The nitty gritty of this aggressively priced combi is quietly impressive, with a built-in Freeview tuner, a DV input at the front and the ability to record on dual-layered DVDs.
The hard disk is only 80GB, however - small by today's standards. It will squeeze in a mere 8hrs at the highest HQ record setting, although this is overkill for anything other than DV camcorder sources. Even at the more commonly used SP setting, you can only fit in 26hrs of programming.
There are nine, flexible recording modes, with the lowest-quality SLP setting giving 8hrs on a single-layered DVD or 106hrs on the hard disk. The deck will capture a full 500 lines of picture information even at the three-hour ESP setting, which is commendable.
The input Scart can, critically, accept an RGB feed, so the main pratfall of digital recorders has been avoided. There is no HDMI output, which is a shame, but you do have the option of a progressive scan feed via component video outs.
Editing options are plentiful, with the familiar partial erase, divide title and playlist features all welcome. The interface isn't the most elegant - it looks nice, but it is rather clunky in operation - but familiarity will pay dividends here no doubt.
Get set up
It is also somewhat compensated for by one of the best 'easy setup' procedures we've seen. On switching the deck on it takes you through basic setup options in a commendably straightforward manner. Auto chaptering inserts chapter marks every 6mins: you can also add them manually when watching a recorded programme on the HDD. Adding a chapter mark causes the picture to freeze momentarily, which is clumsy.
A loopthrough RGB feed is dynamic and bold, but it exhibits considerably more digital artefacting than the direct HDMI connection from our Sky HD box to our Panasonic TH37PV500 plasma TV. This picture is captured perfectly at both HQ and HQ modes, with even difficult sporting action like football and cricket looking good. The two-hour mode is almost identical, with only slight artefacting in the form of mild blocking on very fast pans.
At the three-hour setting you still have plenty of detail, but mosquito haze is now bothering moving players. After this the drop-off in quality is noticeable, looking like a VHS recording, and the eight-hour setting introduces a strobe effect as well, so this is best avoided.
Audio brings good news as well, with an involving feed going to our amp and speaker system. This is a very capable combi that doesn't excel in any area but does a solid all-round job. But a few tweaks (perhaps an option for adding digital channels) would be welcome.