Why even try to edit on a DVD-RW when you can pop in a DVD-RAM instead? DVD-RAM's versatility comes at a price, however, since it gets complicated to do something really simple, like delete the commercials from a program you've recorded off the air. You have to slog through the entire chapter-definition menu in order to create and then delete a "chapter" of commercials. It would be easier if the recorder had some kind of segment-delete function that operated directly from the remote without entering the editing menus. But the Toshiba is no more difficult to use in this respect than any of the other DVD-RAM recorders I've tested.
Besides editing flexibility, the DVD-RAM format offers capabilities made famous by video hard-disk recorders (HDRs) from TiVo and ReplayTV. Here they're accessed via the TimeSlip button on the remote. You can pause a TV broadcast and play a program from the beginning even while it's still being recorded. These features, together with VCR Plus+ time-shift recording, make the D-R1 a sort of poor man's hard-disk recorder.
The D-R1 was reasonably easy to set up, and its remote control is logically arranged for the most part, with the various functions differentiated by button shape and position. But there are a couple of ergonomic lapses. For one, the Setup button is buried underneath a flip-down door (which also hides a numeric keypad). Also, the button for calling up a DVD's menu is tucked away in the upper left corner with other DVD controls, far away from the main player buttons, which form a circle around the cursor controls. All the playback controls should really be centrally located since they'll probably see more use than many of the recorder controls.
|The D-R1 can record a TV program like HBO's Carnivale on DVD-RAM with full DVD quality, along with giving you all the "time-slip" tricks of a hard-sidk recorder.|
But those recorder buttons do let you fine-tune the video bit rate of your recording, which is great if you want to have the highest possible quality while fitting as much on a disc as you can. The two highest-quality modes - Manual (71 minutes) and SP (2 hours) - provided enough resolution for recording anything received over cable or off the air. Encoding artifacts, mainly blocking, were barely noticeable in the Manual mode and showed up only in the toughest segments of our DV footage of flowing water from a fountain, but they were visible using the SP (2-hour) mode. The 4-hour LP mode had only half the horizontal resolution (270 lines), and the artifacts, now including distinct "mosquito" noise (which creates a "cloud" of "busyness" around objects with sharp edges), were visible on almost all recordings.
Just to see what taking the machine's adjustable-bit-rate modes to their extremes would do, I also made recordings of our DV-based test sequence through the FireWire input using the maximum (9.2-Mbps) and minimum (1.4-Mbps) settings. The former looked superb, and you can safely use it for archiving critical material, like all but the toughest DV camcorder footage, on DVD. At 1.4 Mbps, though, you not only lose half the vertical resolution as well as half the horizontal resolution, but the image, now riddled with artifacts, takes on a jerky quality. Use this setting only if you need a long continuous recording time and aren't worried about picture quality. This is the first DVD recorder I've come across that offers this much user control over video bit rate.
Toshiba's D-R1 is a fine DVD recorder and player. It offers a wealth of features and makes great recordings within each of its playing-time options. It seems that the time to replace your VCR is finally here.
In the Lab
DVD VIDEO PERFORMANCE
Measurements were made from a variety of DVD test discs. Data are for the composite-video output unless stated otherwise.
Maximum-white level error: 0 IRE
Setup level: +7.5/0 IRE (switchable)
Horizontal luminance response (re level at 1 MHz):
4 MHz: -0.53 dB
5 MHz: -0.91 dB
6 MHz: -1.1 dB
6.75 MHz: -1.1 dB
Onscreen horizontal resolution: 540 lines
In-player letterboxing: good
Component-output level error (interlaced):
Component-output timing error (interlaced):
(Pr/Pb): -39/-36 nanoseconds
Behaving very much like the other DVD recorders we've tested, the Toshiba D-R1 varied its video performance according to the selected recording "mode" (the digital bit rate that determines a disc's maximum recording time). In the 71-minute Manual mode, with a bit rate of 6.6 megabits per second (Mbps), and the 2-hour SP mode (4.6 Mbps), test-pattern horizontal resolution was full DVD quality (540 lines). In the 4-hour, 2.2-Mbps LP mode, horizontal resolution was 270 lines.
The recorded audio quality was good regardless of the selected bit rate, so you might also use the variable 1.4-Mbps setting for very long audio recordings. You can then choose the best audio recording mode for your program material (two stereo Dolby Digital data rates as well as uncompressed 16-bit PCM).
Playback of prerecorded DVD test patterns was generally excellent, with very good luminance frequency response and no artifacts (color smearing and broken diagonal edges) with the component output switched to progressive-scan format. Stereo audio playback with CDs was also good, with 16-bit noise levels only 2 dB above theoretical perfection, low distortion and noise modulation, and very flat frequency response. - D.R.
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