Onto performance, and the SR150M takes an unusual approach to recording Freeview programmes. It only lets you record from the digital tuner in Flexible Recording mode, which means that when you hit record, it automatically selects the appropriate mode (XP, SP, LP or EP) according to the quality of the incoming signal. For instance, it chose SP for a recording on BBC One but LP for a programme on Channel 4.
The idea is to prevent you from taking up more disc space than you need to by choosing a bitrate that’s too high for the source, which is all very helpful, but to be honest we’d prefer to decide for ourselves thanks. The only way to get round it is to set the timer, but that’s a bit of a pain.
However, we won’t let this limitation detract from the deck’s strong picture quality. XP and SP mode Freeview recordings look sharp and richly coloured, with a pleasingly low amount of noise, and in LP the results are eminently watchable. The soft EP mode pictures raised a few eyebrows but it’s par for the course at such a low bitrate.
Thankfully you can manually change the quality setting when recording from an external source via SCART. XP recordings from a Sky+ box are superb, which is great news for those hoping to archive stuff stored on a hard-disk PVR.
Playback of shop-bought DVDs from the component or SCART outputs benefits from the deck’s impressive colour and detail reproduction, but HDMI would have possibly eliminated the touches of dotty noise around the edge of some objects. The deck also plays DivX, MP3 and JPEG all of which look and sound decent on a good TV or sound system.
It might not give the Japanese big guns anything to worry about, but on the whole the DVD-SR150M turns in a respectable performance. It looks great, recorded picture quality is strong and the inclusion of DVD-RAM recording and a Freeview tuner deliver the knockout combination of flexibility and convenience.
Ultimately though, the lack of HDMI output – and the hi-def upscaling that normally goes with it – makes it feel antiquated and although the sub-£100 price tag is tempting, we’d encourage you to spend a little bit more on an HDMI-equipped model like the Panasonic DMR-EZ27 or even the Toshiba D-R17DT.
Score in detail