With the great analogue switch-off getting ever nearer, a DVD recorder should feature a built-in Freeview tuner as a matter of course. Amazingly, many do not, but Sony is not about to fall into that trap with the RDR-GXD360.
This good-looking recorder has the necessary digital tuner, but also does away with the analogue option altogether - a taste of things to come. Those with no decent Freeview reception in their area will not like this, but you can always hook up a satellite receiver.
Impress to play
Connectivity does its best to impress. Only the absence of an HDMI output is a serious omission - just about understandable at this price. You get component video outputs and a pair of Scarts that, critically, can accept an RGB signal, preserving the best qualities of a Sky digital feed if this is what you will be using.
There is no hard disk, however, which rules out the most flexible editing options, but you can record on to all types of recordable media except dual-layered DVD-R and DVD-RAM discs.
DVD plus-R DL compatibility gives you a maximum recording time of 15 hours, although this is in the lowest quality picture setting. There are eight settings in all, which is a very commendable choice.
Recordings from the integral Freeview tuner are very pleasing. If you get a strong signal it will be captured faithfully in the higher quality recording modes. There is thankfully very little in the way of artefacting and colours retain their boldness, even on the notoriously tricky onscreen logos from Sky Sports News.
Dipping into the lower-level record modes (2.5hrs and up) reveals the inevitable flaws. There are more artefacts to contend with and these increase (inevitably) as you add more recording capacity. Despite that, the recordings made in these modes are always watchable.
The lowest quality setting produces quite fuzzy results but still a decent effort. This mode need only be used if you're making a considerable amount of timer recordings, rather than for archiving purposes.
Editing functions are most versatile when using the VR mode on DVD-RW discs, but this limits compatibility with other players. That said, the onscreen editing menus are a treat to look at and fairly easy to use (as are all the menus, in fact).
It's all in the detail
Playback of pre-recorded DVDs is best through the component video output. This delivers a truly excellent image, full of vibrant colours and fine detail.
The RGB Scart output is only slightly less impressive. There are some elements to the picture that might have been cleared up by quality upscaling via an HDMI output, but overall the image is superb.
Throw in audio that is similarly impressive and you have an winner. A hard disk and an HDMI output would boost performance, but would also boost the price. We think the balance offered is just about perfect as it is.