JVC's intriguing VCR/DVD combo recorder comes loaded with promise on paper and riddled with annoying quirks in person. The DR-MV1S ($500 list, $300 or less online) is the first deck of its kind with dual tuners for recording two shows at once but not if you use a cable or satellite box. It plays VHS tapes in progressive-scan, but you must press a button on the deck itself to do so. It controls a cable or satellite box, but the controller isn't included. And it makes sharp recordings of VHS tapes but without chapter stops. While we admire this VCR/DVD combo's attempt to break the mold, it's saddled with far too many compromises. If you're looking to archive your VHS collection to DVD, you'll be better served by the or the .
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Along a beveled silver stripe you'll find VCR- and DVD-eject buttons, play and stop buttons, and the VCR/DVD dubbing controls. Flanking the LCD is a pair of doors that hides a set of A/V inputs with S-Video and additional playback controls, plus a FireWire input.
Anyone impatient with complex electronics will find plenty to complain about with the DR-MV1S. During everyday use, we constantly referred to the manual since few of the functions are intuitive or well thought out. The midsize remote crams in a dizzying array of buttons, many of which have multiple functions depending on the situation. After some trial and error--and some hints from the JVC's onscreen menus, which show annotated diagrams of the remote's keypad--we ultimately got the hang of it.
The JVC's myriad menus are almost as overwhelming as the remote, but we again grew familiar with the various screens over time, and helpful hints abound. Strangely, the menus changed personality when we switched from DVD to VHS mode; the VHS interface has the crude blue background and block letters of a Reagan-era VCR.
Unfortunately, the deck's setup gets clunky if you want to use high-quality video connections. If you're content with the RF or composite outputs, you can switch back and forth between the VHS and DVD modes with no trouble. But if you want to use the S-Video or component-video outputs, get ready for some exercise. One of the DR-MV1S's big features is its ability to play VHS video in progressive-scan over the component-video out, but to do so, you have to get up from the couch and press a button on the unit to switch to VHS playback mode (and the same goes for watching over the S-Video output in interlaced mode). Want to go back to DVD mode? You'll have to get up and push the button again. It's annoying, to say the least.The JVC DR-MV1S arrives on the scene with an ace up its sleeve: dual tuners, which let you record two shows at once (one on VHS, the other on DVD) or record a program while watching a DVD, a videotape, or live TV. To make full use of the dual tuners, however, you must split your cable feed (a splitter is included) and hook the two RF cables into the back of the deck. That means digital cable users can forget about the second tuner unless they want to go with the low-quality RF output and record only whatever unscrambled channels their service offers on the second tuner; furthermore, the second tuner won't work for satellite users at all. Much like a TV with two-tuner picture-in-picture, the JVC's two-tuner functionality works best with analog cable and antenna connections.
In addition to manual recordings on both decks, you can program timed recordings through the setup menu or use VCR Plus. You can plug in an IR blaster that lets the recorder change the channel on your cable/satellite box, but for some mysterious reason, JVC neglected to include one; you'll have to order it from the company. You can also set up the DVD recorder to automatically turn on when it detects a video output, say, from a timer-activated satellite box.
Dubbing from VHS to DVD (or vice versa) is a two-step process: you press one of two arrow buttons on the deck itself, then press the Dubbing button. The JVC will record on DVD-R/-RW/-RAM discs, and the usual recording speeds are available, including XP (for an hour of DVD recording), SP, LP, and EP modes.