Elsewhere, the feature list is similar to that of the DMR-EX88, apart from the hard-disk capacity (250GB as opposed to the EX88’s 400GB) and this deck’s VHS functionality, of course. As a result we won’t go into too much detail but it’s worth pointing out some of the highlights, which include internal CD ripping with automatic track naming courtesy of the built-in Gracenote database, Freeview Playback support (including Series Recording, Guide Link and Split Programme) and that perennial hard-disk favourite Pause Live TV, which is given its own jazzy onscreen logo.
Like many hard-disk recorders on the market, the EX98V offers jukebox functionality that lets you transfer MP3 and JPEG files from discs, USB or SD card to the hard disk. It’s a nice feature, which cleverly moves your media library from your PC to the living room, but unlike recorders from Pioneer and Philips you can’t transfer DivX files to the hard-disk, which is likely to disappoint keen Internet downloaders. You can, however, play them (as well as MP3 and JPEG) from discs and USB devices, and the unit supports VOD content. It all works extremely well, and the quality of MP3 and ripped CD playback is excellent.
On the VHS side, there are several handy features. S-VHS Quasi Playback (SQPB) allows you to play S-VHS tapes on this unit at a lower resolution, while the VHS Index Search System (VISS) places markers on the tape every time you hit record, allowing you to find recordings easily. Other modes like Jet Rewind, Jet Search and slow motion make tape playback feel fairly hassle free, while the SP, LP and EP recording modes allow you to extend the amount you can squeeze on a tape.
Like its non-VHS stablemates, the EX98V’s recording, editing and copying features are comprehensive, giving you a great deal of control before and after making a recording. There are four recording modes (XP, SP, LP and EP) which pales in comparison to the Pioneer DVR-560HX’s 32-step manual mode but should suffice for most users. Hard-disk recording times range from 55 hours in XP to 441 hours in EP, plus you can fit over 14 hours on a DVD-R (DL) disc in EP mode.
Regularly-used functions like deleting part of a recording, creating playlists or copying at high speed from HDD to DVD are all made extremely simple by the clear and intuitive onscreen displays that guide you through every part of the process. In fact, the entire user interface and remote control are wonderfully user-friendly, much more so than rival recorders from the likes of Pioneer and Philips, and the straightforward Guide Plus EPG makes it easy to record an entire series (though not as easily as Sky+). You could quite easily work out how to use this machine without even consulting the manual, which is a good job given that it’s a hefty tome.