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Turn old videotapes into DVDs, no PC required

The Sony VRD-MC6 is a standalone DVD burner that can capture video (and photos!) from just about any source, including camcorders, VCRs, and memory cards.

Sony's standalone DVD burner includes a preview LCD so you can see what you're copying. Sony

Over the years, I've seen lots of VHS-to-DVD transfer kits that involve your PC, a USB video-capture gizmo, and hard-to-use software. Almost without exception, they're a pain in the butt.

If you have old tapes you want to convert to DVD without all the pain, check out the Sony DVDirect DVD Recorder MC6, which B&H has refurbished for $119 (plus about $9 for shipping). It sells new for $199.99.

Update: Sorry, peeps--already sold out. Closest equivalent I've found is a new unit at Vann's for $169.97 shipped. That's still a pretty good deal, and actually was my first choice before I spotted the refurb.

This nifty gizmo takes the PC out of the equation. Just connect your VCR (or camcorder, or even DVR), queue up your video (using the built-in 2.7-inch LCD), choose from four preset DVD menu designs, and let 'er rip (er, burn).

The MC6 has composite (i.e. analog) inputs for use with most kinds of video sources and digital inputs compatible with various Sony camcorders.

It also has slots for Memory Stick (natch), SD, and xD media cards. Pop one in, then turn your photos into a DVD slideshow.

The burner itself supports all single-layer DVD media and DVD+R double-layer discs. It would be nice if you could use it as an external burner for your PC, but that doesn't appear to be an option.

Ultimately, this is the gizmo to get if you have a large library of old camcorder and/or VHS tapes you want to preserve on DVD. CNET hasn't reviewed it, but the user reviews I've seen elsewhere indicate it's easy to use and works as advertised.