The DMR-EX78's picture quality is similarly impressive. The unit features DVB-T Adaptive Noise Reduction, which aims to reduce the block noise that plagues Freeview broadcasts, and during live TV viewing it does a marvellous job. It's backed up by a mode that detects and corrects jagged diagonal lines, and when combined with the unit's slick 1080p upscaling, it results in some of the cleanest and most dazzling digital TV pictures we've seen.
This translates into flawless recording quality. XP mode captures powerful colours and intense detail without breaking a sweat, making it impossible to tell the difference between live and recorded TV. SP mode only reveals a slight drop in quality, with a touch of extra dot noise. LP mode looks softer, demonstrated by the hazy text of news captions and gently shimmering moving images, but it remains more detailed than LP mode recordings on some rival machines. The jitter and softness intensify in EP mode but again, the quality is still above what we'd normally expect from a low-quality mode.
The deck's pre-recorded DVD picture quality is solid, turning in a very assured performance with the beautiful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon disc. The gorgeous scenery, with its intricate detail and earthy colour palette looks superb on a large screen TV and uncovers no flaws in the deck's 1080p upscaling.
And on the audio side, movie and CD playback are fine but it's the quality of internally ripped LPCM tracks that really takes the cake. The extensive Gracenote database found the info for most of the CDs we loaded, with only a couple of Japanese imports tripping it up, while MP3, JPEG and DivX playback posed no problems at all.
As you might have guessed, we quite like the DMR-EX78. It offers a comprehensive feature list, top-class pictures and a user interface that gives its rivals a masterclass in how to make a technically complex machine feel like something you'd find in the Early Learning Centre - and we mean that in a good way. It's quite simply the most accomplished DVD/HDD combi we've seen, which means the competition will have to come up with something pretty special to beat it.