Sony RDR-HX1010

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Sony RDR-HX1010
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • 400GB hard drive, intelligent chaptering for easy ad skipping; dual-layer DVD recordable support; fast, user-friendly menus; G-Code support; iLink, HDMI

Cons

  • Only one TV Tuner, No memory card slot

Bottom Line

Highly recommended, the HX1010 adds HDMI and a bigger hard drive to an already thoroughly impressive model.

Would you buy this?

When we first looked at a model in Sony's RDR-HX series we liked what we saw. Especially the intelligent chaptering feature - which can automatically skip ads in recorded TV - and the speedy, higher capacity dual-layer DVD format for recording to disc. Audio and video were superb and, as with all PVRs, let you live pause a TV broadcast, or watch the beginning of a recording while a show is still live.

We also had two criticisms, both of which the model 1010 addresses. One was that, at 160GB, the hard disk drive was at the modest end of the scale - especially given that new PVRs (personal video recorders, if we can settle on a name for this new genre of gadget) are being released with PC-like speed. We're seeing better models from many manufacturers every three months or so. The model 1010 solves the storage squeeze by whacking hard disk capacity up to a whopping 400GB. This matches top-of-the-line models from other PVR makers, and allows you to record around 131 hours of TV at broadcast quality.

The second major criticism was that there was no HDMI output for digital go-aheads with HDMI-capable TVs. The 1010 duly adds HDMI. You also get HD (high definition) video upscaling, and a Scart connector is added for non-MySky-using Sky subscribers. The new features are packed inside a handsome case that's not a millimeter larger than the 710 and only 200g heavier.

What remains on our wish list? There's only one TV tuner, which means you can only record one channel at a time (Sky's MySky boasts two tuners). And there's still no slot for a memory card - the easiest digital camera pic transfer option, though digital camcorder jockeys will appreciate the i.Link (aka FireWire) port. Incidentally, Sony is at a bit of a transition point with its memory card strategy. Previously, it's been pushing its own Memory Stick format at all costs (though I could buy a Sony adapter for the more popular SD Card format when I bought a Sony Vaio notebook; cheers).

But the forthcoming PlayStation 3 takes a more open, democratic approach with an SD card and numerous USB slots. That's a nice touch that shows the PlayStation guys have been listening to the market, and one that Sony's financially troubled consumer electronics division should follow. The RDR-HX line's 'intelligent chaptering' provides wannabe ad-skippers with their most potent weapon yet. Just as a DVD movie is divided into chapters, an RDR-HX automatically splices your recorded TV programmes into chunks with each ad break allocated its own chapter. That means skipping ahead a chapter with your remote's FFWD button jumps you past an ad break in a split second. Ninety percent of the time, it works like magic.

The recording menus and library of recordings are among the fastest and best laid-out around. you'll learn them quickly, which is nothing to sniff at given that many PVR makers still struggle badly in this area. The 400GB hard drive means 131 hours of recording at broadcast quality, or nearly 700 if you opt for greater compression. For a future age of better-quality broadcasts there is also a DVD-quality HQ setting that records 86 hours, and a high-definition (HD) quality setting called HD+ that delivers 56 hours. If you're willing to fork out for dual layer DVD discs you'll get two hours of recording at the highest quality setting.

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