The new hard disk based models are coming thick and fast, and Sony?s latest offering, the RDRHX900, is its first offering with a 160GB hard drive on tap to record for future viewing.

The amount of storage available (around 200 hours maximum) with dual +R/RW and ?R/RW is similar in features and price to the Pioneer 720H, giving consumers more choice than ever.

And movie buffs who are owners of progressive scan monitors will be happy that the RDRHX900 supports progressive scan, albeit from NTSC output only.

Similar to the top of the line models from most of the DVD recorder manufacturers, time shifting (Sony calls it Chasing Playback) is built in, as is simultaneous record and playback, letting you playback material already recorded while simultaneously recording another program, as long as it is to the same media.

One neat feature is the New Mark system, which automatically keeps track of what you have watched and what you haven?t. The Sony system also puts a check mark in the menu against all unwatched recordings. which we think is a top idea.

As mentioned, the 160GB hard disk is capable of storing around 200 hours of recorded material, but the reality ? and a potential trap for the unwary ? is that in the real world, this is probably never going to happen as this capacity is at the lowest possible resolution the recorder can handle. For most, who wish to record movies of say, two hours average, they will use the SP (standard) setting which still allows a respectable 67 hours.

At the highest level of recording (only available to the hard disk) the RDRHX900 will store 21 hours. Bear in mind however that if recording from a standard TV setup, as distinct from a digital set-top box, there is no advantage in using this super high quality ? reserve this setting for your own movies from a DV camera . Recording as it should be, is a one-touch affair.

Connectivity for the RDRHX900 is pretty standard with RGB, SCART and of course an i.Link port available to connect a digital video camera for dubbing and downloading digital video. And also pretty standard at this level is the capacity to play back CD?R/RW, MP3, VCD and SVCD formats.

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