The hard-disk is 160GB, which isn’t huge by today’s standards but if you need more then Sony also offers 250GB and 500GB models. However, with a recording time of 455 hours in the lowest-quality mode or around 35 hours in the highest setting, it should still be enough for normal viewing and recording habits. As for DVDs, the unit can record onto DVD-RW/-R, DVD+RW/+R plus dual-layer DVD-R and DVD+R discs, but not DVD-RAM – although you can play RAM recordings made on other machines.
In fact the list of compatible playback formats is lengthy – it handles all of the disc types above plus CD, CD-R/-RW, VCD/SVCD, MP3, JPEG and DivX, but there’s no mention of WMA. It’s also worth noting that DivX files cannot be played or copied from devices connected to the USB port, which may be a bone of contention for those hoping to connect a USB HDD drive and have permanent access to their PC movie library.
However, you can copy MP3s and JPEG files to the hard-disk and manage them using the helpful Jukebox and Photo Album features, plus the nifty x-Pict Story feature allows you to create slide shows of JPEG files, add sound and transition effects, then burn the results onto DVD.
When making recordings there’s a choice of nine recording presets, ranging from the best-quality HQ down to the lowest quality SEP mode, making it easy to trade off picture quality for recording time. Additionally, there’s a manual recording mode that provides even greater flexibility when trying to fit recordings onto a disc. You can choose from 32 incremental steps, plus it adds an HDD-only HQ+ mode, which records at 15Mbps, plus a version of HQ that records audio in LPCM as opposed to Dolby Digital. Sound familiar? That’s because these features are also found on Pioneer’s latest recorders, which is hardly surprising given that this Sony is a rebadged Pioneer (but the Pioneer decks also support DVD-RAM recording).
There’s an abundance of other convenient recording features that make it hard to miss your favourite programmes. These include series recording and the terrific EPG Link feature, which allows you to search for alternate broadcasts, other episodes in the series and ‘recommended’ programmes based on existing timer settings, all presented in an easily digestible list. It also alters recording start and stop times automatically when broadcast times get delayed.
Elsewhere, there’s chase play and a pause live TV mode, which is useful but records the programme onto the hard-disk and resumes playback in the currently selected recording mode – not good news if you’ve left it in poor-quality SEP. Meanwhile the extensive editing functionality enables you to create playlists, erase a section, divide/combine titles and edit chapters, although many of these functions are only available on the HDD and VR formatted DVD-RW discs.
Sign up for the newsletter
Get news, competitions and special offers direct to your inbox