Dazzle DVD recorder combines a simple Windows DVD software utility along with a high-speed USB 2.0 device with composite and S-Video inputs. The basic idea is that you use it to create DVDs from your old home movies, although given the ubiquity of composite connectors on all sorts of home AV equipment, there are plenty of other uses that the Dazzle DVD Recorder could be put to -- although there is a catch there, which we'll get to shortly.
The main Dazzle DVD Recorder device is as simple as it possibly could be; an imposing chunk of red plastic in a teardrop shape with a USB cable at one end, and a set of coloured and quite obvious inputs on the other end. It scores highly with us for its pure ease of use, as just about anyone could have it up and running in no time flat.
The first step to installing the DVD recorder is to ignore the hardware, and instead install the DVD Recorder software, and optionally the trial version of Pinnacle Studio 10 that comes with the hardware. The supplied cap carries a warning to install the software first, so nobody should accidentally install the device prior to the software.
Then it's a matter of plugging in the Dazzle capture device, letting it handle driver detection -- we tested on a Windows Vista system, and the box carries a Vista-compatible logo -- and plugging in your video source of choice. No cables are supplied for connection, so you'll have to be ready with some standard RCA or S-Video cables to hand. The DVD Recorder software is wizard-driven and extremely easy to use. It's undoubtedly to be expected, but Dazzle DVD Recorder can't handle copy protected material, whether it's DECSS encoded DVDs or Macrovisioned VHS tapes. It is, after all, primarily designed for digitising home movies, so if you were considering using it to archive an old commercial VHS library, you'd have to look elsewhere.
Our test videos came out mostly fine, albeit only in the kind of quality you'd expect from composite and S-Video connections. One thing that did concern us was an intermittent number of dropped or paused audio frames, which suggested to us that the system was having trouble handling the full data stream for some reason. Switching to a high-end PC system made little difference to this, so we can't recommend the Dazzle DVD if you're looking to edit your next Oscar-winning short film. For those wanting to archive home clips of the kids, however, it shouldn't be too much of a problem.
An obvious catch with real-time recording to DVD is that if you do encounter an error, you're likely to end up with a dud DVD. This didn't happen to us during testing, but it's well worth switching off any unnecessary applications in the background while recording, just to be sure.
There is one significant catch with the Dazzle DVD Recorder, but it comes from the software, not the hardware. The version of Pinnacle Studio 10 that comes with the device is heavily cut-down trialware which wouldn't even install on our Vista test system. The DVD Recorder software isn't designed with editing in mind, so if you wanted (or needed) to make edits to your old home movies, you'd need a bigger and better video editing studio package to hand -- Dazzle does offer a "Platinum" video creator package with an RRP of AU$245 if you wanted to keep things all in the same product family. The instant DVD Recorder package is fine if you've got pre-edited video -- or don't care and just want a backup of an old tape ASAP -- but its simplicity also equates to limited functionality.