The Good Records on DVD-Rs for use in standard DVD players; excellent video recording quality; TiVo-like time-shifting functions.
The Bad Expensive; no progressive-scan output; no FireWire input; limited editing features.
The Bottom Line While Panasonic's DVD recorder is extremely promising--and powerful--its high price tag will scare away all but the stoutest early adopters.
Someday in the not so distant future, a device such as Panasonic's DMR-E20 will replace the VCR. Just imagine recording TV programs onto DVD discs that can be played back on almost any DVD player. But for the privilege of owning this cutting-edge technology today, you have to pay big bucks. For some, that will be worth the cost, especially when you consider that the DMR-E20 is actually the least expensive consumer-level DVD-recordable deck currently available.Someday in the not so distant future, a device such as Panasonic's DMR-E20 will replace the VCR. Just imagine recording TV programs onto DVD discs that can be played back on almost any DVD player. But for the privilege of owning this cutting-edge technology today, you have to pay big bucks. For some, that will be worth the cost, especially when you consider that the DMR-E20 is actually the least expensive consumer-level DVD-recordable deck currently available.
The DMR-E20 was designed to act exactly like a VCR and is actually easier to use than many of those tape-based dinosaurs. It has a built-in tuner and the familiar screw-type RF input and output jacks for direct connection to cable or a cable box. It even has VCR Plus, so you can enter a number from TV Guide and program a recording in about 10 seconds. Aside from lacking a cable/satellite box control to change channels on an external tuner, this box has everything you'd expect to find on a high-end VCR.
The setup is a snap, although the automatic-clock-setting procedure didn't work with the cable box we used. When you press the Record button, the unit immediately begins recording, unlike with many VCRs, which delay starting for a split second. The DMR-E20 can record on DVD-RAM ($15 to $20 each for 4.7GB) or DVD-R ($7 to $10 each) discs and can play back CD-R/RWs. However, don't think of a DVD-R as a higher-capacity clone of a write-once CD-R; DVD-R actually lets you erase programs--or the entire disc--before finalizing. What does that mean? Well, finalizing essentially turns the DVD-R into a standard DVD Video disc that you can play on many--but not all--DVD players. We tried playing DVD-Rs on numerous units, and only a couple of older ones (an Apex AD-600A and an Onkyo DV-S525, both from 1999) couldn't read the finalized disc.
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