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Digital Video Recorders: Take Control of TV


JVC is the first manufacturer to offer a real all-in-one audio-video recording device, showing that the transition to digital can be made smoothly. The DR-MX1S combines a VCR, a DVD writer, and a hard-disk recorder within a single device, which of course can also play back all these formats.

The VCR part has four video heads and HiFi-stereo NICAM sound. That means it's as good a cassette recorder as can be found on the consumer market. To make the most of VHS cassettes, a long-play function lets you record 8 hours of programs on a 4-hour cassette.

For the digital part, there's an 80 GB hard disk that can store up to 150 hours of programs at maximum compression, or 35 hours in DVD quality. There are different levels available to let you adjust the trade-off between quality and recording length. The quality of digital recording is very high in DVD quality mode, but if you push compression to the maximum, unsightly artifacts will regularly appear in the picture. That's fairly annoying, but you get it with all models. It's best to use SP (Standard Play) mode, which is the equivalent of DVD quality.

Analog recording quality is in line with standard VCRs. Thanks to its multi-format compatibility, the DR-M1XS gives you the possibility of saving your old cassette recordings on DVD. But more than that, you can also do the following types of transfers:

As with nearly all its products, JVC has opted for the DVD-R/RW and DVD-RAM formats. You'll have to take care when using DVD-RW; on the other hand, you'll have access to the time shifting functions on DVD-RAM.

Despite the many available video sources, JVC has managed to make operation simple. An indicator light keeps you informed about what format the device is using. The DR-M1XS also has a DVD navigation database, which stores information on the DVDs you've recorded to make finding them easier. When creating a DVD-R, you have a choice of 18 menu templates. Finally, note that the unit can read MP3 and JPEG files.

In the connectivity department, there are two digital audio outputs (optical and coaxial) and composite video and S-Video outputs. Inputs comprise S-Video, composite, and an iLink (DV) connector. To improve picture quality, there's also a YUV output that provides a Progressive Scan signal to a TV or projector.