DVD/VCR Combo Drives

DVD/VCR combo drives give you the best of both worlds. Read on to find the right one for your needs.

Recording modes

All DVD combo drives support different quality modes for recording, often expressed in terms of play time -- Standard Play, Long Play and Extended Play. Simply put, the different recording modes alter the quality at which you record onto a DVD, which affects the eventual picture. Compression is a complex topic that involves squishing down the amount of information that needs to be recorded, but there are particular visual mediums that work better or worse with compression. Cartoons are easily compressed, as they're normally very light on fast-moving action and contain large areas of the same colour, while fast moving action scenes and sport usually look bad at high compression rates.

DVD combo drive

There's no set "standard" for how much you can record onto a disc, and it varies slightly from recorder to recorder, although a standard single-sided DVD recordable can record up to one hour of DVD quality video. Beyond that, you'll normally see quality jumps that add an hour or so to recording times, up to a maximum of six hours on one disc. At the six hour limit you'll get quite blocky looking video that's best described as watchable -- but only just.

What are DVD Regions?

Commercial DVDs are encoded with region information, designed to inform the player of the correct region that the disc is intended to play in. There are eight numerical regions, as well as "Region 0", which simply denotes that the disc lacks region information and can be played on any player worldwide. The breakdown of regions is as follows:

  • 1 - Bermuda, Canada, United States and U.S. territories
  • 2 - The Middle East, Europe, Egypt, Greenland, Japan, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland
  • 3 - South-east Asia, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan
  • 4 - Central America, Australia, South America, Mexico
  • 5 - The rest of Africa, Eastern Europe, the Indian subcontinent, Mongolia, North Korea, Russia
  • 6 - Mainland China
  • 7 - Unallocated
  • 8 - Used for Aircraft, Cruise Ships and other international display areas

In order to comply with the licensing terms of the DVD forum, players should be clearly region marked on the packaging and set to only play back discs allocated for that region -- in the case of Australia, it's region 4. Any player sold in Australia should thus carry a little circular logo with a "4" on it, as well as suitable information about DVD regions within the instruction manual. That's the theory, although in practice many players are sold as "multi-region" players, capable of playing back discs from any region. Officially, DVD manufacturers will only sell region 4 machines, but it's worth checking at your place of purchase whether or not this is actually true. The advantages of being able to play back discs from multiple regions are considerable. Firstly, you've suddenly got access to an entire global library of titles, many of which may be many months or years away from Australian release, if at all. You've also got the ability to order discs from overseas and take advantage of the differing price structures for DVDs in different countries.

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