The Liteon LVW-5055 may have a bare-bones appearance but the company has packed plenty of stuff into the box. The DVD recorder has support for DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW discs, which leaves only DVD-RAM discs off the support list. The other great feature of the recorder is that it supports dual-layer DVD+R. The price of these discs is falling all the time and they're now cheap enough to use frequently (around £1.50 each at time of publication). If you're a quality purist, you'll want to use these to retain the highest quality for backing up, or to fit more onto one disc if you're backing up a movie. Of course, with such a large hard drive, you can keep plenty on there before you have to even think about archiving.
The LVW-5055 has five main recording modes -- HQ (1 hour per disc, or 52 hours on the hard drive), SP (2, or 104), LP (3, or 156), EP (4, or 208) and SLP (6, or 312). If you're using a dual-layer DVD, you can roughly double the recording times for each of those quality levels, although the formatting of dual layer discs means that it's slightly less -- 1 hour 50 minutes at HQ, for exaple. There's also a 'Just Fit' mode, which will judge the amount of time you want to record and the space left on a disc and come up with a recording level to fit.
It's certainly a versatile DVD recorder, but the high capacity of the hard drive means that you'll have to spend plenty of time filling it up before you need to start archiving. If you do want to make the most of that space, the Liteon has a couple of cool features that we haven't seen from the major manufacturers. It can copy a DVD disc to the hard drive in under 20 minutes, and it can also copy other media across such as DivX video and MP3 music. The catch? It won't copy commercial DVDs to the hard drive, because they're copy protected. However, the player is multi-region out of the box and capable of PAL/NTSC output -- just another one of the little features that makes the LVW-5055 such an attractive machine.
What's missing from this long list of features? An integrated digital tuner. Expect to see Freeview become standard on ranges from the major manufactrers this year -- Sony already has a model with Freeview and Panasonic's upcoming range boasts digital as standard. When we see these, we'll be moaning that they don't have dual tuners, but for the time being one digital tuner is better than none -- and the Liteon has none.
The machine has plenty of other features, such as timeslipping (watching a programme as it is still being recorded), and the interface for recording on the Liteon is fairly simple. You set the recording quality levels in the main menu, and while they don't have the exhaustive audio/visual quality options of the Panasonic recorders, they are tucked away so they won't confuse the novice. All you do is tell the device where it is recording to (DVD or hard drive) and then press the 'Easy Guider 2' for more options, or the record button to start the recording.
While the interface on the Liteon is weaker than those from Panasonic and Sony, the recording quality is definitely on a par with anything from the major manufacturers. The HQ and SP quality levels are excellent, and the dual-layer functionality means that you can fit a full movie at HQ onto one disc. Although, to be fair, using the SP mode and using a single-layer disc is just as good in most instances.
AV performance is also excellent, particularly thanks to progressive-scan video output and digital audio outputs. A couple of cheaper players and recorders we've reviewed haven't supported DTS audio, but this does, meaning it's no compromise for DVD playback. Many standalone players upscale video to HD resolutions these days, and the Liteon is certainly no match for a £100+ standalone player, but it holds its own in the recording market.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide