Let’s cut right to the chase here: Pioneer’s DVR-LX70D costs £900. That’s right, nine hundred of your English pounds. And, no, it doesn’t throw Blu-ray playback in for that sum. Strewth. We’re big fans of much of Pioneer’s premium tech, but can any hard-drive DVD recorder really justify such a price?

Black beauty

First impressions suggest that the LX70D might just do it. It really is a stunningly engineered bit of kit, exuding quality from every glint in its gloss black finish and minimalist design. It’s weighty by today’s digital recorder standards too, hinting at plenty of quality innards.

Among those innards is the small matter of the largest hard disk drive on the digital recording market: all 500GB of it. That’s enough, big number fans, to store up to 1,422 hours of TV programmes, while still letting you pause live TV and do ‘chase playback’.

And there’s plenty more where those features came from. Recording flexibility is particularly impressive: there are 32 manual recording quality adjustments, and you can automatically split hard-drive recordings, set chapters and back up DVDs.

Included among the manual options is a high bit-rate mode perfect for DV camcorder transfers. This obviously relies on the presence of a DV input, which is pleasingly joined by an HDMI v1.3 output and two USB ports. The USBs can be used for playback of MP3 and WMA files from flash memory devices or MP3 players, as well as printing pictures stored on the hard-drive to a PictBridge printer.

The only slight downer is the lack of an Ethernet port. The LX70D has the Gracenote music database built in, but this means you can’t update it via the internet.  

Slick menu system

You’re probably thinking by now that you’ll need a gadget degree from the University of Stuff to handle all of the LX70D’s features. But it’s remarkably easy to use thanks to one of the most intuitive and attractive menu systems we’ve seen on any digital recorder. Including those from Panasonic.

The LX70D’s final exhibit in the case to justify its cost is its truly astounding performance. The quality of its recordings to hard-drive or especially DVD is superb: at the highest quality settings we struggled to see any difference between the Freeview recordings and the original broadcasts.

Video noise levels are superbly contained, edges look crisp but unstressed, and colours look extremely rich without flaring or flickering. In fact, if you use one of the LX70D’s 720p, 1080i or 1080p upscaling settings, the quality of Pioneer’s image processing actually makes the recorded pictures sharper than the original broadcasts.

A match for Blu-ray?

Of course, the LX70D is also an outstanding straight DVD player and has prodigious audio talents, which reveal levels of clarity and richness well beyond anything you’ll hear on a budget DVD deck.

So is it worth £900? It’s fair to say that Blu-ray still looks cleaner, but when DVD can look this good it’s enticing. You get the sense that Pioneer is squeezing every last drop out of the format and, in our gadget book, that makes it worth every penny.


Stuff says... 

Pioneer DVR-LX70D review

This is the finest digital recorder we’ve seen in eons and, if you want the best, it’s well worth the terrifying price tag