It's a bit of a free-for-all in consumer electronics at the moment, with Daewoo the latest outsider to fancy a slice of the action. Better known for cars and a rather annoying tag line, the Korean manufacturer is also making a name for itself in the AV industry.

Now, after releasing a couple of impressive TVs (never knowingly overpriced), they've got a tidy little Freeview box/DVD player/HDD recorder combo to slot in underneath.

Decent storage

Despite costing just £250, the Daewoo includes a whopping 160GB hard-disk drive. That's 32 hours of recording in the highest-quality mode, or 195 hours at lower quality if you don't mind compromising on the picture.

When it comes to playback, you get the benefit of HDMI output – but there's no upscaler and its best resolution is 576p, which is not enough to mount a serious challenge to the best DVD players in this price bracket. It does have support for Dolby and DTS via digital audio outputs though, so all is not lost.

The menus could be politely described as 'retro', but they work well enough and are easy to follow. An eight-day Electronic Programme Guide is useful for setting recordings up in advance.

While there are some problems with motion and a slight softness overall to the Freeview tuner's pictures, it's still very watchable. Colours are bold and vivid, and there are decent levels of detail.

A rewarding budget choice

One-touch recording makes life easy, and you're helped further by being told exactly how long you have left to record in the mode you've selected. We'd stick to 'HQ' recordings for the best results; 'SP' is usable, although a fraction softer. Avoid the two most compressed recording modes like a turkey with bird flu: they degrade the picture to an unacceptable degree.

Disc compatibility is good, and you can feed it DVD-R/-RW and DVD+R/+RW discs without fear of having them spat back out. Bar the odd hint of blocking and loss of black detail, DVD playback performance via HDMI is fairly solid, making the DRHT-630 well worth considering for those on a strict budget.

Sure, it's not the best DVD/HDD recorder out there, but it does a very respectable job and looks pretty smart, too. Don't be put off by the budget brand-name, either – Daewoo has proved it can make electronics just as well as it makes everything else. This is a worthy debut in the Freeview digital recorder market, and we're looking forward to seeing more from the new boys soon.


Stuff says... 

Daewoo DRHT-630 review

A good buy. If the picture was a smidgeon better, this recorder could have been a real winner