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DivX, MP3, WMA and JPEG files can be transferred onto the hard-disk from DVD, CD or USB, and the hard-disk can hold up to 270 DivX files, 10,000 photos or 7,000 music files on top of the regular MPEG-2 TV recordings. The same file types can also be copied from the hard-disk to DVD or USB device (or directly from USB to DVD), but MPEG-2 hard-disk recordings can't be copied to USB.
On the outside, the unit is sturdily built and extremely attractive, boasting a sleek black finish with an attention-grabbing silver disc tray and controls. The info panel is easy to read, displaying the full channel name and other essential details, while a flap on the right hides FireWire, composite, S-video and stereo audio inputs plus a USB 2.0 port.
The back panel is equally busy, featuring HDMI, component, S-video and composite outputs, plus two SCART sockets - one RGB output for connection to a TV and one RGB input for recording from external sources. One of the more intriguing sockets is the coaxial digital audio input, which enables you to record 5.1-channel Dolby Digital or DTS soundtracks from external receivers and from the Freeview tuner (should terrestrial broadcasters ever start offering 5.1 broadcasts).
Another impressive feature is 1080p, 1080i or 720p upscaling for DVDs and hard-disk recordings, which should boost picture quality on a hi-def TV. Elsewhere, the Skip Commercial Block feature will be a godsend to those who get annoyed by the increasing amount of adverts on our screens. The unit automatically detects the beginning and end of commercial breaks, allowing you to jump past them by pressing the chapter skip button. Our test revealed that this works fairly well, accurately chopping out the adverts from a Channel 4 broadcast. The chapter points are set when the unit is in standby, and takes 30 minutes to process one hour of recording time, but the end result is worth waiting for.
The G-Link feature enables you to control an external cable or satellite box through the Guide Plus system. In the box is a transmitter that you plug into the DVDR5570H and place next to your receiver. When a timer recording starts, it automatically sends infra-red signals to the receiver and changes it to the correct channel. The setup procedure can be quite convoluted but for owners of non-HDD digital TV receivers it's worth persevering.
Elsewhere the DVDR5570H is surprisingly easy to use, despite its vast array of features. The Time Shift Buffer and video editing take some getting used to, but it doesn't take long before they become second nature. The key to the recorder's ease of use is a revamped remote that features a superb control wheel not found on the previous generation. It works very well, enabling you to scroll smoothly through the unit's menus, and it comes into its own when searching through the Time Shift Buffer or finding a specific place in a recording. The rest of the buttons are thoughtfully arranged, although the lack of a dedicated button to change the recording mode is a real nuisance - you have to enter the setup menu, and by doing so you end up wiping the TSB.