It's been an ignominious fall for DVD recorders. It wasn't so long ago they were the height of exclusivity; now, they're stacked up in supermarkets. Relisys certainly isn't aiming for the high ground with this offering; this is a low-cost Eastern import to compliment its monitors, and it doesn't make much of an effort to conceal its budget origins.
That's not to say it isn't lacking in features, however. The impressive selection of connections on the back starts with Scart and continues through composite with progressive scan and S-Video, so you're unlikely to have any problems hooking it up to your TV. Inputs are similarly well-supported, with old-school aerial connections joined by Scart, composite AV and S-Video.
The presence of 5.1 Dolby DTS decoding is unusual at this price and very welcome. Round the front, there's the similarly welcome presence of a second set of AV and S-Video inputs along with mini- FireWire, so you can directly connect a DV camera or PC without needless fiddling with the wiring round the back.
A reasonable specification on the face of it, but the Relisys fails to delight. The build quality is less than inspiring, with a tinny silver casing, cheap-looking LCD display and worryingly lightweight remote control, and the sound of the DVD tray grinding open will make you wince. In use, thankfully, it's suitably quiet, and it plays back commercial CDs and DVDs without any problems - although out of the box there's no multiregion support.
When it comes to homemade DVDs, however, things take a turn for the worse. Despite claims of support for DVD-R, CD-R and MP3 CDs, you're taking a gamble with anything burned in another device. DVD-R and CD-R discs work only sporadically, and the frequent read errors are catastrophic - the entire player hangs, and you've got to unplug it at the mains to get it working again. It's incredibly frustrating and makes the RDVR250D next to unusable if you've got a sizeable stock of homemade discs.
If you're new to the DVD-burning scene then things are more palatable. TV programmes or AV inputs can be burned to DVD R/RW with a touch of the record button, and while there's no VideoPlus functionality you can set timed recordings using the simple and straightforward menu system. The five quality settings cover all the uses you're likely to encounter - an hour's worth of top-grade footage looks excellent but will fill a single disc.
However, this stretches to six hours when dropped to VHS quality - and the remote control enables basic editing and scene creation. Playback isn't at all bad either, with a bookmark function and 30-second skip being very welcome additions to the standard roster of navigation controls, and the discs themselves didn't pose any problems when it came to playback in other devices.
Add this to plentiful connectivity and the tantalisingly low price, and the Relisys does look tempting. However, its intolerance of non-professional discs makes it hard to justify as a long-term purchase, and with the new breed of recorders bringing hard drive storage into the equation as well, you'd be better off saving your money and putting it towards something with more features and less fragility.