The home DVD recorder, which promises someday to replace the VCR, is still far from a mass-market product. Until then, these expensive devices--the few that are available--are being targeted at videophiles and video-industry professionals. With that demanding audience in mind, Pioneer is offering the DVR-7000, which combines high-end performance with top-flight features. In a few years, this recorder probably won't seem like anything special. But today, it's a unique product. The home DVD recorder, which promises someday to replace the VCR, is still far from a mass-market product. Until then, these expensive devices--the few that are available--are being targeted at videophiles and video-industry professionals. With that demanding audience in mind, Pioneer is offering the DVR-7000, which combines high-end performance with top-flight features. In a few years, this recorder probably won't seem like anything special. But today, it's a unique product.
Packing nearly every high-end feature into a sleek, 15-pound deck, the DVR-7000 has elite written all over it. From the retro, silver face to the big multijog dial to the complex, dot-matrix display, this baby looks like it costs big bucks--and it does.
If we had any gripes about the design, it would be that the nonbacklit remote has too many similarly sized buttons. However, the inclusion of a jog dial on the remote helps make up for this minor flaw. Interfacewise, we found the multitude of onscreen menus easy enough to navigate, though we would have appreciated a little more in the way of snazzy icons to better guide us.
As far as connectivity goes, on the back you'll find two A/V inputs and two outputs, all with S-Video connections. The front also has a set of A/V inputs in addition to a FireWire port. Both optical and coaxial digital-audio outputs are available. Aside from the FireWire port, the most noteworthy connection is a progressive-scan component-video output with 3:2 pull-down circuitry, which cleans up film-based material such as DVDs. But more on that in a minute.
To record content, the DVR-7000 accepts either DVD-Rs ($5 to $10 each) or DVD-RWs ($10 to $20 each). It cannot, however, record on DVD+RWs or DVD-RAMs. In our tests, DVD-Rs that we recorded worked in most players except a few older decks such as the Apex AD-600 and the Onkyo DV-S525, both of which are from 1999. It's also worth noting that DVD-RWs can be recorded over and over, but they will play in only DVD-RW-compatible machines.
Although the DVR-7000 has some limited editing features, they can be used only when working with DVD-RWs. Editing isn't this deck's strong suit anyway, and home-video enthusiasts would be better served editing their movies on a computer, recording the final version onto a DV tape, and copying the tape to DVD using the Pioneer's DV input. That little FireWire jack also acts as an output, provided the source DVD isn't copy-protected. Like other DVD recorders, the DVR-7000 won't record copy-protected material, including most commercial DVDs and videocassettes.
As a digital VCR, the DVR-7000 has manual and VCR Plus timer programming, a built-in tuner, and RF inputs and outputs for connection to an antenna, a satellite, or a cable box. You can record up to two hours of video on a DVD-R and up to six hours on a DVD-RW. When recording to a DVD-RW, the deck can be set to any of 32 levels of time/quality, from 61 minutes to 360 minutes on a disc. It cannot, however, record programming while simultaneously playing a DVD. And it doesn't record multichannel audio (5.1 surround)--only stereo.
About playback: Pioneer has gone high end here, too, as the DVR-7000 offers pristine picture quality. In one difficult shot from L.A. Confidential, where the camera pushes toward Kevin Spacey in front of a movie theater, the bright neon and building facade in the background stayed solid where lesser players might have introduced artificial movement.
How do recordings look? Segments recorded in two-hour mode from the DVD test disc Video Essentials looked nearly as good as the source. Minor MPEG artifacts, where parts of the image break into blocky pixels, did show up in a few scenes, such as a still shot with waving red flags and a medium-speed pan over the empty seats in a baseball stadium. Resolution was identical (the maximum 525 lines), colors were slightly less saturated, and we noticed no extra noise, even in difficult dark scenes. DV recordings from a camcorder also looked great, and in side-by-side tests, we were unable to tell the difference between the source tape and the DVD in the highest-quality one-hour mode.
Pioneer definitely had early adopters and videophiles in mind when it built the DVR-7000, and the company has certainly hit its target audience with a full-featured, high-quality product. At $1,999, this deck costs $500 more than Panasonic's , but there are enough extras here--including progressive-scan output and a DV input--to justify spending the extra dough, at least today. If you have the bucks to burn, the DVR-7000 won't disappoint.