The RHT497H is one of three new DVD/HDD combi recorders from the LG stable, and like last year's models they set out to provide a decent range of features without making much of a dent in your bank balance. With its 160GB hard disk, the RHT497H is the cheapest of the trio, but if that's not enough storage space then you could opt for the RHT498H (250GB) or the RHT499H (320GB) - apart from hard-disk capacity the three decks are identical.
The RHT497H is equipped with a single Freeview tuner and the full range of Freeview+ features, including Series Recording. This makes it easier to record your favourite programmes, but once again the lack of twin tuners prevents you from recording one channel and watching another, denying you the flexibility of PVRs like Sky+ or the twin-tuner DMR-BS850 from Panasonic. It's a shame but not unexpected.
Like previous LG models, the RHT497H also features a ‘Super Multi' DVD drive, which means it can record onto a wide range of DVD formats - DVD-RAM, DVD+RW/+R, DVD-RW/-R and DVD+R Double Layer. Slip a DVD+R DL disc into the tray and you archive up to 21 hours' worth of recordings, although that's using the low-quality MLP mode - we don't recommend using anything lower than LP mode for archiving, which offers up to 7.3 hours. As for the hard-disk, it holds between 43 hours in top-quality XP mode and 477 hours in MLP.
On the outside, this year's recorders have been treated to a major makeover and look even more attractive than the previous generation. Gone is the silver top panel and stripe through the fascia, and in comes a sexier all-black design with a button-free front panel, except for a central circle that lets you switch between DVD and HDD. It's surrounded by a ring of light, which illuminates blue or red when recording, while the fairly small display panel to the right shows the channel number for a few seconds then reverts to the clock (or the elapsed time during playback).
The entire right hand side of the fascia drops down to reveal a row of buttons - play/pause, stop, record and HDMI resolution - plus DV, composite, analogue stereo inputs and a USB port. This can be used to play back DivX, MP3, WMA and JPEG from a USB flash drive, or to copy any of these files onto the unit's hard-disk and turn it into a multimedia centre.
Rear-panel connections are generous. The roster includes an all-important HDMI output, and thanks to the built-in upscaler it can send video to your TV in 1080p, 1080i or 720p. It's joined by component, RGB Scart and S-video outputs, while on the audio side you'll find analogue stereo output and a choice of optical and coaxial digital outputs, which supply Dolby Digital, DTS and PCM signals to your AV amp. Naturally you'll also find a Scart input for hooking up an external digibox or a VCR for tape archiving, and thankfully it accepts RGB, S-video and composite video signals.