In operation, the deck responds instantly to remote commands and performs everyday digital TV tasks (such as channel changing and digital text access) quickly and smoothly, while Freeview pictures are consistently stable. In fact, our only gripe is that subtitles suddenly pop up from time to time, but it's no hassle to turn them off.
Live Freeview TV pictures are OK, boasting strong colours and good detail resolution, but the levels of block and mosquito noise in the picture are higher than we'd normally expect from a Freeview receiver and subsequently have a negative impact on its overall clarity, particularly when handling busy or fast-moving scenes. But we don't wish to paint an overly negative picture of the LG's pictures, as they're far from a disaster, and some of these artefacts have more to do with the poor quality of the original broadcast - but we have seen better picture quality elsewhere.
Sadly, the block and mosquito noise is evident on DVD recordings but the recorder's excellent encoding in the top-quality one-hour XP mode means no further artefacts are added. SP mode displays only a slight increase in noise, while the lower-bitrate LP and EP modes offer watchable results but you'll have to endure increased softness and MPEG noise. The MLP mode might offer 14 hours on a single-layer DVD (or 21 on dual-layer) but anyone who can tolerate its excessively blurred pictures for more than 30 seconds deserves a medal.
To investigate its recording performance further, we embarked on a ‘real world' archiving project, creating a DVD-R of programmes that were clogging up our Sky HD box's hard-disk. We fed the pictures into the RGB SCART input and set the recording mode to SP (offering two hours' recording time). The deck made the whole process simple and the quick-start recording enabled us to accurately capture the start of each programme with the resulting picture quality looking crisp and richly saturated. Renaming the recordings is time-consuming but hassle-free thanks to the responsive virtual keyboard, and the default menu display authored on the disc (which appears on other players) is immensely attractive, but it's a shame that there are no options to further customise the look.
Next up we dusted off the JVC VCR, connected it to the LG's SCART input and recorded some episodes of I'm Alan Partridge on VHS in XP mode. There can be few complaints about the resulting recordings, which look faithful to the original source, but it couldn't smooth out some of the bigger blips and wobbles on the tape and it was quite hard to tell what difference DVFX recording actually made.
However, the LG makes a terrific multimedia player - DVD picture quality is superb and boosted by some smooth 1080p upscaling, while DivX, MP3, WMA and JPEG files played back from a flash memory drive or DVD are smoothly handled. It also makes a passable CD player, although the rough edges make it clear that LG isn't catering for the audiophile market.
If you're in the market for a DVD recorder, the DRT389H ticks all the boxes - multi-format recording, Freeview+, 1080p upscaling and dual-layer support - and for just over £100 online you can't say fairer than that. Some aspects of the deck's operating system are a bit clumsy, and we're not exactly enamoured by its Freeview picture quality or the performance of DVFX, but in all other respects the LG is an impressive proposition.