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LG DR175

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doc0

On test

DVD recorder Approx price: 150

LG DR175

LGs latest budget DVD recorder is dripping in old school charm. David Smith nds whether it passes all its exams
ts getting harder to spot budget DVD recorders. This LG offering is very smartly attired in a black case (it also comes in silver), with an inscrutable fascia. It looks like it would cost far more than the 150 or so you can pick it up for. Scanning the spec sheet also doesnt wave any red ags theres an RGB Scart input and component video outputs for progressive scan, and the deck will record on both DVD-R and DVD+R discs, as well as the rewriteable versions of these basic DVD formats. It looks like a bit of a bargain then, but will closer inspection uncover some budget aws?

looks & features

This deck is rather old-school in appearance, but as weve said before, we rather like it. The square corners may be retro, but the height (a sleek 54mm) is very modern. At the front there are AV inputs for external hook-up, including the
matching up with your home cinema amp. The good news stops here there is no HDMI output, which means theres no all-digital connection with an HDMI-equipped TV, and no video upscaling to HD levels. There is also no digital tuner onboard. This is the best way of preserving the best picture quality from digital terrestrial broadcasts, but the RGB Scart input is a perfectly acceptable alternative. There are four recording modes, giving one, two, four and six hours on a single DVD. Strangely, however, our test deck insisted that 90 minutes were available in XP mode. The most exible discs to use are DVD-RW platters in VR mode. This brings a powerful array of editing features, including partial deletion of titles and the creation of playlists. Editing options are more limited in other formats, but they will be more compatible with other DVD players, so if you like to share
and repeat play and the usual highspeed picture search. You also get multimedia playback for JPEG, MP3 and WMA les, as well as DiVX les from the internet. DiVX compatibility includes a VOD code for downloading videoon-demand content.
The DR175s front AV connections are beneath a ap on the front end

ease of use

The remote control may be a tad old-fashioned, but its extra size ensures that there is enough space for sensible arrangement of the buttons, which makes nding them in the dark far more intuitive. The onscreen menu is accessed using a Home key on the intuitive remote, and its both simply and pleasingly designed. One potential pitfall is the accidental selection of a progressive scan output. If you select this you wont get a picture unless you have a prog-scan set, and this can be a nightmare to sort out. Thankfully, an easy recovery procedure is outlined in the manual. You simply eject any disc inside the player and hold the Stop button for ve seconds to rest the video output. A less obvious problem involves a button on the back of the deck. This can be set to Progressive or RGB. Confusingly, the deck will still output a signal via the Scart if the progressive option is chosen but it wont be an RGB signal!

Details

FEATURES
Recording formats DVD-R/-RW/ DVD+R/+RW Hard-disk capacity NA Recording modes 4 Max. recording time 6hrs Non-linear editing Yes (VR mode) TV tuner Analogue Timer 16-event, one-month GuidePlus/VideoPlus No/No Set-top box control No Dimensions 430(w) x 54(h) x 275(d)mm Weight 4.1kg Other features: Zoom; playlists; dynamic range control; auto chaptering; MP3/WMA/JPEG playback; 3D surround
When it comes down to it, its impossible not to like this recorder. Its a hard worker
all-important DV socket to connect digital camcorders. The rear panel sees a fairly comprehensive set of sockets, including that RGB Scart input (and an RGB output), and prog-scan capable component sockets. Equally impressive is the provision of both optical and electrical digital audio outputs, so you wont need to worry about recordings you may have to settle for them (this is one reason why HDD/ DVD recorder combis are generally more attractive if you intend to do any serious editing). Chapters can be added manually, and they can also handily be laid down automatically, at ve or 10minute intervals. There is a zoom (up to 4x normal size) slo-mo playback, programmed

WHAT IT PLAYS

DVD-Video; Dual Disc (DVD side); Dual Disc (CD side); CD; MP3; WMA; JPEG; MPEG4 DiVX (v. 3.x); MPEG4 DiVX (v. 5.x); MPEG4 XViD; VCD; SVCD; CD-R; CD-RW; DVD-R; DVDRW (Video); DVD-RW (VR); DVD+R; DVD+R (Dual Layer); DVD+RW

