The first thing you notice about the LVW-5045 is that it's not a model of design. The mixture of gray and black is fairly attractive, but the omnipresent plastic spoils the effect somewhat. (Lite-On has promised to work on that for its next line.) On the plus side, the Taiwanese manufacturer has made a real effort where ergonomics are concerned.
A DVR has to be effective, of course, but above all it has to be easy to use for most people, like a TV set. It's true that digital video recorders have numerous functions, so the challenge is to combine ease of use with a wealth of options.
Lite-On has developed an assistant that guides you step by step. Just press the "Guider" button on the remote control and you get a menu. Then you simply answer the multiple-choice questions. For example: select the source (tuner, auxiliary input, and so on,) select the destination (hard disk, DVD, etc.,) select the recording mode, and finally start the recording. It would be hard to make things simpler.
The remote control is very ergonomic, even if its appearance is a bit austere. The 160 GB hard disk can store up to 198 hours of programs, or 66 hours in DVD quality. Picture quality was good on playback. When recording, you should avoid the higher compression rates, since they result in too many artifacts in the picture. Also note that this model reads MP3, WMA, JPEG, and BMP files with no problem.
The LVW-5045 is compatible with all DVD formats except DVD-RAM. But this recorder goes farther: it can also record video on an ordinary CD-R or CD-RW, though the quality is lower since SVCD or VCD mode is used. The maximum recording time on a 700 MB CD will be 34 minutes in SVCD mode or 68 minutes in VCD mode. You can use this option to record programs at lower cost, with content that will still be compatible - almost all DVD players can play the SVCD and VCD formats. Finally, to add to its ultra-compatibility, the LVW-5045 can even write audio CDs from a sound source.
Connectivity is only average - there are component (YUV) and composite (RCA) video outputs, and also analog and digital (optical and coaxial) audio outputs on the rear of the unit. It would have been nice to have an S-Video output too, however. On the front panel is a composite video (RCA) input, a stereo audio input, and an iLink connector for plugging in a digital camcorder.