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.
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 "="" --="" rel="follow">-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).
The large, task-based suite of included software makes it easy to create and play video, music, and data CDs and DVDs. With HP's Video Transfer Wizard, for instance, you connect your camcorder or VCR, type in a title, select a menu style, and take a walk--a long walk. It took about two and a half hours to create a test DVD+R with about one hour of video, but the test discs we burned played smoothly on PCs, Macs, and newer DVD players.
HP also includes two other applications for more advanced video-editing, ArcSoft ShowBiz 2.0 and Muvee AutoProducer DVD Edition, as well as Veritas RecordNow for creating music and data discs, Simple Backup for archiving, and CyberLink PowerDVD for watching movies on your PC.
In CNET Labs' performance tests, the dc3000 lived up to its Movie Writer moniker, delivering the fastest speed we've seen from an external drive in burning a 3.24GB movie to a DVD+R disc--it even managed to best the performance of the internal Sony DRU-510A. As with most external drives, the dc3000's data write and read speeds were slower than those of a typical internal drive. Nevertheless, the dc3000's overall performance was comparable to that of the other external drives we've tested, although it couldn't quite keep pace with the speedier Micro Solutions Backpack DVD+RW (USB 2.0).
|Movie write test (megabytes per second) (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
|Note: Compression rates vary depending on the drives' bundled software.|
|Data write tests (megabytes per second) (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
|Data read tests (MB/Sec) (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
|Note: Due to an error in our calculations, we originally published slightly innaccurate data-read results in this review. The scores have been corrected.|
The dc3000 is backed by a standard one-year warranty. HP provides a toll-free number for telephone support, which is free for the warranty period and $30 per incident afterward. Product support is also available online and via e-mail, and the printed and electronic documentation is thorough and straightforward. HP makes it particularly easy to check for firmware updates automatically within the MyDrive application.