SOCKETS

Scart sockets
The input Scart accepts an RGB feed

Component outputs

Delivers a progressive scan signal to your TV

Digital audio outputs

Boasts electrical and optical digital audio connections
Front: DV input; S-video input; composite video input; stereo audio input Rear: Component video output; 2 x Scarts (RGB in/out); S-video output; composite video in/out; electrical digital audio output; optical digital audio output; stereo audio in/out; RF aerial in/out

CONTACT

5454 www.lge.co.uk
048 I What Video and High-Denition TV I Issue 309

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Also Consider >>

PANASONIC DMR-EZ25 An extra 100 will show you the benets of a digital tuner and an HDMI output superb stuff Reviewed: Issue 308
SONY RDR-GXD310 A Freeview tuner and duallayer recording add appeal to this classy model Reviewed: Issue 303
The remote is plain, but nicely laid out

Looks Layout Labelling

Make sure the selector is set to RGB if you want to benet from an improved RGB picture.

performance

A very noisy disc transport mechanism was certainly a sample error, and we can ignore that it didnt seem to affect the operation of the deck anyway. We also thought there was a problem with the RGB Scart input it just didnt exhibit the usual rock solid nature of an RGB feed. Checking at the back of the deck revealed that selector switch pitfall, and we were soon able to enjoy a
DVD-R/-RW/+R/+RW recording Six hours max. record time DiVX VOD playback Progressive scan output
pristine loopthrough from our Sky+ box, as well as pretty impressive DVD recordings. In XP mode, in fact, the picture is every bit as good as the broadcast in question. The colours are pure and do not suffer from any bleeding, while the zz that accompanies a composite video feed is totally absent via an RGB input this is why having an RGB Scart input is so crucial on a DVD recorder. The two-hour SP mode is a bit less impressive inevitably, given that it boosts capacity on a DVD. The picture will show some additional artefacts, especially on complex material. A recording of European Cup rugby saw the pitch look a bit pixelated at times, and players had just a hint of mosquito haze around the numbers on their muddy shirts. Less demanding material is presented cleanly and this is certainly good enough for a lot of genres.
The DR175 is old-school in appearance, with square corners

Test Data

PLAYBACK TEST Video jitter: Audio jitter: S/N ratio: Chroma AM: Chroma PM: READING 4ns 191.1ps 59.0dB -65.3dB -62.7dB RATING Very good Very good Poor Good Average RECORDING (DVD+RW) TEST READING RATING Average Very good Chroma AM: -53.5dB Chroma PM: -57.4dB Frequency response XP @ 4MHz: -2.4dB SP @ 4MHz: -2.4dB LP @ 4MHz: -2.4dB EP @ 2MHz: -2.4dB

Frequency response @ 5.8MHz Composite: -0.4dB Excellent S-video: -0.9dB Very good Component: -1.0dB Good
Average Average Average Average
For a full explanation of test data, please see page 114
The four-hour setting exhibits a big drop-off in quality, with a lot of artefacting making sporting action a no-no. Interestingly, the six-hour setting hardly deteriorates from the four-hour mode. There is no strobe effect, which is a step up from many recorders, budget or otherwise. Multimedia playback is good a DiVX le which has been causing problems with many of our review decks was played without problem. Pre-recorded DVDs are also clean and detailed through the RGB Scart output, with a touch more quality when hooked up via component sockets.Youve got to love RGB! Audio is more than adequate for home cinema use, but the absence of any high-resolution sound formats (DVD-Audio and SACD) highlights the limitations of the DR175s pure audio playback When it comes down to it, its impossible not to like this recorder. It is quaint in its design, but it is a hard worker that only slips up on some of the more modern features like an HDMI output, and thats perfectly forgivable at this price point

Ratings

WHATS GOOD
Playback; recorded pictures

WHATS BAD

No digital tuner
Picture Sound Features Ease of use Value

VERDICT

Quality pictures are the main criterion for judging a DVD recorder and this budget deck delivers
Issue 309 I What Video and High-Denition TV I 049

