Tatung's new DVD recorder looks just like the Ellion DVD recorder once you've switched it on. You'll notice that they both share the same onscreen display and operating system.
That's not to say these two decks are identically specified. The Tatung TDVR600S drops the USB socket on the front panel, but adds an S-video input, alongside the DV and composite video sockets and stereo audio input.
To the rear, connections are identical. There are two Scart sockets (both RGB capable), S-video and composite video inputs and outputs, as well as both optical and electrical digital audio outs, plus stereo inputs and outputs. More importantly, there are component video outputs for progressive scan signals.
Recording, as with the Ellion, is in DVD R and RW formats. This limits the amount of editing flexibility, compared with DVD-RAM or -RW discs in VR mode. There are five recording settings, offering 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6hrs of recording on a single disc, with the usual trade-off between picture quality and disc capacity.
Recordings can be programmed or you can use the one-touch timer function. This lets you set a recording to last a specified amount of time with repeated presses of the record button.
Set-up is fairly straightforward and includes the choice of recording mode. There is no dedicated button on the remote, so you have to delve into the menu every time you want to change the record setting. You can also select the default input for recordings, so if you record from a digibox all the time you don't have to access the menu every time you want to record something.
Editing functions are the same as with the Ellion, that is to say standard fare for the R and RW format. With RW discs you can erase titles or a whole disc to use again, but R discs are write-once only. You can set, delete and hide/unhide chapter marks. Hiding chapters is a neat way of skipping playback on ad breaks - the adverts are still there, but the player skips them during playback.
These editing options can be brought up on the Mode Selection box. Press the 'Display' button and a box appears onscreen, from which you can choose to play, record on or edit a disc. It's quite a neat.
More evidence of the similarity between this deck and the Ellion is that the Tatung happily recorded on a DVD RW disc that had previously been used to record on the Ellion. DVD recorders are usually highly territorial and if you insert a disc that has been used on a different deck, you will usually be prompted to erase all contents before your new deck will use it.
Happily, the RGB input on the TDVR600S does not display the level of boosted brightness that the Ellion does. The picture from a Sky box, viewed on loopthrough, was every bit as bold and sharp as when plugged directly into our test TV.
The recorded picture in the highest quality mode retains almost all of this detail, but there is perhaps a slight drop in the overall picture radiance - RGB images can seem to fairly leap off screen and this effect is a bit muted.
In SP mode the image retains most of the detail, with just slight pixellation and a hint of smear on skin tones. The 3 and 4hr settings see this gradual deterioration continue, but not as much as you would expect, thanks largely to the fact that the 3hr mode keeps the full 720 x 576 resolution - not many recorders offer this. The final offering, the 6hr setting, does a remarkable job - no strobing, no audio defects and still very watchable picture detail.
The bad news is that the TDVR600S occasionally stumbles during playback of recorded programmes, momentarily freezing the image (not always at the same place, so there was no problem with the discs being used) and making a noticeable whirring sound.
This is not a characteristic of pre-recorded DVD playback, which is very good, as is delivery of movie soundtracks.
You might expect some rough edges on a budget recorder, but that hiccup on recordings could make the deck impossible to enjoy if it is not just a fault with our sample. Another one to check carefully before buying, but overall, an impressive budget offering. David Smith