Hard-disk combis are by far the most practical option for anyone looking for a new video recorder.
But not everyone needs hundreds of gigabytes of storage space – some people are more selective in their televisual tastes and can make do with the smaller capacity offered by a DVD disc.
If you're one of those people, then a DVD recorder is the best way to go – and the LG DRT389H looks like a good option.
Glossy DVD deck
The LG DRT389H features dual-layer recording, which doubles the recording time of a single layer disc, while its Freeview+ compliance means you won't miss out on all the nifty recording features found on most PVRs.
On the outside, the DRT389H is a well-built and fetching looking machine, dressed in a glossy black ﬁnish with only a few buttons on the fascia. There's also a display panel that's packed with info, but is fairly hard to read.
This LG packs in an attractive array of party tricks. You can play your PC media library through your home cinema system thanks to the USB port on the front panel, which supports music, photo and video ﬁles. Next to it is a DV input for digital camcorder owners who want to back up footage without fear of digital to analogue degradation.
Notable connections include an HDMI output, which delivers 1080p, 1080i or 720p pictures to a suitably equipped TV, plus component video and RGB Scart outputs. There's no conditional access slot for pay TV smartcards, though.
On board is a single Freeview tuner with Freeview+ features that include Series Recording, Alternate Instance Recording and Split Recording, all of which are activated from the eight-day EPG. As we found on the RHT399H, these features are clumsily incorporated and listed using misleading pidgin English, but in all other respects the EPG layout is superb, and because it's superimposed over live TV you can
keep up with whatever you're watching at the same time.
One other noteworthy feature is DVFX, which removes colour breaks and jitter from the incoming video signals frame-by-frame before they're processed by the main chipset, which is potentially great news for those hoping to archive ageing VHS tapes.
Easy to use
The LG DRT389H is a smooth operator with a terrific central Home Menu system that displays the different functions across the top with eye-catching animated icons. We also love the way the menus dissolve into each other, and how the cursor cruises around the helpfully structured options without so much as a pause or hesitation.
The rest of the GUI is very good, too, with a neat and easily digestible recording library, which enables you to rename recordings using a simple virtual keyboard.
There are some gripes however, particularly with the remote, which is too cluttered and hides important keys such as programme change and EPG in the button graveyard at the bottom. It's also annoying that there's no recording mode button.
The deck also presumes everyone is deaf and switches the subtitles on intermittently without warning, which is easy to rectify but annoying all the same.
One day we'll be able to talk about a digital TV product without the usual caveat over the variable quality of Freeview broadcasts, but in the meantime we have to point out, yet again, that this LG's live pictures are only as good as the channel you're watching.
Certain channels exhibit higher levels of block noise than others, but the LG DRT389H valiantly manages to make them all look fairly watchable, particularly with the upscaling set to 1080p. That said, we won't lay all the blame at the feet of Freeview, as we have seen better digital TV picture quality on other DVD recorders.
As for recordings, the LG DRT389H captures the bold colours, ﬁne detail and clean edges of the source broadcasts perfectly in the top-quality XP mode, but inevitably picks up all the broadcast's block and mosquito noise, too. The two-hour SP mode is useful for movies and a recording of King Kong from ITV2 onto a DVD+R DL disc looked very watchable indeed and not too dissimilar to XP quality.
Using the hideous MLP mode is a complete waste of time, however, despite luring you in with the promise of 21hr of recording time on DVD+R DL.
We recorded some material from VHS tape in XP via Scart and the resulting recordings seem stable and clean.
Pre-recorded DVDs scrub up nicely when upscaled to 1080p and viewed on a full HD set, exhibited crisp detail, deep blacks and pure, natural colour tones.
Impressive CD playback
The LG DRT389H isn't designed to replace your CD player, but its music playback doesn't disappoint.
MP3 and WMA ﬁles also sound dynamic, while multichannel movie playback is great, but it does depend on the quality of your sound system. There are no problems with Dolby Digital-encoded sound with recordings from any source.
With features such as Freeview+, dual-layer recording and a USB port on board you can't begrudge paying over £100 for the LG DRT389H.
We could wish for a better translation of the Freeview+ features, though. However, it carries out its variety of tasks with a slickness missing from some similarly priced rivals.