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31/5/06 2:19:19 pm

doc1

On test

DVD Recorder Approx price: 130

Toshiba D-R160

Perfectly good if you only want to play pre-recorded DVDs, Toshibas modestly priced recorder has a few aws that Danny Phillips wont forgive
f you want a digital recorder that keeps things simple, then Toshibas keenly priced D-R160 could be for you. Its a standalone DVD recorder without a hard disk, and on paper it seems ideal for on-the-y TV timeshifting and archiving from a PVR. But how is it in practice?

looks & features

The D-R160 is a very tasty looking machine. The sloping fascia and black/silver styling are nice touches, setting it apart from similarly priced rivals and supermarket cheapies. Build quality is also solid as a rock. All the key playback and recording buttons are situated on the front, above a ap that houses S-video, composite video and stereo audio inputs. Theres no DV-in, which could be a turn-off for digital camcorder users. The rear panel sports two Scarts, one of which is an output that delivers RGB signals to your TV. The other is an input that, sadly, only accepts composite signals and not best-quality RGB. Using this lowquality connection to record from an external source has serious implications for picture quality and not in a good way. On the plus side, the D-R160 does sport progressive scan capable component video outputs, which is welcome news for movie fans with compatible progressive displays. The unit will only record onto DVD-RW and DVD-R discs. With several rivals offering multiformat recording, this puts the Toshiba at a big disadvantage. That said, the inclusion of DVD-RW means that you can edit recordings, provided the disc is formatted in Video Recording (VR) mode rst. If you
dont want to edit, or want to make sure it will play on a mates DVD player, then format it in Video mode. There are six recording modes (XP SP LP EP SLP and SEP) offering , , , , between 1hr and 10hr on a disc. It lacks the manual bitrate selection found on other Toshiba machines, but six presets are more than most recorders offer. The use of DVD-RW discs makes this a much more exible recorder than +RW-based rivals, with generous editing options. When formatted in VR mode, you can delete a section, divide and combine titles, add or delete chapter points, change the menu thumbnail image, change the name or delete the whole recording. But if you fancy something a little bit more advanced, you can use the playlist feature to arrange original recordings into a new sequence, adding or removing titles at will. Another benet of using DVD-RW is the chasing playback feature, which lets you watch a programme
After youve nished making your disc, you need to nalise it for playback on other players. Unlike Toshibas pricier recorders, you cant choose the menu style for the nalised disc: when you play the disc in another deck, you get a functional text menu with no thumbnails. Also bear in mind that nalisation of VR formatted DVD-RW discs takes a very long time.

ease of use

The onscreen menu system is delightfully intuitive, keeping with a straightforward list format. Helpful icons are liberally sprinkled around the menu screens to aid navigation, while submenus are sensibly structured. Text is written in plain English and is legible at all times. Plus, a round of applause to Toshiba for pulling off the rarest of feats by producing a clear, well-written and comprehensive manual. As for the remote, its quite large and dull but easy to get to grips with.
Big and boring, but superb button placement guarantees ease of use

Looks Layout Labelling

Details

FEATURES

Recording modes: Max recording time: Non-linear editing: TV tuner: Timer: Six presets 10hr Yes Analogue Eight-event/ one-month GuidePlus/VideoPlus: No/No Set-top box control: No (slave mode) Dimensions: 435(w) x 66(h) x 244(d)mm Weight: 2.4kg OTHER FEATURES: Virtual surround; Dolby Digital or higher-quality PCM audio recording (XP only); auto chapters, chasing playback; simultaneous recording/playback; playlist editing; delete, delete part, divide, combine, rename titles; add/ delete chapter marks; change thumbnails; JPEG slide show; three-stage zoom; PDC
Theres no DV-in, which could be a turn-off for digital camcorder users
from the start while its still being recorded, or play a programme from a disc while another is recording. When it comes to DVD-R or DVDRWs formatted in Video mode, the only editing options available are renaming or deleting recordings. However, labelling titles is easy, thanks to the mobile phone style text entry system. The layout is very thumb-friendly, and offers dedicated buttons for both changing the recording mode and accessing the timer list. So its likely to fend off frustration for a long time to come.

