DVD Recorders: Getting Started

By: Bear Cahill

Bells and Whistles

The VHS option is not bad, but you most likely already have one you can plug into the inputs of the DVD recorder.

I have a DVD recorder for archiving TiVo shows as opposed to accessing my TiVo from my PC. This is nice because it means I can also archive VHS tapes, camcorder tapes, etc. w/no extra work.

I do have a TV card in my PC so I can do this, but using the DVD recorder is easier.

My motto is: buy what you WILL use and not what you CAN use.

I've bought lots of things that CAN do a lot, but in reality I don't use all the extra features. Not in all cases, but in this case, I say pass on the bells and whistles.

Again, there are models w/ all types of features, but if you buy one that is a DVR, DVD recorder, VCR, TV tuner all in one and one part breaks, it's all broke.

Realize Something About Technology

Remember - this is new technology and will only get better and cheaper. If you buy the top of the line today, it's going to be out of date and/or cheap tomorrow. Test the waters w/ a 'good' model and upgrade when the time is right.

Editing Your Recordings

Chances are - you won't. It's a pain for the most part and usually requires DVD-RAM or DVD-RW discs to do it and they're more expensive.

If you have a lot of free time for this, you're a rare person.

I was looking for this type of solution in getting ready for having a baby and I knew I wasn't going to be sifting through and editing hours of video.

If you're really interested in editing, look in to PC options. Pinnacle, ArcSoft, Adobe, etc. - they have good solutions for that.

DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD-RAM, DVD-RW

DVD+R and DVD-R are like VHS and Beta: they're both ok right now, but eventually we'll probably land on one or the other. It seems to be leaning towards DVD-R which tend to be less expensive also.

Many recorders and players do both, but cost more. I say save some money, pick one (probably DVD-R) and move on. If you pick the wrong one, chances are in a couple years you'll be buying a new one anyway. Moreover, you'll probably be able to get a cheap one w/ a built in converter or two trays to duplicate one to the other.

DVD-RAM and DVD-RW are the rewritable types. They're more expensive and for my purposes aren't worth worrying about.

My Recommendation

I got the Panasonic DMR-E55K:

It records to DVD-R like a VCR. I don't use it to record live TV so I don't use VCR+, but it has it. Also, it has TimeSlip which lets you watch something while it's recording (start recording "24" at 8pm and start watching it from the begining at 8:20 to speed thru commercials like a TiVo). Again, I don't use this, but it has it.

Plain and simple, it records my TiVo, camcorder, digital camera (RCA cable output), VCR, etc. to DVD - that's what I want it to do and that's what it does. It's easy, creates a good menu w/ thumbnails and my chosen titles, it's a name brand w/ good reviews and was fairly cheap (there was a rebate at the time).

Also, it plays CDs and mp3 CDs w/ a good interface so not only does it replace a CD player, but since you can put so many songs on one CD, it replaces a CD changer.

An interesting trick: If you have a digital camera w/ RCA cable output, you can hook it directly into the dvd recorder and create a quick slide-show dvd. Many cameras even have a slide show function built in! You can use the sound from a music channel, CD, etc.

Summary

If you're going gung-ho into all the nitty gritty about DVD recorders, you're either just starting here or haven't bothered to read this far. If you're looking for a good, relatively cheap solution to digitize your tapes, archive TiVo, etc., I recommend the Panasonic DMR-E55K.

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