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Digital Video Recorders: Take Control of TV

Ten Days Worth Of TV

We live in a big, wide, wonderful digital world. So how come so many people still record their favorite TV shows onto big, wide and not so wonderful analog VHS cassette tapes? Until recently, in-home digital video recorders were too expensive and hard to find and using them was a technical black hole for many. The good news today is that prices have come down, digital video recorders are available just about everywhere and manufacturers now emphasize ease of use in both their designs and advertising. The only bad news is for VHS cassettes and all of us who have to figure out how to dispose of them.

The digital video recorders we cover here include at least a hard disk drive for initially capturing video and a DVD recorder for saving hard disk recordings. With high capacity hard drives you can record hours of commercial DVD quality video in standard (lowest compression) mode and three to four times as much in the lowest quality (highest compression) mode. When it comes to quality a hard disk recording will usually blow away a VHS tape recording and there's no contest between hard disks and VHS tapes when it comes to capacity.

VHS tapes don't measure up too well against DVDs either. While the life expectancy of 100 years announced by manufacturers is usually just marketing blather, it is true that optical disk don't deteriorate with each use as tape does. Portability is another important point: a DVD you burn in your living room can be played on another DVD player or even on a computer. Also, as a rule DVD quality is better than or equal to that of VHS. DVDs produced from standard mode hard disk recordings are equivalent in quality to commercial DVD recordings.

Plus Or Minus?

All is still not a bed of roses in the world of DVD recording. Unfortunately there are two different formats still sharing the market - DVD+R/W and DVD-R/W. While they're incompatible for recording, they can both be played back on most players. In fact, the double standard doesn't really complicate things that much; you just have to pay attention to the designation when buying blank media. DVD marked "R" are recordable only once, while those marked "RW" can be rewritten up to 1,000 times.

The two formats are about equal where write-once disks (DVD-R or DVD+R) are concerned. On the other hand, with the rewritable versions, DVD+RW is much easier to handle in terms of erasing and editing. With the DVD-RW format you have to choose between two modes - video or VR. In VR mode all manipulations are possible, but compatibility with players is reduced; with video mode the reverse is true.