Philips DVDR80 DVD+RW Recorder Reviewed

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More than six years ago DVD burst onto the scene, offering the best quality audio and video images available on a new, shiny, five-inch disc, looking very much like a CD. It was predicted that it would replace the aging VCR in just a few short years. However, at that time, it was perceived by some to have one serious, fatal flaw--it could not record. In the beginning, this was viewed as the possible Achilles' heel of the format. No recording ability was thought to be the death knell of any video format. Well, times have changed and DVD recorders are finally starting to make inroads with consumers. Philips, who is the leading proponent of the DVD+RW format, has come up with a terrific recorder that includes an easy-to-use, on-screen guide that makes recording a snap.

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Unique Features - Philips developed DVD Plus ReWritable (DVD+RW) for both data and video content. Even though it uses a different recording method, it has been designed to work with DVD-ROM, and is also backwards compatible with most current DVD video players on the market. The DVD+RW format uses two types of discs: single-sided discs with a capacity of 4.7GBs, and dual-sided ones with a capacity of 9.4GBs. There are several recording speeds, ranging from a high quality (HQ), standard play (SP) mode of one hour with an image resolution of 500 lines up to an extended play (EP) mode of up to eight hours at an image resolution of 250 lines per side. Neither disc needs to have a special cartridge, like a DVD-RAM disc.

Philips' DVD+RW video technology is encoded in MPEG-2 with a variable bit-rate, which provides higher bit-rates as necessary so that no storage capacity is wasted, allowing for the optimum allocation of bits on the disc. In realtime video applications, it makes a provisional analysis of the input video, creating a target bit-rate that is typical for a selected playing time or level of video quality selected. Since DVD+RW uses a variable bit-rate, it can create longer recording times (up to eight hours) with superior image quality. Maximum recording can be further improved by using a lossless linking technique, which means there are no large blank spots on the disc, which can be up to 2kB wide between different video segments. This technique allows the writing process to be stopped or suspended, then resumed without making the discs incompatible with other machines. Additionally, lossless linking makes it possible to replace any individual 321d3 block (or recording unit) with a new one without losing compatibility with other DVD players or DVD-ROM drives.

DVD+RW video discs contain one or multiple menus (still images of recordings) that give information about the recording, such as playing time, program name, data and time, or recording quality level, and display a key frame representing a recording. The DVD+RW video recorder updates the menus immediately after a recording has been completed. DVD+RW discs offer complete interchangeability between home recorder and PCs with DVD+RW drives so material can be edited on a home computer and then played back on a home deck. Blank single-disc 4.7GB discs cost about $4.99 or less.

DVD+R is a "write-once" format that shares many of the same attributes as DVD+RW. Like DVD-R, DVD+R allows for home videos to be recorded once so that they cannot be accidentally erased at a later time. It is impossible to erase or overwrite a DVD+R disc. DVD+R is 100 percent compatible with Philips DVD players that play back DVD+RW, and 85 percent compatible with Panasonic and Pioneer DVD players that play back DVD-R. In terms of editing, PHILIPS DVDR80 DVD+RW RECORDER DVD+R discs can be edited until finalized, whereas a DVD-R disc cannot be altered after being recorded. According to Philips, it will only take about one minute to finalize a DVD+R disc, but it can take four to 15 minutes for a DVD-R disc to be finalized. Philips also notes that you can change picture indexes and apply favourite scene selection to DVD+R, but cannot with DVD-R. Prices for +R discs start at $3.99.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - The Philips DVDR80 is about as full-featured as you can get with a DVD recorder these days. First and foremost, it includes a 181-channel NTSC tuner so that it can act just like a VCR. It's clearly designed to replace the VCR--period! The DVDR80 also includes GemStar's GuidePlus+ electronic on-screen TV guide to facilitate the programming of your recorder. It lists programming up to three days out. Scroll over to a listing on the Guide and press the Record button on the remote. Just make sure that you have a +RW disc in the transport. You can set it up to record up to 15 programs. Keep changing the blank +RW discs, and adjust your recording time from M1 (one hour - highest quality) to M8 (eight hours - VHS quality).

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