- Good at making DVD-videos, good remote, timeshifting
- No DVD+R support, analog tuner
It's a little raw in places, but the JVC hard disk DVD player covers all the bases.
Price$ 1,299.00 (AUD)
Although it could still use a little spit and polish, JVC's 160GB DR-MH30S is a fun PVR and DVD recorder. It sometimes took a little longer than it should have to perform some tasks, but it can do quite a lot, and it includes some very nice touches, including a live help system accessible at the touch of a button on the remote.
You, can, in fact, do a lot of things at the touch of a button on the remote. It's well designed and comfortable, providing quick access to most of the functions you'll want to access on a day-to-day basis.
Using the settings menu, you can turn timeshifting on, and specify the buffer duration (up to 3 hours). Timeshifting allows you to pause and rewind live TV. It's extremely smooth on the JVC, with nary a glitch or stutter in sight, but it has one flaw--having timeshifting switched on makes changing channels very slow. We're talking four or five seconds slow, which is way too much for compulsive channel surfers.
If you're recording a show live to the hard disk, you can also go back and watch it from any point earlier. Recording bit-rates can be set as low as 1.6Mbps (EP mode) and as high as 10Mbps (XP) mode. The JVC has a high-quality encoder. SP mode--5Mbps--is the one that you'll likely be using most often, and in our testing free-to-air TV recorded at SP produced video of high enough quality to be indistinguishable from the original, even for fast motion sequences. We also tested EP mode, which produced recordings at roughly VHS quality.
At SP mode, the 160GB hard disk can store roughly 68 hours; a DVD can hold about two hours. The recorder also boasts a Free Rate mode, which automatically adjusts the bit-rate of a scheduled program to fit in the amount of space left on the recorded media. Theoretically you can get up to 272 hours on the hard disk at the lowest Free Rate mode, although we wouldn't recommend it.
The management interface for the stored video was quite good, although it was a little slow to respond at times. It allows you to manage your recordings--giving them names, performing simple edits and splits, setting up playlists and categories. Here you can also dub recorded shows from the HD to the DVD, or vice versa, and the JVC includes a high-speed dubbing option (that is, it will copy the show as fast as possible, rather than doing it live). The dubbing interface is pretty good, allowing you to batch dubs very quickly, but you can't watch TV while it's doing a high-speed dub. You also can't dub commercial DVDs to the hard disk, although you can dub clips from DVDs you've finalised in the JVC.
Finalising DVD-R and DVD -RW discs (the JVC does not support +R/RW)--an option buried deep in the setup menu-- turns them into DVD video discs that are playable on regular DVD players. The JVC has some pretty cool options for this, even giving you a choice of pre-set DVD menu visuals. It generates thumbnails for the videos and creates decent-looking menus from them.
The JVC has a decent array of inputs and outputs. Two SCART ports on the back (one for output, one for in) give you a lot of options, including S-Video and progressive scan component output. There's also an RF loop-through, digital audio out, and S-Video and RCA input ports on the front.
During our tests, we found it was a decent DVD player with good picture quality, but it did have an annoying practice of not allowing us to skip--or even press stop--when the preliminary menu videos and copyright notices are being forced upon us in commercial DVDs. Its handling of JPG and MP3 discs was unimpressive but serviceable. As with most products in this category, the handling of such discs feels like a tacked-on feature.
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