If features float your boat then JVC's DR-MH300 is equipped with almost every recording option imaginable. You can make copies using either the 160GB hard disk drive or software discs using DVD-RAM or –R/RW formats and there's an exhaustive list of accompanying editing and dubbing functions -- especially useful if you're a budding camcorder Spielberg.
There's also HDMI connectivity, still a rarity in recorders for under £300, which means you can watch upscaled images of nearly high-definition quality, provided you have a compatible HD Ready display.
The specification is tainted, however, by the exclusion of an integrated digital Freeview tuner and the design is cheaply constructed and unoriginal. You can always connect a separate set-top box and even access electronic programme guides to ease recordings, but it'll cost you extra time, money and convenience.
Both recording and playback performance is commendable, but there are alternative models around such as Panasonic's DMR-EX75 that can claim better image quality and an integrated digital tuner for around £50 more.
JVC may have crammed this recorder with a fistful of features, but the design fails to pack a punch. The boxy construction appears overweight, controls feel flimsy and the only imaginative embellishment is a blue neon light that streaks across the sober front panel.
Likewise, the lightweight remote looks uninspiring and feels economical, with practically every centimetre inundated with controls -- it leaves little room for manoeuvre. However, it's intelligently arranged and easy to get used to, with numerous short-cut keys to save you from always accessing the main menu.
A small panel on the recorder's right-hand side conceals several easy-access AV inputs, including a DV input that allows you to directly copy footage from a digital camcorder. Advanced DV recording and editing technology means you can precisely edit camcorder pictures in native DV format for better quality before dubbing back to MiniDV -- a useful feature if you're a home movie maker.
The rear panel is largely reserved for higher-quality video outputs. There are few recorders at this price that can claim HDMI connectivity and the inclusion of this direct digital output means you can watch upscaled 720p or 1080i (effectively high-definition quality) images, with sound, using a single cable. If your display isn't digitally compatible yet, using the analogue component outputs to support progressive-scan images offers the next best performance.
Otherwise, there are two Scart terminals to cater for conventional users and both are enabled to input and output RGB signals. This is especially important, as without an integrated Freeview tuner it's likely you'll connect a set-top box and using RGB, recordings will not be compromised in quality.
On the sound side, you can connect to an external amplifier or home cinema receiver using either standard analogue outputs or a coaxial digital output that will carry multi-channel film soundtracks for surround set-ups.
It's a shame that a recorder with so many flexible and convenient features should exclude an integrated digital tuner from an otherwise outstanding specification. Not only would a Freeview tuner offer more choice and improved performance, but it would also simplify recordings using electronic programme guides.