The setup menu is immaculately laid out and easy on the eye, but the deck’s overall ease of use is hampered by the awkward remote, which features too many small, fiddly buttons – many of which are packed into an overly cluttered section at the bottom. If these were lesser used keys it wouldn’t be a problem, but among them are the EPG, Record, Recording mode, Text and Info buttons, all of which should have been more prominently positioned.
After making a series of recordings from the Freeview tuner across a range of channels, it’s clear that the Samsung boasts impressive video encoding circuitry, but the lack of control over the recording mode can cause problems. Programmes on ITV1, for example, are recorded in the 2Mbps LP mode to match the channel’s bitrate, which is typically around 2.2Mbps, but this introduces some pixel break up and motion artefacts into the image that could possibly have been avoided with XP mode at your disposal.
But recordings made from BBC One are made in SP, which captures the channel’s higher bitrates (around 4.5Mbps) and gives a better indication of what the Samsung is capable of. But the deck is at its best when you feed an RGB signal from a Sky HD box into the SCART input and select XP mode – images look supremely crisp and radiant, block noise is competently suppressed and edges are rendered with no ringing or bleed.
The Samsung bolsters its picture credentials by way of superb pre-recorded DVD playback, with the clean 1080p upscaling making the most of ”Apocalypto’s” vibrant colours and bountiful detail. DivX, MP3 and JPEG playback are also impressive, and it’s easy to transfer and play them from the hard-disk thanks to the clever and responsive menu system.
If you’re looking for a Freeview DVD/HDD recorder that records and plays a wide range of formats, offers loads of recording and editing features and a healthy hard-disk size, then the DVD-SH875M is a sound choice. It’s let down by some clunky Freeview functionality and an awkward remote, but with such a tempting price tag you might be willing to put up with these shortcomings.
Score in detail