Sony RDR-HXD890 DVD/HDD Recorder - Sony RDR-HXD890

By Danny Phillips

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Sony RDR-HXD890 DVD/HDD Recorder

Summary

Our Score:

9

The hard-disk is 160GB, which isn't huge by today's standards but if you need more then Sony also offers 250GB and 500GB models. However, with a recording time of 455 hours in the lowest-quality mode or around 35 hours in the highest setting, it should still be enough for normal viewing and recording habits. As for DVDs, the unit can record onto DVD-RW/-R, DVD+RW/+R plus dual-layer DVD-R and DVD+R discs, but not DVD-RAM - although you can play RAM recordings made on other machines.

In fact the list of compatible playback formats is lengthy - it handles all of the disc types above plus CD, CD-R/-RW, VCD/SVCD, MP3, JPEG and DivX, but there's no mention of WMA. It's also worth noting that DivX files cannot be played or copied from devices connected to the USB port, which may be a bone of contention for those hoping to connect a USB HDD drive and have permanent access to their PC movie library.

However, you can copy MP3s and JPEG files to the hard-disk and manage them using the helpful Jukebox and Photo Album features, plus the nifty x-Pict Story feature allows you to create slide shows of JPEG files, add sound and transition effects, then burn the results onto DVD.

When making recordings there's a choice of nine recording presets, ranging from the best-quality HQ down to the lowest quality SEP mode, making it easy to trade off picture quality for recording time. Additionally, there's a manual recording mode that provides even greater flexibility when trying to fit recordings onto a disc. You can choose from 32 incremental steps, plus it adds an HDD-only HQ+ mode, which records at 15Mbps, plus a version of HQ that records audio in LPCM as opposed to Dolby Digital. Sound familiar? That's because these features are also found on Pioneer's latest recorders, which is hardly surprising given that this Sony is a rebadged Pioneer (but the Pioneer decks also support DVD-RAM recording).

There's an abundance of other convenient recording features that make it hard to miss your favourite programmes. These include series recording and the terrific EPG Link feature, which allows you to search for alternate broadcasts, other episodes in the series and ‘recommended' programmes based on existing timer settings, all presented in an easily digestible list. It also alters recording start and stop times automatically when broadcast times get delayed.

Elsewhere, there's chase play and a pause live TV mode, which is useful but records the programme onto the hard-disk and resumes playback in the currently selected recording mode - not good news if you've left it in poor-quality SEP. Meanwhile the extensive editing functionality enables you to create playlists, erase a section, divide/combine titles and edit chapters, although many of these functions are only available on the HDD and VR formatted DVD-RW discs.

remmert

February 8, 2009, 4:19 pm

I bought one before Christmas and it still makes me smile! - one little niggle though is the remote - the channel up/down buttons are strangely at the top of this long handset and not where your thumb naturally falls.

SRS

February 9, 2009, 12:49 am

For this review, and future ones of similar Home Cinema products, would it be possible to show some images of the UI?

xenos

February 9, 2009, 1:28 am

Will it upscale to 720p if that's all your TV will do?

Danny P

February 9, 2009, 4:07 pm

@xenos - Yes it will upscale to 720p, 1080i and 1080p, which can be selected in the setup menu.


@SRS - putting up shots of the the UI is something lots of people seem to want with products like this, so I'll look into it. The problem is that taking pictures of a TV screen is notoriously rubbish so I need some software that lets you take screen grabs from DVD, which I don't have at present.

timple

February 9, 2009, 4:29 pm

I am waiting until one of these HDD/DVD recorders comes out with the obvious feature of BBC iplayer support. (sadly not kangaroo!)

Alan Edwards47c

February 9, 2009, 6:24 pm

I've got the HXD-790, same thing but with a 120Gb drive.





Generally it's a good machine, the recording quality is very good and there are skip back/forwards buttons that jump forward 30s/1 min/2 min etc. forwards and 5 sec/15 sec/30 sec/1 min etc. backwards - very useful for skipping adverts and the "what did they just say" moments.





The UI is a mess, though. The EPG software was obviously written by a different department from the rest, the font and colours are totally different. The difference is most apparent when you set up a timer event from the EPG.





It also forces you to back out before you can go to a different function. For instance you can't go straight from the recording list to the EPG, you have to drop back to TV viewing first.





It also has a big problem with series links when recording. It will very often record the repeat of the same episode later in the week, which can create overlaps you can only fix by deleting the program and setting it up again from the EPG.





To be fair this may be a Freeview data issue rather than specific to this recorder, but it's annoying and makes me think they don't really know what they're doing.





