture becomes slightly jerky. This mode cannot be recommended for anything other than cramming your favourite soap operas onto a single disc while you're away on holiday.

Editing functions are a bit cumbersome to activate. The deck often takes an age to finish erasing a segment and the resultant edit points are a bit spit-and-sawdust. The picture freezes for half a second, rather than merging seamlessly into the next scene.

Play list edits create slightly smoother transitions, but they are still blighted by a frozen frame while the next segment is accessed. You need to be careful with this. If you have too many very brief sections on your play list, you can be presented with nothing more than a series of still frames on playback.

A quick point on disc compatibility - although the manual goes out of its way to warn you against using R and RW discs, it actually plays them quite happily.

This is a really impressive model, capable of the very highest picture quality when recording or playing back discs. The only complaints would be the lack of a component video output for progressive scan and the slightly awkward edit points. Operating foibles when accessing the editing functions are a bit irritating, but issues with ease of use will be resolved with practice.

This deck deserves to be judged for its good points, however, and there are more than enough of these to add up to a serious contender in the DVD recorder market.