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Buyers Guides > DVD players & DVD recorders

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Introduction

The DVD (short for “Digital Video Disk”, or, alternatively, “Digital Versatile Disk”) is, to the world of video entertainment, what the CD (“Compact Disk”) is to the world of audio entertainment, and a little more besides. As the name suggests, DVD technology is a superior, sophisticated, digital replacement for traditional, analogue recording techniques – such as VHS (“Video Home System”) tape, which, along with audio cassette tape, is soon to be confined to the museum of human technological history.

The advantages of DVD technology are many and varied – superb, digital-quality pictures, and sound (Dolby Digital is the industry standard for DVD, so you can take advantage of all the benefits of true surround sound) are the most obvious attractions, but there are so many others, that it’s no real wonder that DVD players and DVD recorders are becoming, or have become, essential components of many home entertainments systems.

A DVD player, or recorder, has fewer moving parts than a traditional video cassette recorder (VCR), and is therefore more reliable, in the long-term, and DVDs, themselves, are more compact in size, more durable, and less susceptible to degradation, than video cassette tapes. In addition, the recording process is also more straightforward – free storage space, for example, is located quickly and easily, by the device, itself, without the perpetual winding to and fro of video tape, and without the danger of accidentally recording “Match of the Day” over your wedding video.

Key Features

DVDs, themselves, are available in a number of different “flavours”, and while this not need be too much of a worry – most DVD players and recorders, especially the very latest models, will support most, if not all, of the available formats – it is worth checking the available options, to make sure that your favourite format is actually included.

DVDs designated “DVD+/-R”, are “write once, read many” – in other words, you can only record to them once – and are generally, initially, less expensive than some of the alternatives, although this type of recording can be quite wasteful, in terms of storage space, so you may find that the cost soon mounts up.

“DVD+/-RW”, and “DVD-RAM” formats, on the other hand, are “write many, read many”, which means that they can be overwritten many times, perhaps 1,000 times for DVD+/-RW, and, theoretically, at least, 100,000 times for DVD-RAM.

While you’re checking the accuracy of this latter figure, you might also like to ponder whether your chosen DVD player supports other “do-it-yourself” formats, such as CD-R, or CD-RW, so that you also can play, or display, your favourite MP3, or WAV, audio and JPEG image, files. The Xoro HRT1500 DVD Player, for example, supports all of the formats, and includes a “freeview” TV tuner.

If you’re a real film buff, you might also like to consider an HDD (“Hard Disk Drive”) DVD recorder that allows you to record either to DVD, or to a high-capacity hard drive, similar to the type used in computers. Hard disk models are available with storage capacities of around 100, 200, or even 300+ GB, allowing you to record – depending, of course, on your chosen recording quality – up to several hundred hours of video.

Most DVD recorder of this type are quite sophisticated – many, for example, have a “live pause” function, which allows you to stop and start live programming at will, and the facility to watch one recorded programme while simultaneously recording another. The Yamada DTV-3000 DVD Recorder, for example, features an integral 160 GB hard disk, and the Yamada DT-1000HX model offers hard disk capacity of 250 GB, enough for up 300 hours of video.

If you’re intending to make a DVD player or recorder an integral part of your home entertainment system, you’ll also need to take notice of the connections, or interfaces, that are available – for attachment, for example, to an HD (“High Definition”) television receiver. All players and recorders will probably feature traditional, analogue connections, such as composite, or component, or S-video, but the latest models may also support newer, all-digital protocols, such as DVI (“Digital Visual Interface”) and HDMI (“High Definition Multimedia Interface”). The results produced, in terms of video, and audio, quality by these new standards, are far superior to those of their analogue counterparts – no loss-making, digital to analogue (and back again) conversions are required, and high band widths and data transfer speeds mean that all home entertainment formats, including HDTV, are supported, with no loss of quality whatsoever. Bear in mind, however, that DVI connections are limited to around 5 metres, of so, beyond which degradation of the signal will become evident. HDMI is 100% backwardly compatible – via a converter – with any devices supporting the DVI standard. The Relisys RDVP1000 DVD Player, for example, includes DVI and HDMI outputs, as well as DVD component, composite and S-video connections.

A DVD changer, or “carousel” can also be a very useful addition, saving time, inconvenience and space. You can, for example, find changers that will store several DVDs, CDs, or a combination of the two, all of which can be accessed at the push of a button – and DVD “jukeboxes”, following the CD route, with much higher capacities, will be the next step.

Conclusion

Persuasive sales patter, glossy brochures and impressive specifications will attempt to convince you that whichever model you’re considering is absolutely, without question, the best thing since sliced bread, so you do need to learn to read between the lines, at little, when weighing up this kind of information. Is there, for example, anything obviously missing from the description? Independent test results, and user reviews are often a very reliable source of information, and will include the good – and, more importantly – the bad, and the ugly, points of any DVD player or DVD recorder that you may be considering. Don’t forget, too, to factor in the – if not exactly hidden, then partially obscured, shall we say – costs of items such as DVD media, and high-quality cabling, if need be (cables included, “as standard”, tend to be fairly low-quality, and not very long).