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DVD VCR substitute is the first to bring DVD-RW recording to the living
room, but can it satisfy the demands of video makers?
All set-top DVD
recorders are not the same. Pioneer's DVR-7000 is the third such machine
to come our way, and it seems that the three big 'P's - Pioneer, Philips
and Panasonic - have their own ideas of what the market wants. In addition,
each company has its own DVD format that it's determined to push. Pioneer
has DVD-R and DVD-RW, and Panasonic has the cartridge-based DVD-RAM.
All three are accepted and supported by the DVD Forum, whereas Philips'
own formats, DVD+RW and DVD+R, aren't.
Pioneer's DVR-7000 is the first deck in this country to record to DVD-R
and to DVD-RW. It's also the first to have a two-way FireWire connection,
allowing MPEG-to-DV conversion as well as DV-to-DVD recording.
It's a big machine, but nowhere near as massive as its two competitors,
looking only marginally chunkier than a normal VHS recorder. The front
has an LED display panel, a jog wheel for movie navigation and basic
playback controls and a power on/off button. There's also a small fold-down
panel at the front concealing a four-pin FireWire port and analogue
AV inputs - S-video mini-Din, and phonos for composite video and L/R
audio. The analogue inputs are duplicated around the back, and paired
with matching outputs. The wide range of rear sockets also takes in
two Scarts - one for RGB output, the other for AV in/out (S-video, composite
video and L/R audio) - component video output, and digital audio out
via optical and coaxial ports. As with domestic VCRs, there are also
RF sockets - for a TV aerial input that feeds the built in TV tuner,
and to output a signal to a TV set's aerial socket.
As a VCR replacement for the home, the DVR-7000 is nice, but expensive.
The machine is easy to understand and use, and recordings look and sound
good. That said, we're disappointed by the poor range of MPEG encoding
bitrates and lack of menu generation in Video Mode, and the fact that
all of the advanced media management tools are confined to VR mode,
which currently can't be accessed by computers or played in many existing
set-top DVD players.
FireWire input and output are a bonus, but what we'd like to see is
for the DVR-7000 to be able to be controlled from a DV editing system
in the same way that a DV camcorder or deck can be. Another weakness
from the video editor's viewpoint is that the DVR-7000 can't record
NTSC video. As the recorder is designed primarily as a VCR substitute,
this might seem an unrealistic expectation, but the rival Philips and
Panasonic machines do offer NTSC recording, so it's a feature that buyers
will be looking out for.
The Pioneer and its two current rivals have different strengths and
weaknesses and we'd be hard-pushed to recommend any one of them as the
best of the bunch. Panasonic's E20 has the richest features for timeshifting
and domestic use, but many people might find the dependence on DVD-RAM
quite off-putting. Philips' DVDR1000 provides good TOC management control
for little shiny discs, but we're still undecided about the DVD+RW format
it uses. And while we're told that a firmware upgrade to provide support
for DVD+R is imminent, that format is untested, so it would be foolish
for us to speculate about its compatibility with existing DVD players.
The Pioneer DVR-7000 has fewer whiz-bang features than its competitors,
and its VR recording mode will have little value until more RW-compatible
DVD players find their way into people's homes. What is also a concern
is how long it will be before video makers can confidently offer clients
VR DVDs made with the DVR-7000 - not soon, we think.
details, see the June issue of Computer Video magazine.
Reviewed in June's issue:
Apple Final Cut Pro 3
Apple iMac with SuperDrive
In June's news:
Photoshop supports OS X
The end for tape?
DVD burning for Vaios
Iomega external HDDs
ADS 2.5in FireWire drive bay
CD Creator DVD support