HP's DVD Movie Writer dc3000 has a mission: the quick-and-easy conversion to DVD of (according to HP) some 1.2 billion VHS tapes collecting dust in U.S. homes--and it delivers. Just connect a camcorder or a VCR to the integrated analog-to-digital converter, click a few buttons, and you're done. The included software lets you create more sophisticated home movies. Of course, you can also use the 4X DVD+R/2.4X DVD+RW external drive to burn video, music, and data CDs and DVDs, although its performance with some of these tasks was disappointing in our tests. Still, by putting all the necessary functions into one box, HP definitely makes it easier to move your collection into the digital age.
The dc3000 is larger than a typical external drive--about the size of a thick hardcover book--and it sports the same, metallic-blue plastic found on HP's Pavilion desktops, Photosmart printers, and other consumer products. The drive can sit horizontally or, using an included plastic stand, upright.
The dc3000 has connections galore: two USB 2.0 ports--one in back and one on the side--composite (RCA) stereo audio and video jacks, and an S-Video input. You can use the USB port on the side to connect other peripherals, such as digital cameras, but this pass-through port works only when the drive is on. HP includes a USB cable and composite AV cables for connecting a camcorder or a VCR, but there's no S-Video cable.
HP's MyDrive application ties the many hardware and software applications of the dc3000 into one neat bundle.
Setting up the dc3000 is straightforward: install the software, plug in the power cord, and attach the drive to an open USB port. On our system, Windows XP recognized the drive immediately and automatically installed the necessary drivers.
Although the dc3000 is backward compatible with USB 1.1, it would take an eternity to burn your home movies at that speed; even DVD playback will suffer from the older technology's slower transfer rates. If your system doesn't have USB 2.0, you can add it with a -0.html?tag=top&qt=PCI+card">PCI card for around $25.
At a glance, the dc3000 looks like a fairly basic DVD burner that writes DVD+R at 4X and DVD+RW at 2.4X, but the integrated analog-to-digital converter makes it unique. It can capture analog video from VHS and other videotape formats (Hi8, Digital 8, Mini DVD, and BetaMax) and convert it to compressed MPEG-2 (720x480) video. It will also capture and burn up to two hours of video, but the software will reduce the quality of longer productions to fit them onto discs (you'll get the best quality with videos of one hour or less).