It's been a long time since we reviewed a Sony DVD/HDD recorder (but not for the want of trying) so we're pleased to have finally got our hands on a model from its latest range. The RDR-HXD890 features both a DVD recorder and hard-disk, giving you the flexibility to record, edit and then back-up your recordings on disc. However, this deck is also packed with loads of other cool features that make it much more than a simple video recorder - and at under £200 online, it's keenly priced.
It's available in black or silver, and our black sample is hardly the pinnacle of hi-tech glamour but still looks quietly classy, and its build quality is superb. The fascia is split into two sections - the top half features the display panel, which helpfully shows the name of the current channel as well as the recording time, and illuminated buttons to switch between the HDD and DVD, while the entire lower section drops down to reveal a generous range of connections and buttons.
These include two USB ports, one of which allows you to play video, music and photos or copy them to the hard-disk, and another that lets you connect a PictBridge compatible device and print photos. These are joined by an i.Link (FireWire) input (for DV camcorder dubbing), plus composite, analogue stereo and S-video inputs, but unlike some of the step-up models, there's no Conditional Access Module slot for adding pay TV channels to the Freeview line-up.
The rear panel is similarly well-equipped. You get two SCART sockets, one of which outputs RGB, S-video or composite video to your TV, while the other one accepts RGB, S-video or composite from external devices - great news if you want to make high-quality recordings from a Sky receiver. For playback purposes there are also component, S-video and composite video outputs, and on the audio side you'll find coaxial digital and analogue stereo outputs.
Two sets of aerial inputs and outputs cater for the built-in Freeview and analogue tuners, while the G-Link port lets you connect an infrared transmitter and make recordings from external TV receivers. G-Link works in tandem with the Guide Plus+ EPG, and changes the external TV box to the correct channel and starts the HXD890 recording at the correct time. Last but not least, there's an HDMI output, which supports upscaled 1080p pictures and BRAVIA Sync CEC functionality.