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Not that we’re complaining, but it seems as though big-name brands like Sony and Panasonic are engaged in some sort of competition to see who can cram the most features into their digital recorders.
Just recently we posted a review of the Panasonic DMR-EX77, an astonishingly well-specified HDD/DVD combi which counts 1080p upscaling and DVD-Audio playback among its many features.
Well, Sony has seen Panasonic’s bet and raised the stakes with the RDR-HXD870, a 160GB hard-disk/DVD recorder combi with even more fancy functionality than its Panasonic counterpart.
It features a digital TV tuner, and with the exception of DVD-RAM it will record onto any recordable DVD disc format, including dual-layer DVD+R and DVD-R discs.
But the main feature that sets the Sony apart from its rivals is Series Recording, which as the name suggests will record every programme in a series using information provided by Freeview.
It’s similar to Series Link, one of Sky Plus’ most compelling features, making its appearance here highly significant. The HXD870 will additionally recognise when a programme has been split (to accommodate the news, for example) which makes it even more flexible.
But focusing on this feature is like reviewing a Ferrari and only talking about its wing mirrors – there’s tons of other exciting stuff elsewhere. Not least the deck’s 1080p upscaling capabilities, which lets you boost the resolution of DVDs as well as your own recordings. Yes that’s right – after all these years you can finally watch Gardener’s World in 1080p.
Connections are hugely generous by digital recorder standards. Aside from the HDMI output (which also offers 720p and 1080i), you get component video, two Scarts (offering RGB input and output) and a coaxial digital audio output for piping Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks to your amplifier.
But around the front things get even more interesting. It sports a USB port, which allows you to plug in a flash drive and transfer MP3 and JPEG files to the hard-disk, where they can be organised, edited and played using the Jukebox and Photo Album features. You can even copy images on the HDD to DVD-R or DVD-RW discs, and should you feel the urge to print out any of your pictures you can hook up the PictBridge socket to a compatible printer and do so – a rare but very welcome feature.
The front panel also sports an iLink (FireWire) input primarily intended for transferring DV camcorder footage. It’s an input only, so you can’t transfer edited footage back to the camcorder.