There’s also a pause live TV function called Time Slip. Instead of hitting the pause button, you have to hit Time Slip twice, which isn’t the most intuitive way of using it. Also, when using Time Slip the programme is recorded onto the main HDD rather than a separate buffer memory, so it takes up space in your recording library – be sure to go through and delete these regularly as Time Slip could clog it up pretty quickly.
The Chasing Playback mode lets you watch programmes from the start while they’re still being recorded, plus you can play something from the library while another programme is being recorded. All of which is great, but we’d trade it all for a second Freeview tuner and the ability to watch one channel while recording another – sadly that’s not something you’ll find on DVD/HDD combis outside of Panasonic’s mega-pricey Freesat/Freeview HD models.
There’s also a decent range of editing features on board. Call up a recording in the Title List and the Edit menu allows you to cut out a chunk of the recording, rename, divide, combine and add or delete chapters, although chapters are added automatically while recording at set intervals. The editing screen looks rudimentary but is easy to follow – the recording plays in a small box with a timeline below, which lets you select start and stop points for deletion.
Additionally you can create playlists of titles, which will allow you to play them back in the order of your choosing without affecting the original. Hard-disk titles can also be dubbed to DVD at high speed, while an Auto mode calculates how much disc space is left and sets the appropriate recording mode to fit. There are five recording modes available that let you trade off picture quality for recording time – XP, SP, LP, EP and SLP.
Onscreen presentation is best described as basic, with its white text on blue backgrounds and sparing use of graphics, but the cursor moves around without hesitation. The Setup menu uses a clear structure and covers all the settings you need, including a surprisingly long list of recording options. It’s easy to install too thanks to the fast Auto Tuning mode and despite its basic feel the RD329DT operates with generally pleasing slickness.
The eight-day EPG is very cluttered, even without the addition of a live TV box. It shows seven channels at a time, but the programme blocks are small and squashed up and there’s too much going on above and below the grid. All the usual controls are provided – skip back/forward 24 hours, call up a synopsis, schedule a recording, some of which utilise the coloured keys on the remote. To de-clutter it slightly, you can switch to a daily view in which programmes on a single channel are listed vertically. Not a disaster then, but certainly not one of our favourite EPGs.
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Recordings are stored in a clear, attractive Title List that uses moving thumbnails and gives the recording properties (including logo that tells you if a recording is new), but doesn’t tell you the name of the programme. There’s a separate Timer list that summarises forthcoming recordings. Like the rest of the GUI, the Freeview info banners have a rudimentary air about them but convey a healthy range of information clearly, including the synopsis, remaining time, genre, audio type and so on. Sadly though, they are limited to now and next information.