Until recently you needed a computer-based authoring system to make your own DVD videos. Depending on your software this wasn’t always easy or quick, and it certainly wasn’t living room-friendly. A stand-alone DVD recorder simplifies the process: it combines the convenience of a VCR with all the technological advancements of DVD.
Different DVD recorders support different disc formats. This isn’t an issue if you only intend to play discs back on the recorder that made them. However, you’ll more than likely want to view them on other DVD players in the house, or take them on the road to friends, neighbours and family. Check your machine's specs to see which formats it can handle. Less expensive recorders may offer limited support—which may suit your needs just fine. Higher-end models offer a wider variety of disc compatibility. Here’s a breakdown of the various formats and their functionality.
DVD-R means “write-once only” which means the DVD cannot be erased or rewritten. This format is widely compatible with almost all newer DVD players and many older ones too. DVD-R is a must-have for any recorder you purchase.
Still a write-once only format, but with 8.5GB “dual-layer” media that can store twice as much video as the single-layer DVD-R disc. Look for this feature if you want to record two straight hours at the highest possible bit rate for maximum image quality. Many newer models now support this format.
This is the “rewritable” version of DVD-R “write-once only”. Again, the format is compatible with most DVD players, and a good functionality to have for your new recorder.
A similar format to DVD-R, discs are write-once only and can’t be erased or rewritten over. Compatible with almost all new, and most older DVD players. Any DVD recorder you purchase should support this format.
The double-layer version of DVD+R: it is write-once only but the 8.5GB can store twice as much video, and is supported by most new recorders. This format also facilitates the recording of two consecutive hours of the best possible quality.
The rewritable version of DVD+R write-once only: supported by most players, and a handy functionality to have.
This is the best possible format for on-disc editing. The format is rewritable, and it has excellent random-access capability. If you’re interested in editing your video then look for this feature when choosing a recorder. DVD-RAM only works with players designed to support the format.
High Definition Up-Conversion
If you already have an HDTV or plan on purchasing one, then you’ll definitely want the HD up-conversion feature in your DVD recorder. It provides HDMI output and in-unit scaling to up-convert 480p DVDs to a near-high definition quality resolution. You’ll get markedly improved image quality and full viewing value from your HDTV.
Digital ATSC Tuners
A DVD recorder with an ATSC tuner and antenna can receive HDTV over-the-air and burn down-converted HD programs in the correct wide-screen aspect ratio. Your discs won't be high definition, but the picture quality will still be very good since you’re starting with a high-definition source.
Often called the MP3 of video, DivX® is an innovative MPEG-4 digital video technology featuring one of the most efficient video data compression algorithms. DivX playback on your DVD recorder ensures you have the highest possible state-of-the-art picture quality.
A DVD recorder with a hard drive lets you record television shows and view them at a later time. You can record, play, and delete shows without ever having to burn them onto a DVD. Of course if the show’s a keeper then simply burn it to a DVD for archiving. A built-in hard drive also lets you record large program blocks (the Super Bowl for instance) at very high quality. The alternative is purchase a DVD recorder that can compress more data on to a disc, but with a resulting drop in picture quality. A hard drive also lets you edit out commercials before transferring favourite shows or movies to disc. And finally, an on-board hard drive means your DVD recorder can double as a basic DVR (Digital Video Recorder).
Let your new DVD recorder unleash your hidden artist. No recorder can compete with the full-on video editing software of a computer, but many now have basic editing features. You can enhance the quality of your video and make your DVDs eminently more enjoyable.
An IR or Infrared Blaster uses the same kind of signal as your remote to automatically change the channel on your cable box when a show or movie needs to be recorded.
Firewire Port/DV Input/iLink
These are interchangeable terms that describe the same functionality. It ensures maximum video and audio quality when transferring from a digital camcorder, cable box or satellite receiver equipped with a Firewire, DV or iLink output.
If you’re holding on to a large collection of VHS tapes there must be a reason. A DVD recorder with a built-in VCR gives you an all-in-one solution so you can easily convert them to DVD.
Front Panel AV Inputs
Not essential but it certainly makes things easier. Front panel AV inputs make connecting your camcorder or other devices much more convenient.
All DVD recorders can play standard CDs, but if you’re a music lover with a large digital music collection then think about a device that can also play MP3 and WMA CDs. Some recorders will also allow you to view JPEGs and file formats stored on flash memory cards.
There are some accessories available that will prolong the life of your headphones, and can make your experience more enjoyable. In many cases, these accessories will come with the headphones you purchase.
Power Centre Surge Protector
Protect your new DVD recorder, and all your HD components, with a surge-protected power centre. You’ll have all the AC and coaxial outlets you need plus surge protected phone, network and satellite connections. Some brands carry an equipment protection warranty of up to $400,000.
A Final Word
In the rush to investigate specs and features, it’s easy to overlook the most important purchase consideration of all—usability. A difficult to operate DVD recorder tends to drown out even the coolest bells and whistles. So check out the on-screen menus and try the remote control. Good interfaces are intuitive and easy to use. This is especially true if you do a lot of editing. A simple operation like deleting a scene should be just that—simple. The same holds true for trimming and reordering. A good online manual should offer detailed breakdowns of all your DVD recorder’s functionalities.
The Future Shop Difference
With over 140 stores across Canada and a vast selection of networking components available online, Future Shop offers one of the best home theatre component shopping experiences in the country. For those needing assistance getting their home theatre installed and configured correctly, Future Shop’s Geek Squad Agents offer a full range of services to suit your needs. Our satisfaction guarantee ensures that you'll get the right components for the job, and our lowest price guarantee means you'll pay less than anywhere else. Check out our TV/Video section online at futureshop.ca or head into any Future Shop location across Canada and speak to a Product Expert to help you select your new video recorder.
Need a hand? We've provided a handy checklist below that can help you decide which headphones will fulfill your needs. Print it, fill it out, and bring it into one of our stores and speak with one of our Product Experts.