Alan.

Ste 2

February 11, 2009, 8:29 pm

Will this upscale over component, or only via HDMI?

Andrew Robb

March 3, 2009, 10:05 pm

The Sony RDR-HXD890 must be considered a DVD recorder with an added hard disc. Unlike a Humax PVR9200T, it is NOT a digital PVR as it does not record the original digital data. Just like a DVD recorder, the picture is converted from digital to analogue and then back from analogue to digital. The built-in digital encoder is no match for those used by TV stations. This has severe consequences:


- Recorded picture quality is never quite as good as live picture quality (even at HQ+).


- The best recorded picture quality takes up huge amounts of disc space compared to a digital PVR.


- When recorded at about the same bandwidth as the original broadcast, the picture quality is poor.





Minor problems with its DVD-recorder approach include:


- loss of selectable subtitles


- loss of program information





On the positive side, it does a lot quite well:


- Freeview receiver and DVD player with HDMI upscaling


- music juke box


- photo album


- G-Link recorder from set-top-boxes (Sky or Virgin)

OlShaw

April 6, 2009, 6:52 pm

Apologies regarding my lack of knowledge, but quick question on the upscaling. If your TV only supports 720p, i assume there is no point in setting the upscaling to 1080i or p? Would there be any adverse effects of upscaling to 1080p on a 720p TV? I have tried both settings on my Samsung 32" TV which is not full HD and can't see any differences?

Jon Green

April 10, 2009, 5:26 pm

Does anyone know if it is possible to upscale the video signal from an external DVD player via this HDD recorder's HDMI. I currently have an older surround sound DVD Player which does not have an HDMI output. I was wondering if I could feed the output from the surround sound system into the HDD recorder via either S-Video or Scart and then upscale to my Full HD TV.

Nige 2

October 11, 2009, 10:03 am

Similar question to Jon. I am looking for a DVD recorder that will convert SCART to HDMI (must convert both audio and video signals). Will this recorder do this - if not could you advise one which will?

Geoff Richards

October 11, 2009, 1:32 pm

Let me try and address some of these questions as best I can (considering I didn't review the original unit myself)





@OlShaw - you can only display the maximum resolution of your TV, no more. So ignoring that 1080p -> 720p is downscaling, not upscaling, you aren't going to see any difference because your 32-inch TV is only HD Ready (720p). Keep everything native and you'll be fine.





@Jon Green / @ Nige - since this box has SCART IN on the back, and Danny mentions it's "great news if you want to make high-quality recordings from a Sky receiver." (bottom of page 1) I'm going to assume that it will happily take this input; if you're choosing to then output from this recorder to your TV in HDMI then I would expect video and audio to be output over HDMI.





HOWEVER





To address Jon's question about "surround sound", it does appear that this box lacks any kinda of optical or co-ax S/PDIF input. SCART can only carry stereo sound, not Dolby Digital 5.1 like the two I mentioned. Also worth noting that this box will not do any surround decoding itself; it will merely ouput a bitstream (via HDMI or that orange "Digital Out" shown on Page 2) so you will still require a surround sound amplifier or receiver to do the processing and power the speakers.





So in summary, Jon, you can't plug your old 5.1 DVD player into this and get surround, and you can't pop a DVD into this player directly and get surround unless you have a separate surround receiver / amp. Depending on what speaker setup you have, you might be better just getting a new DVD player. There's plenty of inexpensive ones available these days.





Nige - does that help? What exactly are you hoping to convert via SCART to HDMI, and why?

Will 2

October 19, 2009, 4:40 pm

I,m sorry if this is a daft question but I have seen in another review that this recorder will not record in 16 x 9 format if this is true is this a serious problem?

Yoghi

January 23, 2010, 3:28 pm

I would like to buy the Sony RDR-HXD890...


I have a question...


does it make noise when in standby? I have another Sony and i cannot hold it in my room because of the noise when it is in standby and...i do not know what it makes... :)





thx a lot

Techno22

March 18, 2010, 11:46 pm

This was a good machine, but Sony recorders have moved on a lot from here - not necessarily for the better.


Any chance of a review of the latest 250GB machine (C205) or the latest 500GB machine (C505).


Indications are that they are not as well featured as earlier models, and the Pioneer link appears to have terminated.


Would love to have your comments.

Kenny

October 4, 2013, 12:27 am

Have one of these . My problem now is that I can't record from my new digital tv now . I can play what I have already recorded. Is it possible to record at all from a digital tv ??

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