Taking a look at the feature list, things start to look ominous for the competition. Headlined by an HDMI output with full 1080p upscaling (plus 1080i and 720p, of course), this is a deck designed with flatpanel TVs in mind.

It'll apply a near-HD sheen to any material it plays, be it TV recordings or pre-recorded DVDs, and the use of an all-digital HDMI port should keep the signal looking crisp.

Then there's the formidable sight of a full list of recordable DVD formats, including DVD-R Dual Layer and DVD+R Double Layer.

There's a Freeview tuner on board, which brings with it niceties such as a seven-day EPG, digital text and interactive support. There's no CI slot for adding pay TV channels, so if you want Setanta you'll have to find another way.

Impressive though the DMR-EZ27's feature list is, it lacks the SD memory card slot found on its HDD models, and it won't play DiVX. But on the plus side it will play MP3 and JPEG files from disc.

When making a recording, you have four basic presets to choose from (XP, SP, LP, EP), offering between one and eight hours on a single-layer disc, alongside an FP mode which automatically selects the best mode according to the amount of space left on the disc.

With DVD-RAM on board, there are plenty of recording and editing tricks, including playlist creation, chasing playback and simultaneous playback and recording.

Full marks to Panasonic for making a potentially complex product a breeze to use. The menu screens are attractive and logically laid out, particularly the Direct Navigator, which uses thumbnails to help you identify each recording.

Thanks to the stability and robustness of the built-in digital tuner, recordings are of the highest order - particularly when played back in 1080p. In XP and SP modes, we're treated to some of the most vibrant and crispest images ever captured to DVD.

Recordings look identical to the source, which means that when you hit record during an episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show, it's guaranteed to reproduce every wispy hair, bruise and piece of gold jewellery worn by the trailer-trash guests perfectly.

LP mode is mightily impressive too, mainly due to the fact that it keeps the 500-line resolution of XP and SP modes but uses a lower bitrate. That means the drop in quality is less noticeable than other recorders - though the increased pixellation and shimmering over fast movement means you can still tell the difference.

EP mode raises the noise and break-up levels but not to a point where it would be considered unacceptable for everyday use.

This terrific picture performance is consolidated by magnificent pre-recorded DVD playback. Crank the upscaling to 720p, 1080i or 1080p and colours are rich and ravishing, detail looks sharp and solid black levels give the picture a pleasing amount of depth. Clean, undistorted audio from DVDs and CDs completes the stella performance.

On balance, it's clear that the DMR-EZ27 is still the most comprehensive DVD recorder available today, despite the lack of DiVX playback and SD card slot. The combination of true multi-format recording and 1080p upscaling is irresistible, but it's the killer performance and ease of use that seals the deal. And at £200, it's no more expensive than the Sony and Toshiba, both of which offer fewer features.