performance

XP recordings from a Sky+ receiver onto DVD-RW disc are the best of

WHAT IT PLAYS

Dual Disc (CD/DVD sides); CD; JPEG; VCD; SVCD; CD-R/-RW DVD-R/-RW (Video & VR)/-RAM/+R

Scart input

Wont accept RGB signals criminal for a digital recorder

Component video output

Enjoy top-quality pictures from DVDs with these progressive scan capable sockets

Digital audio output

Gets you crystal clear multichannel digital sound when used with a suitable receiver

SOCKETS

Front: S-video, composite and stereo audio inputs Rear: 2 Scarts (1 RGB out, 1 composite in); component video output (prog scan capable); S-video input and output; stereo audio input and output; electrical digital audio output; RF aerial in and out

CONTACT

www.toshiba.co.uk
052 I What Video and High-Denition TV I Issue 315

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8/11/06 18:40:22

Also Consider >>

LG DR175 Multiformat recording, DiVX playback and RGB input for just 20 more. Better value but no digital tuner either. Reviewed: Issue 309
PANASONIC DMR-ES15 Strangely for a Panasonic, it also lacks RGB input, but overall the features are superior. Reviewed: Issue 306
DVD-RW/DVD-R recording Six recording presets Component video out Playlist editing MP3/JPEG playback the bunch, but the lack of RGB input really takes its toll on picture quality. Composite video recordings are littered with the tell-tale signs of this low-rent source theres obvious ickering noise around the edges of objects (particularly noticeable with text and graphics), anaemic colours and an overall softness that hinders detail reproduction. The actual encoding is ne theres no MPEG blocking noise to be seen or shimmering pixel noise around fast-moving objects, but that composite source just doesnt make the best use of the XPs high recording bitrate. In SP mode, football from Sky Sports is handled admirably, looking almost identical to XP mode. Theres still no digital fuzz around the
players, and colours are generally consistent. But with the aforementioned issues with the source, the result is still a let-down. LP pictures are still watchable, but as we move to EP SLP and SEP , , , the combination of composite feed and low encoding bitrates becomes more of an issue. In fact, give SEP a miss altogether. Our football footage looks too blurry, with very little detail and an unmissable halo of noise surrounding each player its like hooking up a mobile phone to your TV. To be fair the mode isnt designed for sport, but its hard to imagine what it is intended for. But dont despair, the D-R160 performs much better as a DVD player. With RGB output now engaged, Revenge of the Sith looks stunning the vast amount of computer-generated detail is admirably reproduced, colours are rich and theres barely any noise. 576p component video pictures are also superb, with a wonderfully wide contrast range that makes movies look very cinematic.

conclusion

The D-R160 lacks several key features, such as RGB and DV inputs, multiformat recording and a digital tuner. These omissions can sometimes be excused by a low price, but the fact that youll nd some of these features on similarlypriced rivals (such as the LG DR175 and Philips DVDR3305) doesnt endear us to the deck. More galling is that the lack of RGB input has such an adverse effect on picture quality. Toshiba should be living up to its own, normally high, standards. But its not all bad news.Your 130 gets you a very good-looking recorder that offers solid picture quality with pre-recorded DVDs. Crucially, its also very simple to use, and the support of DVD-RW discs puts some handy editing features at your disposal
Let down by its lack of RGB connections and resulting degraded picture quality

Ratings

WHATS GOOD
Looks; ease of use; DVD playback; editing options

WHATS BAD

No RGB input, DV input, digital tuner or DiVX playback; poor quality composite recordings
Picture recording Picture playback Sound Features Ease of use Value

VERDICT

Looks great and boasts a few nice features, but crucial omissions are its downfall
Issue 315 I What Video and High-Denition TV I 053

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8/11/06 18:40:37

 

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