DVD Recorders - Buying Guide and FAQS

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If I buy a DVD Recorder, can I make copies of DVD films?

No. It's illegal to make copies of films, and most pre-recorded DVDs that you rent or buy have an electronic copy-protection system that prevents copying.

How much can I fit on a DVD disc? 

DVD recorders let you trade picture quality for recording time: the better the picture quality, the more space it takes up on the disc. Typically, you'll get about an hour's worth of best-quality recording on one disc. Doubling this to two hours still gives excellent picture quality, and even squeezing three hours on to one disc gives you better quality than a VCR.

Should I buy a personal video recorder (PVR) instead?

A PVR records to a hard disk, like the one in a computer. It has a much larger capacity than a recordable DVD, but the disk isn't removable.
Some DVD recorders incorporate a hard disk, so you can record programmes on to the hard disk, and then copy those you want to keep (or share) to a DVD.  However, they're not as easy to use as a PVR as they don't have an on-screen electronic programme guide.

What are the differences between DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-Ram

There are currently five different DVD-recording formats used by different manufacturers, and discs recorded in one format can't always be played in another machine.  DVD recorders can generally record in at least two formats, and usually let you play discs in some other formats, too. Dvd players can usually play discs recorded in three or four different formats.


Both these formats let you record to discs only once. The other three formats let you re-record many times on one disc, just as you would with a video tape.  If you want to archive your recordings, rather than record over them, it makes sense to opt for the cheaper, DVD-R or DVD+R discs.  DVD-R and DVD+R let you record to disc just once. The other formats let you record over and over again on the same disc


These formats are compatible with many players. With DVD-RW, recordings can be made in one of two modes – video or VR – depending on the machine. Video mode is compatible with most DVD players, but you can't edit discs or insert new recordings.

By contrast, VR-mode discs can be edited (a bit like DVD-Ram, below) but they won't play back on many machines.


Few DVD players play back DVD-Ram recordings, but this format does offer many handy features. For example, it's the only format that lets you start watching the beginning of a programme while the machine is still recording the end of it.  Another unique advantage of DVD-Ram is that, when you delete one recording from a disc, the machine reorders the remaining recordings so there are no gaps when you play the disc.

Are there any useful DVD recorder tips you could give me?

DVD recorders are harder to use than VCRs.  There are several different recording formats – DVD-Ram is one of the most versatile.
Prices are still falling, and the best discounts are usually found online.

If I have a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) can I transfer the information onto my DVD?

You can hook up most PVRs to a VCR or DVD recorder to archive your recordings to disc.  Developments such as PVRs with twin digital tuners and built-in DVD recorders are just around the corner.

What is a combination DVD/hard-disk recorder?

Some DVD recorders give you more flexibility with a built-in hard drive.  A built-in hard drive offers much greater recording capacity than you get with a single DVD disc (at least eight-and-a-half hours, depending on the model).  The space will eventually run out, though, so they're better for recording shows to watch later rather than anything you want to keep permanently. You can then copy any favourite shows to DVD or VCR for permanent storage.  The combination DVD/hard-disk recorders we've tested so far are fairly expensive, and can be complicated to use.  None is as sophisticated as a personal video recorder (PVR). PVRs also record to a hard drive but recording is much easier thanks to an on-screen electronic programme guide (EPG) ,which gives details and times of forthcoming programmes.

How much can I store on a disk?

DVD recorders let you trade picture quality for recording time – the better the picture quality you opt for, the more space it will take up on the disc.  Blank discs can store two hours of recordings in standard-play (SP) mode, providing images as good as live TV.  Most recorders let you fit up to eight hours on a disc, but picture quality deteriorates the more you cram in.

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