Help with DVD Recorders
This page contains some basic information on DVD recorders, including answers to some common questions, plus a details on a few UK models
What is a DVD recorder?
The RDR-GX120S DVD Recorder
The days of the good old VHS VCR (video cassette recorder) are numbered, and we’re slowly moving over to digital for home recordings. A good percentage of users have moved over to a hard-disc recording solution (such as Sky+), but this doesn’t help with archiving, which is where a DVD recorder comes in.
If you want to keep a copy of a TV show, or transfer your old videotapes to DVD before they wear out or get damaged, then moving to a DVD solution to archive your recordings is a good idea.
DVD recorders have dropped in price in recent years, and are surprisingly easy to use.
Standard recorders can record up to two hours onto a blank DVD, but recorders allow you to vary the recording quality to fit more on a disc. Players such as the Sony RDR-Gx120 allow you to squeeze up to 8 hours onto a single DVD, although the quality at the lowest setting is pretty poor.
Life’s never easy, and as with VHS and Betamax, we have to make decisions on which format of DVD recorder to record using. Formats out there include: DVD+RW , DVD-RWVR, DVD+R , DVD-R , DVD -RW. Our advice is to get a recorder that supports more than one format, just to play it safe. Our personal preference is the DVD +RW format.
The RW stands for “ReWritable”, so discs can be reused, and +RW discs support automatic ‘finalising’, which means they can be played in most standard DVD players. More on formats.
When looking for a DVD recorder, here are a few things to consider:
- Digital: Make sure any DVD recorder you get has a built-in digital tuner (for Freeview). From October 2012, the UK’s TV is delivered digitally, and recorders with analogue can’t be used to record over-the-air TV from a TV aerial. You should look for a DVD recorder that can cope with digital TV channels.
- Disk formats: There are several different DVD recording formats, and you should give some thought to the format you want to use. If you’re not sure, best to look for a multi-format DVD recorder – one that can cope with different formats. More on DVD formats
- Hard disk recorder? Worth considering if you watch a lot of telly. As a DVD can only hold a couple of hours worth of recordings, a PVR can be used to record lots of hours of telly onto a built-in hard disc. These typically hold 20, 40 or 80 hours of telly, and recorded shows can be burnt onto DVD as needed. PVRs explored
DVD recorders have fallen in price in recent years, and you can pick up a bargain by shopping for your DVD recorder online, saving on high-street prices. Online stores to try include:
Below are a few DVD recorders that have caught our eye:
The Sony RDR-GX120s is a great general-purpose dual-format DVD recorder, replacing our former recommendation, the Sony GX210. It supports DVD+RW , DVD+R formats, can be set to record 40 events, uses Smartlink (with supported digital TVs), and has a number of quality settings to squeeze from 1 to 8 hours recording time from a single 4.7Gig DVD.
|Panasonic DMR-EZ28EB-K DVD Recorder/Freeview|
Top quality DVD recorder with built-in Freeview tuner and HDMI upscaler, for better picture.
Output: 2 x SCART , RF loopthrough
|Panasonic DMR-XW380 EBK – DVD and HDD Recorder|
Storage: Freeview HD, 250GB Hard Drive
Features: DVD Recorder with Twin Freeview HD tuner, Freeview +, High Speed Archive to DVD, SD transfer, DivX, MP3 and JPEG playback
|Panasonic DMR-EX78 DVD Recorder/PVR/Freeview|
Output: 2 x SCART , RF loopthrough
Available for £259.99 from Argos (Cat no: 085/1077)
|Panasonic DMR-Ex88 DVD Recorder/PVR/Freeview|
Output: 2 x SCART , RF loopthrough
Available for £391.29 from Argos (Cat no:085/1084)
|Pioneer DVR-540HX-S With PVR and Freeview|
Analogue and Freeview digital tuners. Live pause, high-speed copy. MP3 and JPEG compatible.
Available for £315.99 from Amazon.
|Sony RDR-GXD310 – With Freeview|
Freeview receiver and DVD recorder combined. Supports DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD video, CD, CD video, CD-R, CD-RW and MP3 playback compatibility.
Outputs: 2 x SCART, S-Video In/Out, Analogue AV In/out, Digital audio.
Available for £229.99 from Argos (Cat:085/0267)
|Sony RDR-GXD360 – With Freeview|
Features: Freeview receiver, 8 day programme guide. Supports DVD+R , DVD+RW , DVD-R , DVD-RW as well as MP3 and JPG.
Available for £199.98 from Currys
|Sony RDR-HXD560 – With PVR and Freeview|
Features: Freeview receiver with 80 Gig hard disk and a DVD Recorder.
Output: 2 x SCART, S-video, digital audio.
|Sony RDR-HXD710 – With PVR and Freeview|
Features: Freeview receiver with 160 Gig hard disk and a DVD Recorder.
Output: 2 x SCART, S-video, digital audio.
|Wharfdale DVDRHD400– With PVR|
Features: 80 Gig hard disk (up to 111 hours recording) and a DVD Recorder.
