New HP device converts VHS to DVD

A device to convert those stacks of cherished but now rarely watched videotapes to DVD is a highlight of the dozens of new Hewlett-Packard Co. products announced in the US this week.

The US$399 DVD Movie Writer dc3000 is among the 158 new products launched by HP. All of the consumer devices, which include cameras, printers, and scanners, were unveiled in New York on Monday by HP CEO Carly Fiorina.

The dc3000 is not the only product on the market that will help you convert your analog memories into a digital format, but it is the first to combine analog video inputs with a DVD+R/RW burner into a single, external device. Plug the unit into your PC's USB 2.0 port, install the intuitive software, and you're ready to start preserving those precious family movies and TV favorites and moving them into the 21st century.

The stylish, silver unit sits on an inset base that contains composite video and S-Video inputs, into which you connect your videocassette recorder or other video source. A hardware MPEG-2 encoder card inside the drive takes the incoming analog signal and converts it to a digital one in real time.

Trial Run

The hardware is nice, but what distinguishes the dc3000 is HP's Video Transfer Wizard software, which walks you through the process of converting your video and then burning it to DVD. In addition to the wizard, HP throws in ArcSoft Inc. Showbiz 2 and MuVee AutoProducer, both for video editing and burning; Veritas Software Corp. RecordNow for DVD and CD mastering and packet writing; Simple Backup for the safekeeping of your data; and Cyberlink Corp. PowerDVD software player.

I used the package to encode two test videos using my home VCR. I encountered a few rough spots--I needed to repeatedly reset the hardware so the software could recognize the video source, and the drive door was flimsy--but overall, I liked what I saw. The wizard, which includes a scalable timer for encoding and recording up to two hours of video, made it easy to leave my projects unattended, and even prompted me to generate a jewel case-label when I was done.

Overall, HP's all-in-one concept is well executed, and the entire package costs only about $50 to $100 more than you'd expect to pay for a comparable external DVD burner-only product. That's a premium I'm willing to pay for the integrated design, especially since I have piles of old videotapes that are just waiting to go digital.

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