Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - Getting the DV-HR300 up and running was relatively simple. On-screen menus had a somewhat "low rent" appearance, but they got the job done. Having just reviewed the Toshiba RD-XS32, I have to give Toshiba the edge in on-screen graphics and menu appearances. That said, I found the DV-HR300 menus more intuitive to navigate and I especially liked the "Start Menu" button and its convenient location on the remote. Start Menu brings you to a central menu from which you can access your recording list, dubbing control, timer recordings and other player settings. Toshiba calls this same menu "Easy Navi." Say what you will about Bill Gates, but "Start Menu" just seems more appropriate.
Sharp only includes a coax cable and some basic A/V cables with this machine. Considering the high price tag and high-end versatility of the DV-HR300, it would have been nice to see an ilink cable or at least some component video cables included. On the bright side, the supplied remote is well laid out and makes good use of color-coded buttons; these buttons are heavily used while interacting with the varied and complex system menus. I'm not crazy about the remote's cursor buttons, but that's a minor complaint.
After setting up the machine for progressive output to a 16:9 television, I explored the basic DVD player features. Using Monster component video cables, picture quality was very good on my Panasonic PT-L300u projector. I did not see any motion artifacts or stair-stepping, and the opening menu of Toy Story was, thankfully, free of the dreaded "chroma bug." Overall, this makes for a fine DVD player.
Final Take - I was very impressed with the DV-HR300. The unit's case is quite attractive and the things you can do with it easily trounce the old VCR. Picture quality when recording to DVD-R was excellent, especially when using the "Fine" setting. Unfortunately, "Fine" only gives you one hour of recording time on a standard DVD-R, but SP was only a minor compromise and gives you two hours, which is more suitable to television programs and home movies. Once I moved into the LP and EP settings, picture quality fell off sharply and it hardly looked better than a VHS recording. Even so, depending on the subject matter, it's nice to know you can record six hours of something on a single disc if you need to.
Like the Toshiba HDD/DVD player (also reviewed this issue), the Sharp DV-HR300 gives you a "Timeslip" feature that turns your machine into a TiVo-like DVR. Pausing and rewinding live television is great, but like I said in my Toshiba review, I hope to one day see Timeslip as an always-on function. My Philips DirecTiVo is always recording a thirty-minute buffer on each of its two tuners. If the next version of the DV-HR300 was always recording to the HDD, then walking in on a program already in progress would be no big deal. The machine would allow you to back up (at least) thirty minutes and see what you've missed. Having to engage Timeslip when I want to use these DVR features is somewhat annoying, but I'll take what I can get.
With both DVD and hard disk recording at your disposal, it's hard to find fault with such a versatile machine. But, since it's my job, allow me to give Sharp my wish list for next year's model. (I don't know that one is in the works, but I expect as much since this unit will surely be a hot seller.) First off, 80GB is okay, but I'd like to see at least 160GB; hard drives are cheap and it would mean a less-frequent need to offload recorded content. Also, since HDTV is the buzz on everybody's lips, I think it's reasonable to ask for an ATSC tuner, allowing you to record HDTV, even if it's only on the hard disk initially. Finally, a simpler and bulletproof user interface should be the most important goal for any companies making similar recorders. Please note that this wish list is just that. It is not an indication of fault with the DV-HR300. This Sharp recorder is an exciting machine that does many things right. It also makes you realize what's possible with technology today.
Sharp DV-HR300 HDD/DVD Recorder
80GB hard disk drive
480p progressive scan
Up to 6 hours of recording per DVD-R
VCR Plus+ timer recording
Timeslip, chasing playback
17W x 2 3/8"H x13"D
Warranty:1year (parts); 90 days (labor)