Prices, specifications and offers are subject to alteration. Refer to the websites that we link to for latest prices, information
|Connecting your recorder||If you’re having trouble connecting up your DVD recorder to your TV, to Sky or to a Freeview or Virgin Media box, see our TV Connection Help section for some general advice (including our interactive TV Connection Advisor).|
Also check out the rest of the questions in this section. If you still need help, try asking in our forum – include details of the exact problem you’re getting, what connections you have on your equipment, and what you’re trying to achieve.
|Recording Freeview, Sky or Cable onto a DVD recorder||We’re often asked for help with recording the output of Freeview, Sky Digital, Freesat, BT Vision or Virgin Media onto DVD.|
Here’s some help to get you started:
Set-top box to DVD:
This section helps those connecting a set-top box to a DVD recorder (see below for TVs with Freeview).
To record onto DVD from a digital TV set-top box (such as a Freeview, Sky, Virgin or BT Vision digibox), the most common method is to connect the digibox output to a Line Input socket on the DVD recorder using a SCART lead.
You’ll need to set the recorder so that it can ‘see’ and record the output of the set-top box. Here’s how:
Many new digital TVs have built-in digital TV receivers capable of receiving Freeview (The are known as IDTVs – integrated digital TVs). It seems that each model has differences, so we can’t offer all the answers in this small section, but the information here should be enough to help point you in the right direction:
Your best bet is to check the TV’s manual – it’s bound to have something about how to record the digital channels. If you still have no joy, try contacting the manufacturer of your TV to check whether it’s possible to record Freeview with your model.
If you still have no luck, post a message in our forum, including the model numbers, how you’re connecting, and what problems you’re getting, and one of the regular visitors should be able to help.
|Discs||As outlined, there are several different DVD formats out there, and you need to buy blank discs that match the supported format of your recorder. Note that RW stands for Re-Writable. Here’s a quick summary of the formats:|
Our disc of choice is the Philips DVD+RW. These re-recordable 4.7GB DVD discs take 120 minutes of standard-quality DVD recordings (or more if you select a lower recording rate).
|Timers / Timed recordings||Most (if not all) DVD recorders offer some kind of timer facility, similar to a video recorder, so you can set a show to be recorded while you’re out, or watching another channel. The options are normally manual, VideoPlus or selection from an on-screen Electronic Programme Guide, depending on the model.|
If you’re keen to find out how the timer facility works on a model you’re considering buying, perhaps download the manual online from the manufacturer’s website, and explore the features in more depth.
|Copying videotapes to DVD||Many people are now transferring their old VHS video cassette collection over to DVD – partly to prevent deterioration of videotape, and partly as video recorders are no longer being sold by places such as Dixons.|
Just about every DVD recorder is capable of recording via a Line In socket, so it’s a case of:
Note that DVDs typically hold 2 hours worth of video at standard resolution, whereas a videotape holds 3-4 hours. With many machines, it’s possible to alter the recording settings, to get more DVD recording time at the expense of quality. In many cases, this can be fine for archiving old TV shows from VHS cassette. Refer to your DVD recorder manual for ‘Recording Mode’ or something similar, for details of how to alter the recording quality that we can record at.
At the time of writing, our favourite DVD recorder is the Sony RDR Gx120 – this supports recording of up to 8 hours on a single DVD.
|Digital Switchover||As you probably know, the UK completed the Digital Switchover in October 2012, when the old analogue TV service was turned off. If you want to record TV on a DVD recorder, you need to get a DVD recorder that supports digital TV (i.e. Freeview).|
But what about if your existing recorder doesn’t have a digital recorder? Well, the good news is that most (if not all) DVD recorders are able to make recordings of content via their “Line in” sockets – So, for example, you can connect a Freeview set-top box to your DVD recorder via a SCART lead, set your recorder to “Line in” and record the output of your Freeview box onto DVD. Not having a built-in digital tuner will make it harder to make recordings, as you’ll have to remember to a) set the DVD to start recording the “line in” at the right time, and b) make sure that the Freeview box is switched on and tuned to the right channel. Slightly more tricky, but still fairly straightforward.
|DVD with hard disk recorder||If you’re looking to get a digital recorder, you may want to consider getting a combined DVD / HDD recorder. Basically, this is a hard-disk recorder (think Sky+) that also has a DVD recorder. This allows you to record TV onto the built-in hard disk, and burn recordings onto DVD if required. There’s more on our page dedicated to hard disk recorders. See: Recording telly with a PVR.|
|Built-in Freeview||We’ve been asked by a visitor to our podcast site, FrequencyCast, whether it’s worth considering getting a DVD Recorder with a built-in Freeview receiver, or getting a stand-alone Freeview box, and connecting it to a DVD recorder. Here are the pros and cons:|
|Finalising||Discs recorded on a DVD recorder in some formats need to be “finalised” after recording. This sets the disc in such a way that a standard DVD player sees the disc as being ‘complete’. Different disc formats handle finalising differently:|
|Problem with discs||If you’re experiencing a problem with playback of discs, here are a few things to check:|
|Problems with your recorder||If you’re having problems with your DVD recorder, here are some suggestions of things to try:|
|Multi-region?||Most DVD recorders are region-coded, to prevent viewing of DVDs from other regions around the world (all to do with copyright protection in different parts of the world). Make sure you get a machine that’s appropriate for your region. There more on the subject of DVD Regions in our Glossary.|
Please do not contact us regarding chipping / hacking of DVD recorders, or trying to bypass a DVD recorder’s region or copy protection.
Note that region coding doesn’t affect recordings that you make on a DVD recorder – so if you record something yourself from the telly or a copy from a VHS tape, it’ll play back on a machine that’s in a different region.