The main claim to fame of this DVD-RW/DVD-R recorder is an HDMI output with video upscaling to 720p and 1080i, which makes it a great machine to go for if you already own an HD-ready TV.
Among the Samsung DVD-R135's other connections are two Scart sockets, one of which accepts RGB from digital TV set-top boxes and the other sends RGB signals to your TV. It also boasts progressive scan-enabled component video outputs, giving you a wide range of high-quality video outputs to choose from. Under a flap on the front you'll find AV inputs and a DV port for hooking up a digital camcorder.
The deck is ultra-slim and closely resembles the manufacturer's BD-P1000 Blu-ray deck, which is no bad thing. There's an analogue tuner inside, which is short-sighted given that the analogue switch-off starts in a year's time.
Some may also bemoan the lack of multi-format disc support, but the two supported formats offer everything you need - DVD-RW's VR mode gives you editing flexibility while DVD-RW Video mode and DVD-R offer wide compatibility with other DVD players.
There's a choice of four recording presets, offering between 1hr and 8hrs on a disc, plus a Flexible mode for timer recordings, which selects the optimum bitrate.
DVD-RWs formatted in VR mode allow you to create playlists of random scenes from any of your recordings, leaving the originals unaffected. It's a surprisingly easy process, and the resulting edits are fairly accurate.
Recordings made in XP mode from an RGB-equipped source are excellent. The best results are achieved with high-quality studio-based channels like Sky News - the strong red hues of captions and graphics are captured perfectly with no bleed around text, while skin tones look effortlessly natural.
MPEG noise is kept to a minimum, even with more challenging material like football where only a minimal amount of pixel noise is visible around the edges of moving players.
SP recordings display a slight decrease in quality, but the drop-off is much worse than we were expecting in LP mode. Large patches of colour are riddled with twitchy noise, detail reproduction is poor and moving objects have blurred edges. EP mode is twice as bad, and shouldn't be used under any circumstances.
Crisp and even
On the plus side, upscaled DVD pictures look crisp and DiVX playback is smooth, but we did encounter problems with hi-res JPEGs on a CD-R, which caused the deck to lock up.
The DVD-R135 is a likeable enough machine, and the price is reasonable. But, ultimately, the lack of a digital tuner and dreadful picture quality in LP and EP make this a recorder to approach with caution. We feel that it's a stopgap DVD recorder at best.