When recording from external sources or from the analog tuner, you're presented with a choice of four recording modes - XP, SP, LP and EP - which respectively offer 1, 2, 4 and 6 hours of recording time on a single-layer, single-sided DVD. In truth, there are actually six modes, if you include the 8hr EP mode (selectable from the setup menu) and the Flexible Recording mode, which automatically selects the appropriate mode for timer recordings, according to how much space is left on the disc.
But unusually, recordings from the built-in digital tuner can only be made in FR mode. It selects the recording mode that's best suited to the quality of the incoming signal, which means you don't waste precious recording time by choosing a high-bitrate mode for a low-bitrate broadcast.
With DVD-RAM, DVD-RW VR mode and hard-disk recording on board, it should come as no surprise that the deck's editing functionality is second to none. When using any of these three formats, you can create playlists of favourite scenes without affecting the original recordings, as well as delete unwanted chunks or split titles in two. For hard-disk recording, you can also watch a title from the start before it's finished recording or pause live TV.
Rounding off a very enticing feature list is Anynet+, Samsung's version of HDMI CEC technology, which allows you to control this deck and an HDMI-equipped Samsung TV with the same remote.
Operating the DVD-SH855M isn't quite the joyous, carefree experience you'd hope for, due largely to the remote. It's cluttered with small, confusingly laid out buttons, the most important of which are hidden away at the bottom rather than being given the prominence they deserve.
Otherwise, this deck is actually very user-friendly. The Setup Menu and recordings library are bright, colourful and easy to read, and the EPG is a real feat of electronic engineering - it crams the programme guide, programme information and a box playing live TV into one screen, but doesn't feel cluttered or hard to follow. The deck is also slick and responsive, with no annoying pauses when changing digital channels or surfing text.