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

By Danny Phillips



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


Our Score:


The user interface is identical to the one found on Pioneer's latest recorders, but it's excellent nonetheless. In the Initial Setup menu, the options are clearly presented in friendly pastel-coloured boxes and go into obsessive detail, while the ‘picture adjustment' menu offers a bunch of presets for different display types (it's basically Pioneer's Video Adjust menu).

The ‘digital' EPG is also very easy to use thanks to the straightforward grid structure, and far superior to the cluttered, cumbersome Guide Plus+ EPG. But because it's not superimposed over live TV you can't keep watching the current programme as you browse. Recordings are selected from the Title Menu, which shares the user-friendly logicality of the other onscreen displays.

In action the RDR-HXD890 is fantastic. Channel changing and digital text are very fast, and it delivers sharp, stable live Freeview pictures. With the upscaling set to 1080p, colour and detail levels are high, edges are crisp and fast-moving objects are reproduced without much evidence of block noise or break-up. And like any digital recorder worth its salt, these pictures are captured on the hard-disk in top-quality HQ mode without any reduction in quality. Pictures recorded in HSP and SP look almost identical to HQ but use up less space, making them the most useful presets of the lot.

When you dip down to LP, the recorder uses the 720 x 576 resolution used by the higher modes, which means it retains more detail than you'd normally expect from an LP mode, but the lower bitrate makes the picture start to look soft. In EP mode and lower, the 352 x 288 resolution combined with the rock bottom bitrates make the image look really rough round the edges, but strangely they're still quite watchable.

As a DVD player it's fairly competent, turning in a sharp and vibrant performance with movie discs but it trips up on the HQV DVD, displaying significant jaggies on the diagonal filter and flag tests. It does handle detail very well though, both with test patterns and moving video clips. As for audio there are no problems - CDs and MP3s sound perfectly enjoyable and stereo Dolby Digital recordings are clean and audible through TV speakers or a home cinema system.


With great recording quality, a slick operating system, loads of features and an alluring price tag, we think this is one of the best DVD/HDD recorders on the market, which is hardly surprising given its similarity to the Pioneer's machines we already know and love. There are a few niggles, such as the removal of RAM recording and the inability to play DivX from USB devices or transfer them to HDD, and as ever the inclusion of a single Freeview tuner on board is a major limitation - but none of these factors greatly affects our admiration for an otherwise excellent recorder.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Performance 8
  • Value 9
  • Features 9
  • Design 7


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.


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?


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.


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.


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)


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.


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?


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


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.


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 ??

comments powered by Disqus