If you format a DVD-RW disc in VR mode, you gain access to the Playlist function, which enables you to chop out and rearrange sections from any recording into a new sequence, without affecting the originals. Slightly less advanced but equally useful is the Scene Delete function, which as the name suggests lets you accurately delete unwanted parts of a recording, such as adverts or appearances by Graham Norton. In addition, for other disc formats you can add chapter markers, combine or divide chapters and rename titles, all of which are very easy to find within the menu system.
Away from its recording talents, there are a few more appealing features, such as DivX, MP3 and JPEG playback and a 12-event, one-month timer for the analogue tuner.
After you've made a recording, it's stored in the Disc Menu, which is a good-looking and clearly laid out screen that uses moving thumbnail images to illustrate each recording. The setup menu is similarly well designed, arranging all of the crucial options into logical submenus. The only let down from a presentational point of view is the EPG, which lists the programmes in a very unhelpful list format instead of the programme ‘grid' used by the vast majority of other Freeview recorders. It's much harder than it should be to find a particular programme, and the information is a little tricky to call up.
The ease of use factor is further reduced by the unit's unresponsive software, which makes flicking through the channels a very laborious process. The pause is long enough to make you press the button again, only to find it registered the first time. But strangely, the MHEG digital text function is very slick, flicking from page to page with no delay at all.
Thankfully there are no complaints with the D-R17DT's picture performance. Recording a variety of TV programmes onto a DVD-RW disc in XP reveals some very competent video encoding at play inside, producing recordings that look every bit as good as the live signal. The quality is helped along by some smooth 1080p upscaling, which keeps artefacts at bay and makes the picture seem clean, sharp and dynamic.
Tricky fast-moving material like live football broadcasts are captured without excessive amounts of pixellation or break-up, while colour reproduction is very strong and free from the smudgy MPEG noise and banding that can occur with below-par processing.