In action the EX88 really delivers the goods. Live TV pictures are bursting with colour and possess plenty of detail, both of which contribute to a very enjoyable viewing experience. The on-board noise reducing technology goes a good job of keeping that pesky blocking effect out of the image, and when upscaled to 1080p the quality is as good as terrestrial digital TV gets.
For recording, there are four modes that allow you to reduce picture quality in order to increase the recording time, and in the top-quality XP mode the recorded picture looks exactly the same as the live broadcast. There's a virtually imperceptible drop in quality from XP to SP, but the available recording time on DVD increases from one hour to two, which is great news for archiving.
LP mode recordings are still watchable, with its 500-line resolution retaining a healthy dose of detail, but there's a clear increase in noise and edges look soft. EP mode recordings look even more hazy, making it unsuitable for tricky material like sport or action movies, but stick to sedate programmes like chat shows and you won't be too disappointed with the results.
Overall, recorded sound quality is impressive. Despite the level of compression used, the stereo Dolby Digital encoder makes the audio output sound clear and energetic though TV speakers, and even better when hooked up to a Pro Logic II amplifier.
The EX88 also makes a fine DVD player, delivering clean and detailed picture quality and keeping artefacts to a minimum. Colour reproduction is powerful but not garish, plus skin tones look natural and movement is remarkably smooth. All of the supported media formats play with no problems and CD tracks ripped to the hard disk sound remarkably crisp.
If you're looking for a recorder that combines the versatility of an HDD/DVD combi with the simplicity of Sky+ then you won't go far wrong with the DMR-EX88. It's packed with features, delivers superb picture quality and although it's more expensive than some of its rivals you can rest assured that you're getting a lot for your money.