DVD/HDD Recorders Buyer’s Guide
DVD/HDD recorders are the successors to VHS recorders, allowing you to record television programs directly onto a DVD disk or an internal hard drive. Most standard DVD recorders can store up to two hours of programming, while recorders with a HDD function offer larger storage capacity.
This expert guide aims to explain the different types of DVD/HDD recorders; important features to take into consideration when reviewing DVD/HDD recorders, as well as provide guidance on the types available within the various budget ranges.
Available types of DVD disc formats
There are 3 main types of DVD formats which determine what type of DVD disk can be used. Although most recorders support multiple DVD disc formats, it is important to understand what format disk is compatible with your selected DVD recorder as not all disks will work in all recorder types.
One of the oldest DVD formats, these edit friendly disks support a very high data transfer rate; enabling you to pause live TV and watch another program on the disk while recording at the same time. You can even start watching the program before it has finished recording. The downside of this format is that it isn’t compatible with many other DVD players.
DVD recorders that are R/RW compatible can support disks that are DVD-R, which means you can only write to the disk once; and DVD-RW, which means you can write to them over and over again.
Similar to DVD-R/RW recorders as they are compatible with record once and rewritable disks, however there is a wider variety of DVD players that support these disks. These recorders also offer additional features such as thumbnail reviews of each recording which makes navigation between programs easier.
There are also a newer video storage standard format available called “Blu-Ray” but we will not go into Blu-Ray recorders in this guide.
The following specifications are important to consider during your review of DVD recorders.
- DVD Format
As stated in the types of DVD recorders section, it is important to note the types of disks which are compatible with the different DVD formats. Check the specification to see whether the recorder will accept DVD-RAM; DVD-R; DVD-RW or DVD+RW disks.
In order to tune the DVD recorder into all your television channels you will need a built in TV tuner. It will also tune the recorder into your freeview and satellite channels so that you can record all your favorite programs.
- HDMI and upscaling
If you have a High Definition television, you will more than likely want to record programs with a similar quality image. The DVD recorder must have an HDMI connector and an upscaler which adds extra lines to give you the superior quality image.
It is important to check whether the DVD recorder is compatible with your other home entertainment equipment. Most will offer the standard analog connections of composite; component and S-Video, however if you want to connect your digital camcorder you will probably need a Firewire connection. Additionally you may need a Digital Visual Interface (DVI), or a High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI).
Many DVD recorders nowadays comes with an integrated hard drive which can be very practical for pausing when watching live TV. Another advantage of HDD storage is that you don’t have to deal with discs at all.
Entry level budget
Even though DVD recorders are quite expensive, the prices are slowly coming down and it is now possible to buy a DVD recorder for less than $150.
The LG RC797T is a DVD Recorder and VHS combo system which enables you to record onto both DVD and VHS. It has an HDMI output and has a built in HD tuner. It also has Firewire input for camcorder connections but it doesn’t have an S-Video input or an electronic program guide. This DVD recorder has received an overall expert rating of 60% from www.testseek.com and is priced at around $120.
There aren’t many DVD recorders available for under $150 and most will lack one or two of the important features like an S-Video input or the ability to reproduce true high definition images.
A wider variety of DVD recorders is available within the medium budget range of $150 to $350.
The Panasonic DMR-EX77 is a DVD recorder with 160GB hard drive. It also offers 1080p upscaling which improves the overall image quality. This recorder will write to all types of blank DVD disks and it provides inputs/outputs for SCART; composite video; S-Video; HDMI and component video. With an overall expert review rating of 87%, this is a good DVD recorder to own. See www.testseek.com for further details.
If you are looking for a DVD recorder that offers superb performance, top quality images and can be connected to all your entertainment equipment then expect to pay over $350.
The Pioneer DVR-560HX comes highly recommended with an average expert review rating of 95%. This DVD recorder comes with a 160GB hard drive; digital DVB-T and analog tuner. It can even be connected to a PC via USB which means you can copy DivX films; JPEG and audio files across. It supports most DVD disk formats and enables high speed copying.
Expect to pay up to $350 for a good DVD/HDD recorder that can support most disk formats and offers good image quality. We recommend you to use TestSeek.com to find out which products have scored best in expert reviews from all over the world.
Disclaimer: This guide was written in late 2008 and the specific product recommendations and prices may be outdated. However the basic discussions in this buyer's guide may still be of great value.
Written by; TestSeek staff