DVR Buying Guide

Here's a step by step guide on how to buy a digital video recorder, the perfect new age replacement of the VCR, for your home.

Types

There are mainly four types of Digital Video Recorders

Personal video recorder - These recorders are meant exclusively for personal recording and are available in the form of computer add-ons like TV tuner cards or external hardware combined with TV playback and recording software. The computer's hard dive stores all the recorded video, and encodes them them in formats that are incompatible with regular DVD players.

DVD recorder - These are entry-level models for home video recording and come with internal DVD writers. Regular disc swapping like a computer's hard drive is not exactly an option in most of the regular models due to the seemingly mammoth 4.8 GB capacity of each DVD. However, the latest recorders also have the option of recording on dual layer DVDs, which double the capacity of a regular DVD, taking it up to 8.5 GB.

Hard drive recorders - Hard drive recorders come with an integrated hard drive that can vary in capacity from 80 to 500 GB. A couple of other interesting features are the 'Time Shift' capability, which allows pause and replay of live TV, and 'Chase Play', which gives the user the option to immediately playback the recording. The input (High-Speed USB) and output (digital HDMI) options are also much better than regular recorders.

DVR set-top box - The TiVo is the most popular example of a DVR set-top box, which have a hard drive but not a DVD writer, which basically means you can only record videos and not share them.

 

DVD formats

There are mainly 7 types of DVD formats that can be recorded or played back on a DVR.

DVD-R

Write once format

Single layer

4.7 GB storage space

 

DVD-R DL

Write once format

Double layer

8.5 GB capacity

 

DVD-RW

Rewritable format

Single layer

4.7 GB capacity

 

DVD-RAM

Rewritable format

Single layer

4.7 GB capacity

 

DVD+R

Write-once format

Single layer

4.7 GB capacity

 

DVD+R DL

Write-once format

Double layer

8.5 GB capacity

 

 

DVD+RW

Rewritable format

Single layer

4.7 GB capacity

 

As you can see, these formats are categorized according to their recording format (write-once/rewritable), storage capacity, and number of layers. Coming to the pricing part, there is not much difference in the '+' and '-' formats, as well as in terms of availability. Another factor, recording speeds, comes with a stipulation that the faster recoding DVRs are priced higher. Following are the recording speeds of these formats.

 

DVD-R - 16x

DVD+R - 16x

DVD+R DL - 8x

DVD+RW - 8x

DVD-R DL – 8x

DVD-RW - 6x

DVD-RAM - 5x

A/V recording

A majority of the present day DVRs use MPEG-2(video) and stereo Dolby Digital(audio) compressions for recording. Further, to ensure maximum compression, there are four recording modes that are available for the user to choose from.

XP/HQ (High quality) mode

DVD picture quality

CD sound quality

1 hour recording time

720 x 480/576 video resolution

SP (Standard Play) mode

DVD picture quality

MP3 sound quality

2 hours recording time

720 x 480/576 video resolution

LP (Long Play) mode

VCD picture quality

MP3 sound quality

4 hours recording time

480 x 480/576 video resolution

EP (Extended Play) mode

VHS picture quality

MP3 sound quality

6 to 8 hours recording time

352 x 240/288 video resolution

 

Connectivity

 

The recording and playback capacity is also dependent on the number of input and output jacks in a DVR, and one must always choose the highest-quality socket from the options that have been zeroed in upon. HDMI is the most obvious choice for playback, as it provides a noise-resistance digital format to carry audio and video signals, besides enabling inter-equipment control through HDMI-CEC. Another option, which is actually a notch below, is component-audio, which transmits analog video in the form of three independent signals.

 

Coming to external A/V recording, Firewire or DV is as good as HDMI, but the drawback in this case is that only camcorders have compatibility for this facility.

 

Features

 

Following are some of the main features you need to consider while buying a DVR.

 

Video editing

This is basically a very small fraction of features as compared to a professional video editing software, and is means to give users a few provisions to modify videos upto a certain extent according to their liking. Majorly, it allows users to combine, delete, divide, and shift recorded clips around in sections, as well as create a playlist to view the videos more conveniently, as well as feed details regarding the clip. As mentioned earlier, this feature is just to give a ball-park control, so to speak, in the hands of an average user, who does not know how to operate a professional video-editing software, which is more to the taste of professionals who have computers with tremendous processing power and a huge hard disc capacity

 

Electronic program guide

This feature is a free service that is provided to users in collaboration with digital broadcasters via IPTV and cable technologies. TO avail this facility, the user also needs to have a set-top box or a recorder with a digital tuner built-in. The main advantage of an electronic program guide is that the user gets to integrate instant recording along with this feature, and hence, there is no need to manually enter details of a program. The user just needs to find it from the list and choose the one he wants to record.

 

Time shift/Chase play

Both of these features allow video playback with a twist! Time shift buffers live TV action on the hard disc, giving users the option to pause and replay live TV, virtually giving the control of the speed of the telecast in the hands of the users. The chase play feature facilitates simultaneous recording and playback of a program. This means that a user does not have to wait for a program to end for viewing the recording. Both these features come in recorders that have an in-built hard disc.

 

Multimedia compatibility
There is increasing support for alternate media like MP3, JPEG, etc. in today's DVRs, mainly owing to the popularity of these file formats. What's more, some DVRs also allow users to import compatible formats from USB and memory cards, adding to the flexibility factor. Recorders having a hard disc also come with in-built digital photo albums and jukeboxes.

 

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