DVD Recorder Buying Guide
A DVD recorder can be seen as an extension of the VCR, albeit with a better picture and sound quality because it plays DVDs instead of the former's video cassette. However, it is certainly a replacement of the VCR, mainly due to the fact that it has become far more economical in the recent times.
Types of DVD recorders
There are mainly 3 types of DVD recorders – Regular DVD recorders, combination DVD recorders, and DVD recorders having built-in hard drives.
The first type, regular DVD recorders, are the basic level, and are the replacement of VCRs. These are the perfect choice if you want to directly record shows from TV to the disc, without any editing (or minimal editing, depending on the model you choose). However, in case you want to do a higher level of editing in home and other recorded videos, this type would not solve the purpose.
Combination DVD recorders are actually a combination of a DVD recorder with a VHS VCR. These are best if you want to convert your VHS tapes into DVD. The reverse of this process is also possible in case some friend or family still has a VCR.
The third type, DVD recorders with hard drives, are recorders having a hard drive installed in them for storing videos without the aid of a disc. This is basically done to enhance the editing capacity of the recorder. The regular process is, your video would first be recorded on the hard drive, following which you can cut out the parts you don't want, and record the rest on the DVD.
Support for formats
One of the main points to consider while buying a DVD recorder is which disc formats does it support. A select few recorders come with compatibility for all major recording formats, i.e., DVD-R/RW, DVD-RAM, and DVD+R/RW. However, this is not the case with all recorders, and more economical options feature support only for two combinations – DVD-R/RW or DVD+R/RW, while as you go higher in the price bracket, more numbered combinations would be available. Let's go a bit more in detail.
DVD-R : This is a write-once format, which can't be rewritten or erased, and is most compatible with all DVD players/recorders.
DVD-RW : This is the rewritable format of the DVD-R, and is also compatible with most of the latest models.
DVD+R : This is a write-once format
DVD+RW : The rewritable format of the DVD+R
DVD-RAM : This is a rewritable format with random access compatibility, which makes it the perfect choice for on-disc editing. Its compatibility, however, is an issue, since this format is not supported by a majority of the present models.
If your recorder is only meant to play home-made DVDs on the recorder, this factor of having support for multiple formats is definitely not going to be an issue. However, in case you would want to share the discs with friends or family, and play their discs on your recorder as well, that is where you would require a multi-format support. As a rule of thumb, DVD-R and DVD+R are two of the most commonly compatible formats as far as recordable DVDs are concerned, with DVD-R having a preference in terms of cross compatibility, but that totally depends on your player.
A revolutionary feature in DVD recorders is the support for dual layer discs, i.e., 8.5 GB DVD-R DL discs that can be written only once. As you might have noticed these discs have twice the storage space of a regular DVD, and are perfect in case you want to capture a better image resolution. This is also called a 2-hour disc, since you can only record 2 hours of quality video on these discs, but that is double the amount if you would record on the same resolution on a regular disc. Bottom line : If your DVD recorder supports this format, you can view really high quality videos.
DVD recorders have the provision of increasing the duration of video they can accommodate on a disc via disc compression. However, keep in mind that this also leads to a drop in the picture quality, but in case you have a large amount of video and very limited quantity of discs to store them on, you can consider recorders with this option.
In case picture quality is an issue, you can go for a DVD recorder with a hard drive, so that you can store the parts of video that are relevant to your purpose, and chuck out all the rest.
And if you want the best possible picture quality, there are always the dual layer discs that give you 2 hours of the highest quality of DVD recording.
Quite a few recorders provide the facility of in-unit scaling and HDMI input to 'upconvert' images to 1080i or 1080p resolutions. This is a must-have feature if your recorder is to be used with a high-definition LCD or plasma screen.
DV Input and component-video output
A DV input is also known as iLink support or FireWire, and delivers the best video and audio quality while transferring the video from a digital cable box, digital camcorder or satellite receiver having support for the same.
A component-video output delivers the best picture quality while the recorder is connected to a screen with component-video inputs, particularly when both the screen as well as recorder support progressive scan.
You might want to know what more your recorder can do besides its primary function. Viewing images, listening to MP3, and accessing files stored on Flash memory cards are some of the additional 'goodies', if you will, that come with the latest devices. Ease of use and simple navigation in menus is also a very important factor, since you won't be able to utilize it completely if you don't know which feature is hidden in what part of the interface.