Another Goodmans product, another incredibly long name. The GDVDR305DVBT (try saying that after a boozy lunch) looks much like any other budget DVD recorder on the outside, but delve deeper and you'll discover it's in possession of a rather neat selling point: the integrated tuner is digital rather than analogue.
While Goodmans isn't the first manufacturer to do this, the fact that it's managed to do so and keep the price at a mere £150 is incredible. But has the budget specialist cut too many corners in doing so?
Design, styling and build quality have never been among Goodmans' strong points and this product isn't about to change all that. It looks reasonably attractive from a distance, thanks to its clean, straight edges and lack of silly design flourishes, but up close it reeks of cheapness (which is kind of acceptable because,well, it is cheap).
The remote control has received a real thrashing with the ugly stick too, and is apparently made from the same kind of low quality plastic as Christmas cracker toys. In short: this recorder is not going to make you look cool in front of your friends.
The selection of features isn't much better, and apart from a weekly EPG, an integrated surround sound decoder and the Freeview digital tuner, Goodmans seems to have included the bare minimum.
There's only one tuner, a basic selection of editing and recording quality modes and no VideoPlus. The connectivity is similarly limited, with the only video output options being RGB, S-Video and composite video. There's no component video output,and no sign of an i.Link port for DV camcorder users.
Ease of use
One advantage to this feature deficiency is that it can make a product extremely simple to use. But in this case, it's not quite the picnic we'd hoped for. Things start off well enough, with an automatic TV tuner prompt popping up the first time you switch the machine on,and the options and setup menus are straightforward, but all the while you're hampered by the remote control's awful buttons, which often need to be pressed three or four times before anything happens.
Duff remote notwithstanding, using Freeview is as easy as you could wish for, and both the quick guide and full EPG allow you to zip around the 40-odd digital channels quickly. Another advantage of the EPG is that it can be used to set the recorder: a simple command on the programme entry does the trick, although you are limited to programmes scheduled for the next seven days.
The timer can also be set manually, although unlike many it doesn't allow you to repeat an event several times over a monthly period - you're limited to a week instead.
There are four recording modes to choose from, with the best offering just an hour per DVD R/ RW disc and the worst offering the standard six. The top quality setting is completely unchanged from the original broadcast, while the drop in quality to the second (which allows two hours of recording per disc) is almost undetectable; this is the one we'd use. The two lower quality settings are poor, and you won't be using them for recording programmes you want to keep.
Unfortunately, the picture quality provided by the Freeview tuner isn't particularly good and, even on the RGB setting, the image seems slightly soft and washed out,while small but noticeable pockets of digital noise dance around the edges of on-screen text and channel idents.
Still, we prefer it to analogue (some readers might not, however - there is certainly a slight issue with MPEG artefacts that you don't get with traditional analogue television), and there's plenty more to Freeview than just the image quality: there is a far greater number channels (including radio stations) and more shows are presented in widescreen. Then there's the added content like interactive services.
DVD playback could be described as 'cheap and cheerful'. It works, but that's about it: with no progressive scan component video option, the picture (even via RGB Scart) is plagued by jagged edges surrounding objects - the extended one-shot scene of Shaun leaving his house and visiting the corner shop in Shaun of the Dead showed these up all over the place - and in other areas like colour reproduction it is merely competent.
Real, hardcore video nuts probably won't be too impressed, but then we doubt to many of that kind of crowd are going to be casting around for a £150 recorder.
As far as audio goes, the Goodmans seems better stacked than most of its rivals. It has both kinds of digital audio output, as well as a full 5.1-channel analogue output capable of carrying Dolby Digital (decoded by the recorder) to an external amplifier or compatible speaker package. For owners of the latter who'd like to avoid using a surround sound amp or receiver,such a connection comes in very useful.
Sound quality, like picture quality, is decent without being overly impressive. You can play CDs (or MP3 discs, for that matter) on this device, but you shouldn't expect to be blown away by the performance. And we seriously doubt that serious audiophiles are going to be looking at something in this price bracket upon which to play their treasured tunes, so it's hardly a criticism that the sound isn't of the highest grade.
For television and so on, however, the stereo output is fine and dandy, so it's pretty much job done in terms of the market into which this player has been pitched.
All in all, the GDVDR305DVBT is a mixed bag. Its sheer affordability is remarkable, especially considering the inclusion of a digital TV tuner, but performance - including recording - is distinctly average. The picture quality of the tuner and DVD player just isn't high enough to get a real recommendation from us - and as the former affects all your DVD R/ RW recordings, it's quite a big deal.
That said, there are few rivals to the device at the moment, simply because of the cheap price. Also,the inclusion of Freeview adds an awful lot to any DVD recorder (even one as average as this) so, if you are already planning on buying a cheap Lite-On or Mustek DVD recorder (with analogue tuner) for around £100, we'd advise you to pay a little bit extra and get the Goodmans.