As the number of digital TV-enabled households continues to rise and the analogue switch off looms ever closer, it seems strange that Sony’s RDR-GXD500 is the first DVD recorder to come equipped with a built-in digital TV tuner.
Over 60% of UK households can now receive digital TV, but trying to record the content can involve nightmarish battles with endless cables and component boxes.
Sony’s RDR-GXD500 is a one-stop solution that’s easy to set up and use, with its all-in-one functionality letting users view Freeview digital channels, make digital recordings and play discs all from a single compact unit.
The included ‘learning’ multi-function remote control lets you jettison your TV remote too, leaving one less thing to have to find on a drunken Saturday night.
Setting up the recorder is a breeze: plug it into your telly, turn it on and then let it automatically scan for channels.
The unit’s onscreen interface is simplicity itself, with the eight-day electronic programme guide (EPG) banishing those video timer nightmares forever – this puppy is so simple, even a granny overdosed on Christmas sherry would have no problem setting up a recording of Des and Mel.
Selecting programs to record is as simple as clicking on the programme you wish to record from the EPG and that’s it. Easy!
Things look pretty good under the hood too, with the unit sporting high quality components such as a 12-bit/108Mhz DAC and both digital and analogue tuners, allowing you to record one channel while you watch another.
Conveniently, the RDR-GXD500 offers simultaneous record/playback and chase play (this lets you begin watching a recorded programme before it’s finished) as well as a veritable armoury of advanced editing, archiving and organising functions.
In use, the Sony performed flawlessly. Memories of long hours endlessly fast forwarding and rewinding video tapes looking for a programme, were banished forever thanks to the recorder’s indexing and multi speed search facilities.
The digital reception was crisp and sharp and infinitely superior to the vintage On Digital box lurking downstairs. Images were rock solid, the black is Bible black, and the colours are vibrant and richly balanced.
A range of recording quality modes let you increase recording time at the expense of image quality.
The highest setting (HQ) produced copies that were indistinguishable from the original broadcast, although this brought the recording time down to a just over two hours.
With the lowest quality mode, SLP (super long play) time-rich viewers could squeeze in up to six hours of recording with that old school ‘snow storm’ dodgy video feel.
DVD playback was pretty damn good on the machine, with a stable image output providing very little in the way of ‘smearing’ and digital artifacts.
Overall, the Sony RDR-GXD500 gave a consistently good account of itself in all areas, and as such, this is a DVD recorder I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Pros: Great all round performance, integrated digital tuner and simple Cons: The baffling lack of progressive scan video capability
Size (WxHxD): 49x9x38cm
Recording formats: DVD-R/-RW, DVD+R/+RW
Playback formats: DVD, DVD-R/-RW, DVD+R/+RW, CD, CD-R/-RW, VCD
Video outputs: Component, SCART (RGB), S-Video, composite, RF
Audio outputs: Line out, optical digital, coaxial digital
Street price: Under £400 (~US$762 ~€591)