No self-respecting DVD recorder dares show up at our testing rooms these days without a big hard-drive, and Samsung's latest contender doesn't disappoint. The DVD-SH855M packs 250GB storage, as well as a digital tuner and an HDMI out.

But the spec sheet isn't flawless. The big miss is that, unlike Tosh's similarly-priced RD-97DT, it doesn't upscale to 1080p.  So can it overcome this slight oversight with a mix of good performance and other treats?

Sockets galore

It's certainly generous in the sockets department. As well as that HDMI out, there's a USB 2.0 input allowing access to pictures and music – you can also play MP3 CDs as well as DivX content – and a Firewire connection.

That hard-drive is enough for a whopping 400 hours of recording time, but if you fill it up the DVD-SH855M will also burn to DVD-RAM and DVD-R/-RW. It won't record to DVD+R/RW disks, though it will play them back – hardly a deal-breaker.

It's a classy looker too, although the remote is cluttered and bizarrely laid out. On-screen menus, however, are clear and easy to follow, and the EPG is similarly swish.

Solid DVD playback

As a DVD player it does a perfectly good job, delivering crisp images with bright colours over HDMI. But that lack of full 1080p upscaling means owners of giant tellies might want to look elsewhere.

Using the single built-in digital tuner it delivers decent detail levels, natural colours and, the odd hint of noise apart, a stable picture. There's some softness to the edges and blacks can be murky, but it's none too shabby.

Quality control

When recording to hard-drive from Freeview, the Samsung automatically chooses the quality level depending on how much space is left on the disk. This sounds a little annoying, but in reality you've got so much memory to play with that it's nearly always going to select the highest-quality mode – which is faithful, losing little detail and remaining stable and clean.

Specification and price-wise, this is a highly competitive machine. Toshiba's new RD-97DT gives you 1080p for similar money, as does the Panasonic DMR-EX77 (with a smaller hard-disk), but if you've got less than 50in of TV real estate to play with this is a very capable recorder.


Stuff says... 

Samsung DVD-SH855M review

Good but not great, this is a doddle to use and a fine choice for faithful recording