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DVD recorders get digital ATSC tuners

Several new DVD recorders at CES have ATSC tuners, thanks to federal mandates

DVD recorders are old news, but they've been given a little shot in the arm at CES 2007. Because of federal mandates that require any product with an analog tuner to also include a digital tuner, we've seen several DVD recorders with built-in ATSC tuners. That means you should be able to pull in free, over-the-air HDTV with these new DVD recorders and an antenna. The bottom line is that these recorders should be able to burn downconverted high-definition programs from the digital HD tuner in the correct wide-screen aspect ratio. Of course these burned discs won't be high definition, but the picture quality should still be pretty good since its starting with a high-definition source.

Panasonic DMR-EZ47V
Panasonic DMR-EZ47V Panasonic

The most promising DVD recorders with ATSC tuners we saw were Panasonic's. That's because the new Panasonics offer two of the same useful features found on the company's previous recorders: DVD-RAM support and a best-in-class LP mode. As we've discussed in reviews of earlier Panasonic DVD recorders, DVD-RAM lets you record one show while you're watching a previously recorded program on the same disc, allowing it to work almost like a digital video recorder. And the Panasonic LP mode is unique because it essentially looks just as good as SP mode, but offers longer recording time. As a result, you can double the amount of content on a DVD, with only a small loss in video quality.

Panasonic released four products with DVD recorders in them, and all of them offering 1080p upscaling over their HDMI inputs, an ATSC tuner, DVD-RAM recording, and their excellent LP mode. The DMR-EZ47V is a DVD recorder/VCR combo, which also offers DivX playback, a FireWire input, and an SD card slot. The DMR-EZ47V will have a list price of $380 when it comes out in May. The DMR-EZ37V is the step-down DVD recorder/VCR combo--which lacks the SD card slot--and will cost $330 when it comes out in April. The DMR-EZ27 is just a DVD recorder and offers essentially the same features as the DMR-EZ47V, minus the VCR. The DMR-EZ27 will be available in May for $280. The DMR-EZ17 is the step-down DVD recorder--which lacks the SD card slot--and will cost $230 when it comes out in April.

Samsung is close behind Panasonic with the DVD-AVR960, which also has support for recording to DVD-RAM. Along with its built-in ATSC tuner, the DVD-AVR960 has an HDMI 1.3 output and will upconvert to 720p and 1080i resolutions. It's compatible with recording to the aforementioned DVD-RAM, along with DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, and both +R and -R dual-layer discs. The DVD-AVR960 also has a FireWire connection--so it can easily connect to a camcorder--and DivX file playback. The DVD-AVR960 is scheduled to be released in June for $320.


RCA also rolled out a DVD recorder/VCR with an ATSC tuner, the DRC8335. The DRC8335 is compatible with DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW discs, and has a FireWire input for connecting to camcorders. There's also a feature called "TV Guardian" which apparently can detect offensive language and mute it on playback. The DRC8335 has a list price of $350 and comes out in April.

LG got in on the DVD recorder with an ATSC tuner game with a couple of DVD recorders as well. There's the RC797T Digital Tuner Super Multi DVD Recorder and VCR--yes, that's the full product name--as well as the DR787T, which is the same as the RC797T without the VCR. However, LG hasn't announced the full feature set, pricing, or availability for these players.