Less than a year after I reviewed Panasonic's DMR-E10 DVD-RAM recorder in the December 2000 issue, here I am reviewing a follow-up model that, as we've become accustomed in things electronic, has more useful features, equivalent or better performance, and a much smaller price tag - $1,500 instead of $4,000! The drop to a far more realistic price is tre mendous prog ress all by itself. If this trend continues, the eventual replacement of the venerable VCR by some format of disc recorder seems assured, to the delight of those of us who are fed up with tape's fragility and poor video quality.
The DMR-E20 includes four new features that make it more attractive than its predecessor. The central innovation is its DVD-RAM disc drive - the same one being used in Pan asonic's new stand-alone computer drives. This drive lets you record not only on DVD-RAM discs but also on write-once (un eras able) DVD-R blanks in a format DVD-Video play ers can play, which allows you - the oret i c ally, at least - to make a video of your kids that grandma can play on the player you bought her last Christmas.
The other significant new features are made possible by the disc drive's incredible 22.16-megabits-per-second data-transfer rate - more than twice the highest data rate of the DVD-Video system - which lets you play a disc at the same time you're recording on it. Panasonic uses this capability in three ways, depending on whether the recording being played back is the same one being recorded (the Chasing Play and Time Slip functions) or a different program altogether (Simultaneous Rec and Play).
Chasing Play starts playback from the beginning of the program being recorded. Time Slip, on the other hand, can be used as a "confidence check" since it goes 30 seconds back from the point being recorded and puts the image in a window on your TV. You can then use the front-panel roller control to move the playback point forward or back in 1-minute increments (you can't make this adjustment with the remote control). These features - similar to those provided by hard-disk video recorders using the TiVo, ReplyTV, and UltimateTV interfaces - all worked as described in the manual and are useful if you do a lot of off-the-air or timer-activated recording. All three features are available only for rewritable DVD-RAM discs, however, not for write-once DVD-Rs.
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