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DVD Players / Recorders

Buying Guide DVDs, be them standard or next generation Blu-Ray are the favored recording m...
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Buying Guide
DVDs, be them standard or next generation Blu-Ray are the favored recording medium for recording and archiving just about anything you can think of from music and movies to business related data. They're great because they last for a long time, they're easily portable and they don't take up much space.

PVRs or Personal Video Recorders, also known as Digital Video Recorders have also become very popular as well, DVRs record to a built in hard drive making them very fast and efficient at what they do. The most familiar of DVRs is the TiVo that lets people record movies and shows from their television to be viewed at a later date, these have become extremely popular due to their convenience and ease of use.

This little guide is basically covering three product categories so it's going to be general in nature with some specifics mentioned where needed about certain devices. All three of these devices mentioned have very similar possible feature sets so most of these will pertain to all of the aforementioned devices.

The DVD Recorder was really supposed to replace the VCR, and in many aspects has, it does have many great features that the VCR doesn't have like chapters for instantly going to any part of a movie, quickly rewinding or fast forwarding, vastly superior video quality, easy to handle or store the media, and many other features as well. Though with the introduction of the DVR, the DVD recorder has sort of fallen to the wayside, and is being marketed quite a bit now as a combo device offering DVR functionality as well as DVD recording.

The DVD Recorder does have one great function going for it that will make it last for quite a while longer; it's archival and backup function. With DVD Recorders you can easily and cheaply transfer and backup your VHS tapes.

Features to look at when making a purchase:

DVR Function:
This is DVD Recorder Specific, but some DVD recorders on the market today will include a built in hard drive to make recording easier and faster. This types of units can also act as a DVR, so there's a dual functionality built into them which is very nice.

Hard Drive Capacity:
Speaking of hard drives, make sure the one that's built into the DVD recorder or DVR is of a large capacity. Most can be easily user replaced with larger drives but some can't without quite a bit of effort.

Compatibility:
This pertains to the types of discs the DVD recorder can record to, you'll want to get one that records to the most types of formats so you won't be limited to what you can use and purchase cheaply or readily. Newer models are coming out now that can record to Blu-Ray as well which will offer a larger storage capacity, but at a much higher price.

Recording Speeds:
You'll want to check the maximum speed of the recorder as not all record at the same speeds. This doesn't matter so much when recording in real time as to recording from the included hard disc if there is one, obviously faster is better for most people.

Connections:
All three of these devices will have input and output connections on them, but they all won't be the same. Some with have optical, digital and analog for both, or a combination of them all, so you'll need to make sure you know what connections you need and make sure the device you're interesting in buying has those needed connections. You also might want to consider if you need a FireWire connection as well if you have a digital video camera so you can easily transfer your movies to be burned to DVD.

HD Ready or Upconverting:
This sort of falls under connections but bears mentioning in it's own section since the popularity of H-Definition televisions is on the rise, but make sure the DVD player or output connection can output to the same definition of your television set. A Standard DVDs output is 480, but if you have a TV that is 720 or 108, and you want a good quality picture, then you'll want to check to see if the unit has upconverting capabilities.

TV Tuner:
This applies to all of the devices I've mentioned, but if you require a built-in TV tuner be sure to check that it's compliant with the new coming standard of Digital TV or you'll end up having to buy a separate box to receive the digital signal, of course if cable or satellite is your source for TV then this won't matter as much.

Advanced Editing and Authoring Functions:
All DVD recorders come with a basic set of DVD authoring tools built in to them, but some will have more advanced functions. These have the ability to set chapters and their names, remove chapters and switch chapter orders as well.

Programmability:
This refers to all of the devices, but if you need to be able to record while you're away or set it to record at a certain time make sure the device can do what you need it to.

Time Slip, Time Shift and Chase Play:
Time Slip refers to the ability to record a program while watching another one.
Time Shift allows you to essentially rewind or pause live TV so you can see what you missed or take a bathroom or snack break.
Chase Play is the ability to watch a program while you are recording it, in other words you can essentially rewind the program back the beginning and start watching while the device will continue recording the entire show to it's finish.

Recording Formats:
Not all DVD drives can read the MP3 format so if you need this function make sure to check the specs and see if it is listed.

Ease of Use:
This is a big one but an obvious one that people often overlook. Easily doing the most common things you need to do can save you time and of course make life easier. This refers to both the unit itself and the remote, just because the device or remote has lots of buttons doesn't mean it's the better choice, it usually means it's going to be more complicated to use.

Electronic Program Guide:
If you wish to record from Television, this can be done much easier through the use of an on-screen program guide. Not all of them will have this feature so if it's important to you make sure to check and see.

DVRs are great products, since they use a hard disk everything is right there for you to easily access, all of your movies and shows are there and you don't have to change discs etc. Since it's a hard disk though, if something happens, like the hard drive failing, you could lose all of the data which is your movies and shows. If you've got a combo device with DVR and DVD Recorder built in you can easily make backups of the information on the internal hard disc, so there is something to be said for purchasing the combination product.

Once you've decided which brand model you're interested in purchasing make sure you shop around, especially since there is new technology always coming out, this means prices are dropping all of the time.

Of course don't make any purchase until you check around and see what other people have to say about it, you might find out that the one you're thinking of getting isn't highly rated for various reasons, or you might find it's the best in its class.

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