A handsome-looking recorder, the DR-MH300 is also reasonably well-built. As with the LG and Toshiba machines reviewed elsewhere, it's multiformat - albeit not quite as flexible; the DVD drive will only record onto DVD-R/RW and DVD-RAM.
The 160GB hard disk allows for up to 300 hours of recording in the lowestquality mode. Five 'fixed' recording modes are provided. The top one, the no-compromise DV mode, only works with the hard drive - it's been included primarily for editing footage from a digital camcorder. After editing, you would 'down-convert' to a lower mode when dubbing to DVD. This 'dual-pass' system can result in better AV quality, and is good for archiving old recordings.
Like the Toshiba, the MH300 offers a manually-definable recording mode. 'Free-rate', as it's called, adjusts the recording bitrate so that between 1 and 6 hours (in five-minute increments) can be crammed onto a DVD.
There are additional 7- and 8-hour presets here. Above FR150 (2.5 hours), the horizontal resolution drops to VHSlike levels, although VR-mode recordings on DVD-RW/-RAMs and the HDD benefit from an intermediate resolution.
Connection-wise, the MH300 is the best JVC digital recorder yet, offering RGB Scart input and HDMI output, plus RGB Scart and component outputs. Both component and HDMI outputs can be 'upscaled' to 720p or 1080i.
Then there's the inclusion of the GuidePlus EPG/timer-programming system. This would only be bettered by a terrestrial digital EPG; the MH300's GuidePlus implementation has the next best thing - an infra-red device that will take direct control of many digital settop boxes. GuidePlus is friendly, colourful and makes scheduling recordings with the 16-event/1-month timer a doddle.
Setup is straightforward, and there's a 'help' system if you get lost.
A thumbnail-based navigation system helps you find recordings, and it's also possible to assign categories. I prefer the Toshiba's 'folders' system, though. Pressing the 'edit' button from here gives you the opportunity to add titles, divide recordings or 'erase scenes' (partial-delete).
Material can be dubbed from HDD to DVD at high-speed, or to a different recording mode in real-time. In addition to manual dubbing is 'just', which optimises the recording mode so that a batch of titles will fit onto a disc.
In terms of recording quality, the MH300 acquits itself well - especially with the two-hour (SP) or better modes, where there's little deterioration of the original source.
A drop in resolution means that modes offering longer recording times lose some of of their impact, but they're still eminently watchable - certainly until you get to the EP mode, which imparts a kind of 'motion-judder' effect to the proceedings. In all modes, colours are captured faithfully; we have no doubt that the RGB input is helping here. With the exception of NTSC discs (which are jerkily converted into PAL) DVD playback is excellent - especially if the HDMI output is used - and in performance terms, the MH300 is on a par with decent mid-range players. CD playback is average, but own-recordings sound fine.
Easily JVC's best DVD recorder yet. The RGB Scart input enables it to make natural-looking recordings from digital sources, while GuidePlus makes for easier timer programming. Editing facilities are up to the expected standard.