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All this bickering between Blu-ray and HD DVD makes me wonder why the respective camps don't cast their minds back to the DVD recording ‘format war'. The fierce rivalry between the RAM, -RW and +RW camps gently faded into insignificance as companies started making decks that could record onto every format, meaning that consumers no longer had to agonise over which one is the best.

All of which means the DVD recorder market is now a place of peace, where different formats live side by side in perfect harmony - and Samsung is one of the main peacekeepers. The DVD-SH855M DVD/HDD combi can record onto every DVD format, including RAM and dual-layer DVD-R and DVD+R media, both of which double the maximum recording time of a single-layer disc.


Of course there's also a 250GB hard-disk on board, which can hold up to 427 hours of TV if you use the lowest-quality EP setting, or about 64 hours in the highest-quality XP mode. That's an awful lot of TV by anyone's standards and it'll be a while before you have to think about deleting anything.

To those of you about to lose your analog TV signal, rest assured that there's a digital tuner on board, alongside an analogue one. Among the recorder's other features is video upscaling to 720p and 1080i, making it a suitable deck for owners of flat-panel TVs. However, unlike the latest combi decks from the likes of Panasonic, Pioneer and Sony, the DVD-SH855M doesn't offer 1080p, which may disappoint those with Full HD TVs.


Connections include an HDMI output, which serves up those 1080i and 720p pictures, plus progressive scan-capable component video outputs and two SCARTS, one of which accepts high-quality RGB signals from an external digital TV box. There's a choice of optical and coaxial digital audio outputs for piping Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks to your AV receiver, plus a set of analog sockets.

The DVD-SH855M is a digital media lover's dream; not only will it play MP3, JPEG and DivX files from DVDs and CDs, but thanks to the USB port on the front (behind the flip-down panel) it will also play them from flash memory devices and other USB-equipped gadgets. The beauty is that you can copy files onto the hard-disk and access them from one central library, essentially turning the deck into your own multimedia hub. Also on the front is a 4-pin DV input (other names: i.Link, FireWire, IEEE1394) for transferring camcorder footage, alongside composite and stereo audio inputs for other external sources.

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