Being able to use a second TiVo to record multiple shows broadcast simultaneously, but watch them from whichever room suits the moment, is a valuable perk, and the Home Media Option's ability to turn your computer into a whole-house music and photo server is no mean trick. Long term, it'll be well worth the upgrade's cost.
As a DVD player the Pioneer is like - well, a DVD player. Most secondary DVD features, like chapter/time-search, subtitle, and repeat, are accessible only via the onscreen banner that pops up when you hit the remote's Info key (this also shows title, chapter, and elapsed/remaining time in a single window). Other that that, there's little difference from using any other player.
DVD movie quality via the Pioneer's progressive-scan component outputs compared favorably with that of my $1,000 reference player. In direct comparisons on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (I happened to have two copies on hand), the only thing I noticed was a slightly boosted black level on the Pioneer. No big deal.
Pioneer's DVR-810H is an elegantly integrated player/recorder that's superbly easy and intuitive to use. It quickly began to feel indispensable - disturbingly so, when you consider how TV pervades our lives already. It isn't cheap, even at super-store prices, but for the money you get TV-viewing flexibility and time- and place-shifting powers Captain Video himself could only dream about. Now, if Pioneer would just incorporate an HDTV tuner and high-def satellite receiver, it could rule the world.
In the Lab
Maximum-white level error: +1 IRE
Setup level: +7.5 IRE
Horizontal luminance response
(re level at 1 MHz)
3/4/5/6/6.75 MHz: ±0/-0.17/-0.63/-1.5/-1.8 dB
Onscreen horizontal resolution: 540 lines
In-player letterboxing: good
Component-output level error (interlaced)
(Y/Pr/Pb): +3.95/-4.5/-6.24 %
Component-output timing error (interlaced)
(Pr/Pb): +13/+15 nanoseconds
The DVR-810H's DVD test-bench playback performance was good, with the progressive-scan output looking quite fine and free of significant deficiencies, such as the color-smearing chroma-upsampling "bug." TiVo record/playback behavior through the S-video input depended on the recording mode selected. The Extreme (Fine) mode, with the highest bit rate, provided full DVD-quality horizontal resolution (540 lines) and video-encoding artifacts that were visible only on the most critical test patterns. Artifacts, especially mosquito noise, were slightly more visible in the High (SP) mode, but full resolution was preserved. The usual drop to half-horizontal resolution (270 lines) occurred with the Medium (LP) and Basic (EP) modes. The Medium mode still looked remarkably good, though a bit soft, on program material that didn't involve a lot of motion. Mosquito noise and blocking increased substantially in Basic mode, making it suitable only for situations where quality isn't as much of a concern as recording time. Sound quality was good, if not quite equal to CD, in all modes. Video and audio quality were retained in dubs from the hard drive to DVDs. -D.R.
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