The hard-disk will hold up to 1,422 hours of TV (roughly the same as a month's worth of Friends repeats on E4) but the amount of recording time depends on which recording mode you're using. In this respect the unit is very flexible - there are six preset recording modes (XP, SP, LP, EP, SLP, SEP) offering between 106 and 1,064 hours of recording time on the hard-disk. But it also offers a manual recording system, which features 32 steps covering the bitrates in between the presets, plus two higher quality modes: a version of XP with LPCM audio encoding instead of two-channel Dolby Digital, and XP+, which is only available for hard-disk recording and is best suited to DV camcorder footage.
Your recordings can be chopped and trimmed to perfection using the deck's vast array of editing features. You can erase a section (annoying adverts, for example), divide a title, edit chapter points, change the thumbnail on the Disc Navigator menu and rename recordings. There's even an automatic chapter mode that inserts chapters at natural breaks in the programme, which isn't fail safe but works generally well. However, you can't create Playlists as you can on most other HDD recorders, which may come as a disappointment to those hoping to piece together their own home movies from camcorder footage.
Recordings can also be copied from the hard-disk to DVD at high speed (even while recording something else), plus there's a back-up facility for duplicating home-made DVDs. Elsewhere, there's a superb range of Freeview-related features, including a wonderfully intuitive seven-day EPG, which lets you set timer recordings at the touch of a button - and because start and end times are tied to the actual broadcast, you won't miss any of the programme if the schedule slips.
Even more pleasing is the inclusion of Series Recording, which as the name suggests, automatically records every episode of a particular programme and will recommend repeats in case of schedule clashes.
We're extremely impressed by how slick this recorder is to use. The onscreen menus are among the best we've ever encountered, all of which use welcoming pastel shades, attractive icons and intelligent submenu arrangement. The Disc Navigator, in particular is a masterclass in onscreen design, using moving thumbnails and allowing you to group recordings by genre.
Ease of use is boosted by a very well-designed remote, which feels weighty and looks unusually attractive. It hides lesser-used buttons under a flap at the bottom and uses a novel jog dial for scrolling through menu options and changing channels. This is mostly effective, but it's easy to turn it accidentally and select the wrong option.
Some other aspects of the operating system grate - you can't access the EPG or switch to the analogue tuner when making a digital TV recording, which makes the lack of a second digital tuner all the more restrictive. Also, the unit is equipped with Guide Plus+, the EPG that makes timer recordings from the analogue tuner and external satellite and cable boxes. A useful inclusion perhaps, but it's cumbersome compared with the Freeview EPG and requires an inconvenient setup procedure that involves entering your postcode and waiting for channels to download overnight.