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View topic - DVD/VCR combo (NY Times)

DVD/VCR combo (NY Times)

This forum addresses questions on installation, configuration and troubleshooting you might encounter with your Sony DVD player.

Moderator: jttar

by -W- » Thu Dec 05, 2002 6:14 pm

Greetings Agoraquestrians:

Here's a report from the NY Times on some of the latest products/options in DVD/VCR combination units. I'll cut and paste to save the trouble of linking/joining NY Times...

December 5, 2002

DVD + VCR: A Merger That Yields Dividends

As a general rule, trying to create a new hit product by combining two older ones is a recipe for failure. This year saw the debut of phone cameras, music-player palmtops and even Internet camcorders - but you can probably count the number of friends who own them on the fingers of one closed fist.

One recently devised contender, however, may have more appeal than those previous freaks of engineering: the DVD-VCR deck. The idea is to save space by building both a DVD player (glorious picture and sound) and a VCR (the flexibility of playing back and recording tapes) into a single, set-bottom box.

There's also a savings in clutter; a DVD-VCR needs only one power outlet, one cable to your TV (depending on the complexity of your system) and - miracle of miracles - one remote control. You're ready to play whatever format Blockbuster has in stock, or even to record a TV show as you watch a DVD.

There are two common arguments against combination devices of any ilk: First, if one component breaks, you have to take the whole thing in for repair. That's a legitimate concern in DVD-VCR's.

The second argument is that you can get superior features by buying each component separately. Fortunately, that isn't true of the typical DVD-VCR. These days, each half of its split personality is state of the art.

For example, the DVD portion offers almost every connector a home-theater nut ever dreamed of: front-panel inputs for your camcorder; both stereo and digital sound outputs (the latter for surround-sound systems); and composite, S-video and component jacks for the video signal. (The S-video and component outputs provide superior pictures on televisions with corresponding jacks, but only for the DVD signal. In other words, if you choose to use these connectors, you have to press an Input Select button on the remote each time you switch between the VCR and DVD functions. Of course, you'd do that if you had separate DVD and VCR units, too.)

Like most other DVD players, these decks also play music CD's, video CD's, MP3 music discs you've burned on your computer and just about anything that's round, flat and shiny. But if you're into emerging standards like DVD+RW (one of two mutually incompatible kinds of recordable DVD's) and SACD (Super Audio CD), inquire before you buy; compatibility varies widely.

On the VCR side, few models offer VCR Plus+, the anti-complexity feature that lets you program a recording just by plugging in a code printed in the newspaper TV listings. Otherwise, though, these are thoroughly modern VCR's, complete with hi-fi stereo sound, four video heads for stable freeze-frames and auto-clock setting.

You do pay a small premium for all of this space-saving goodness. A DVD-VCR costs about $200, which is slightly more than you'd pay for a stand-alone DVD player and VCR. But did I mention there's only one remote control?

You can find DVD-VCR's from almost every electronics company you've ever heard of, and a few you haven't. I tested the latest from Philips, Panasonic, JVC, Samsung and Go Video. (The only thing that stopped me from looking at Hitachi, Sanyo, Sony and Toshiba models was my living-room ceiling.) The DVD features are generally identical, both to one another and to stand-alone DVD players - which is to say, excellent. The VCR features are the primary differentiators.

Only 10 inches deep, the Philips DVD740VR (about $200) is the best bet for shallow shelves. Its "tape inserted" front-panel light spares you the humiliating experience of trying to shove a tape into a machine that already contains one. The Philips model also cleans its own video heads, so that the only snow you'll see while watching movies on tape is what's falling outside the windows.

Unfortunately, unlike some of its rivals, the Philips model doesn't offer progressive-scan DVD playback - a statement that's sure to disappoint home-video enthusiasts (and baffle everyone else). Progressive scan is a great feature if you own, or may someday own, an HDTV-ready television, because its signal gives you an even clearer, more brilliant picture.

Another disappointment is that this model rewinds tapes with all the speed of a sleepy slug: nearly four minutes for a two-hour tape. Furthermore, the Philips designers - or perhaps its lawyers - chose to omit what you might assume to be a screamingly obvious feature of a combo device: You can't copy a disc onto a tape.

Of course, no deck lets you copy commercial DVD movies to tape. But what about a DVD you made yourself on a computer? That should be fair game, and so should audio CD's (which, after all, you can copy onto audiocassettes). It seems churlish of Philips to close such a handy window of opportunity.

Panasonic's PV-D4752 ($240), a 15-pounder that requires a shelf four inches deeper than the Philips does, can't copy discs to tape, either, and it's one of the most expensive combos on the market. Still, it has its perks. For example, it can record tapes not just at SP and EP (two-hour and six-hour) speeds, like its rivals, but also at LP (four-hour) speed - a useful quality compromise that's vanishing from the VCR world. The Panasonic can't skip ads automatically, but its VCR can fast-forward in one-minute increments.

The JVC HR-XVC1U ($200), on the other hand, does permit disc-to-tape copying, also has a commercial-skipping button, and, relative to the Panasonic, saves you about $40 and a cubic foot. To sweeten the deal, its manual seems to have been written by a native English speaker - a welcome novelty.

Unfortunately, the JVC is another deck that lacks progressive-scan DVD playback. Evidently, you can't have everything.

Or can you? There is one model that entails relatively few compromises: the Samsung DVD-V2500 ($230) and the Go Video DVR5100 ($205). That's right, one; it's essentially the same deck sold by different companies.

It's an easy-to-use, cleanly designed machine that can rewind a two-hour tape in a blazing 68 seconds - a feature you'll appreciate when your movie ends just before its rental deadline. Smart features abound: for example, you get to hear DVD sound when you're fast-forwarding at double speed. The remote's jog dial permits precision rewinding and fast-forwarding of a tape or disc. And when the show you're recording is longer than two hours, the deck records as much possible at SP (high quality), switching to EP (lower quality) if necessary to avoid missing the end of the show.

The Samsung and Go Video decks aren't utterly identical, though. The Samsung VCR can't copy discs; the Go Video can. Only the Samsung has a slot for a Memory Stick, familiar to Sony fans as a storage card for pictures and music files. As a result, you can play the music on a Memory Stick or display your Sony digital-camera photos as a slide show.

On the other hand, the Go Video deck has its own exclusives, most of which are irresistible VCR features. A handy position-on-the-tape graph appears on the screen whenever you rewind or fast-forward. An option called Commercial Advance is an advance indeed: When you watch a recording, the machine automatically fast-forwards over blocks of ads. Likewise, Movie Advance can intelligently zoom to the beginning of a rented movie, skipping past the previews and other preamble junk - sweet.

The Go Video deck is so stellar, in fact, that having to report its Achilles' heel is enough to break a reviewer's heart: the hissing sound of a spinning DVD is so loud, it competes with a television's built-in speaker. To gain this deck's delicious VCR features, you have only three options: house the deck inside a cabinet, drown out the hissing with an external sound system or put up with guests' asking if you own a rattlesnake.

Otherwise, get either the Samsung, its DVD-V2000 sibling (less expensive, no Memory Stick) or any model whose feature list strikes your fancy. The truth is, all of these decks save you space, cables and remote controls (and make killer last-minute Christmas gifts).

They prove that despite the bad reputation of gizmo mergers, some combinations make overwhelming, natural sense. Remember that the next time you take a photo with your cellphone.

source: www.nytimes.com/2002/12/05/technology/circuits/05stat.html?position=top&8hpib=&pagewanted=print&position=top
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