HOME Technology Nov 2006
DVD recorders rock
Viewers become programmers

The TV remote control is about to take home viewers way beyond channel surfing, as we exchange the one-way analogue broadcasting model, for greater interactivity and more control of what we watch and when.

It’s a big shift, and for many it will occur in increments, with flat screen LCD or Plasma TVs, more affordable home entertainment systems, and now hard disk-based DVD recorders setting the scene.

DVD players allow you to view DVD movies and anything you can play or display from CDs, including MP3 music files and photographs. However DVD recorders that do much more have halved in price over the past two years and are now becoming mainstream must haves.

New Zealanders spent $20 million on DVD Recorders in the six months to June this year, up 50 percent on 2005 and according to consumer electronics researcher GfK, the sales of standard DVD players dropped 30 percent over the corresponding period.

While there are a growing number of competitors in the DVD recorder market, the strongest names are Panasonic, Pioneer, Sony, Phillips and Sanyo. Most models have a buffer that continually records up to six hours, enabling you to rewind to the beginning of a movie after it has started, or zip back to see if there’s anything you missed, without interfering with what you are recording on another channel.

You can watch a DVD while recording a TV channel to your hard disk, or watch TV while recording from the hard disk to a DVD. Some models allow you to ‘pause’ TV while you make a cup of tea and then resume when you’re ready.

Entry level DVD recorders can be purchased for as low $200 – $300 but that will only allow you to record direct to DVD disks. The logical step is to the hard disk recorder, which typically start at 60 – 80Gb capacity. A 160Gb model ($600 – $850) will allow you to record up to 300 hours of video content; a 250Gb model ($750 – $1000) can store over 433 hours. The latest models are coming out with 400Gb disks, delivering enough capacity for up to 650 hours of programming (around $2000).

Most new DVD players / recorders easily cope with a multitude of formats including DVD-R, +R, -RW, +RW and –RAM. They’ll let you zoom in, advance frame-by-frame, and change the aspect radio. You can also identify your recorded content by name and date for easier identification. These recorders, like most DVD players, are geared for the new 16:9 wide aspect ratio used by most modern DVD movies. Although you loose some of the picture, you can still zoom in to fill most of the screen on the standard 4:3 ratio of most analogue TV sets.

Your recorder should connect to the TV through composite video, S-Video, component video or RGB formats and the new HDMI (high definition multimedia interface) standard. Even though high definition TV is not with us yet, the interface will still improve recording quality.

Other questions to ask when shopping for a DVD recorder include does it support for 5.1 channel audio recording and the new double layer DVD recording format (8.5GB or 14 hrs of recordings on a single DVD)? Does it have a card reader or a USB slot so you can load content direct from your laptop or camera or flash memory card?

Your hard disk DVD recorder, if it has sufficient capacity and connectivity options, can quickly become a repository for everything from home and box office movies to music and content downloaded from airwaves or the internet.

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