Samsung's 3-in-1 combination unit is housed in a large silver box that takes up about three times the height of an average slimline DVD player. This is in large part due to the VCR component of the SV-DVD54T. The majority of the front panel is taken up by the video cassette compartment on the right with the tray for the DVD deck on its left.
Below this is a mirrored silver panel with play, stop, rewind and fast forward buttons attached. On the lower right side is a flip-down panel that gives access to channel up/down, record, input select and a convenient front A/V input, handy to connect a camcorder or games console on-the-fly.
The rear view displays the SV-DVD54T's connections, which include aerial in and RF out, component video out, coaxial digital audio out, composite line in/out, S-Audio (RCA) and S-Video out.
Setting up the 3-in-1 unit is fairly straightforward but requires an extra RF cable (that Samsung provides) to loop back into the rear of the unit, providing a signal to both the digital and analog tuners. Once you have all your cables in place, getting a digital picture using the integrated set top box is simple: press select STB from the system menu (via the remote control), then click on auto scan.
The unit scans for all available channels which in our case took about two minutes and found 35 digial television channels and 8 digital radio stations. As the STB only supports standard definition (SD), we manually removed the high definition (HD) channels the tuner found during setup as well as duplicated channels (most set top boxes find four versions each of ABC, 7, 9, 10, and SBS).
Another reason to go digital is to receive additional datacasts, channel guides and services, which can include weather, shopping services and TV guides.
Deleting HD, scrambled and duplicate channels is easy through the SV-DVD54T's menu. Once we'd done that, we were left with 20 channels to choose from. Unlike many digital set top boxes we've seen, the remote control on the Samsung 3-in-1 includes a TV/Radio button that switches between the television and radio signals meaning you don't have to scroll through radio channels while flicking through TV programs.
The Samsung SV-DVD54T's 6-head Hi-Fi stereo VCR doesn't allow you to record copyright-protected DVDs onto video cassette. As the unit doesn't feature a DVD recorder, you're unable to back up your existing videos on DVD.
G-CODE is included to easily program timer recordings through the VCR and a feature called G-CODE EXTEND allows you to stretch recording time by up to 60 minutes to prevent delays and over-runs by the broadcaster ruining program schedules.
The VCR supports standard play and long play mode. Using the latter doubles the recording time of each cassette, at the expense of slightly lower quality recordings.
As the unit has dual tuners -- one analog and one SD digital -- you can record a program tuned in through the VCR while watching another program through the STB or a movie on DVD. It's also possible to record SD digital shows while watching TV through the VCR tuner.
There are additional buttons on the remote to control your television and buttons to select DVD, STB, VCR or TV display. The selected display mode enables the remote's controls, eg. hitting play while DVD is selected will play the disc, but if VCR is selected the tape will start.
Dolby digital output and MPEG-2 for audio is supported through PCM (2CH) and bitstream (5.1/7.1CH) modes. DTS is also supported through the digital output if you have a DTS decoder. Aside from DVDs the Samsung SV-DVD54T can play CD-R, MP3 and WMA discs and JPEG photo CDs.
When changing channels on the STB, a colourful information display panel pops up showing current and next scheduled programs, signal strength, and the number of soundtracks available through the current channel. Pressing the Info button on the remote control a second time shows detailed program information, such as episode overviews.
Samsung provides a one-year warranty with the SV-DVD54T and includes an easy-to-follow instruction manual for setup, features and troubleshooting. Samsung also offers DVD/VCR combination units without digital tuners for $300-$350 less than than their SD digital-capable model. Considering the Government's plans to switch off analog television broadcasting in 2008 and replace it with digital, it might be time to think about which set top box or integrated digital TV is going to fit in with your needs and usage.
Samsung have successfully integrated three devices (DVD,VCR,STB) into one unit suitable for people that still want a VCR for to playback their old cassettes or to future proof their home entertainment device for when analog broadcasts cease.