Samsung DVD-R100E £200

1st Feb 2005 | 00:00

Samsung has taken the DVD-RW route with its latest recorder

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

It's probably the best in its class, but some sacrifices have to be made to achieve the low price

For some time now, several companies have presented combined DVD-RW and DVD-RAM recorders and drives as 'multi-format' devices. Although that might be a fair and accurate description, these machines don't support DVD RW. Lite-On got it right in 2004 by producing recorders that support DVD-RW and DVD RW, assuming that RAM would be of little real interest to home users.

Others just won't let the RAM format lie, however, as seen here with Samsung's DVD-R100E. Depending on where you look, the DVD-R100E can be had for just under £200. Early converts to DVD recording will be amazed at how much prices have fallen in the last couple of years, but Samsung's offering is by no means the cheapest out there.

A whole gaggle of low-profile brands are currently jockeying for position below the £150 mark, and that's set to fall even further as VHS recorders finally make their exit and DVD recording becomes the norm. To compete with this new mainstream, Samsung will have to deliver something special - be it with features or simply the quality of recordings.

The deck itself seems well specified, with RGB input via Scart as well as composite and S-video inputs and outputs. There's a four-pin FireWire port for connecting a DV camcorder, and digital audio output via optical and electrical sockets. What's missing, though, is component video output.

The unit itself is a simple affair in silver, and does little to evoke any kind of reaction with regard to style, but this is much preferable to a brash statement. Setup and tuning are as simple as you'd expect from any video recorder, and we're sure that newcomers will be up and running with this machine in minutes. The remote control is well labelled, but crammed with tiny buttons which can be a chore to navigate at times - especially when it's all new.

Recording is easy, though - DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM discs are immediately recognised and ready for recording. Four quality settings are on offer, accessed via a single button on the remote, providing one, two, four and six hours of recording time for a 4.7GB disc. Sadly, there's no threehour quality setting.

Performance

A fifth option, FR - standing for Flexible Recording - is available for timer recordings and automatically selects a level of video compression to suit the length of the program and available disc space. VideoPlus is supported for timer recording, including an 'extended' feature for making easy allowances for overruns and badly set clocks. Standard timer setting is very intuitive, too.

Playback quality of retail DVDs is first-rate, with a good clear picture and vibrant sound. It is, however, a Region-specific machine, which is sure to dissuade many movie buffs - or send them online looking for a hack. High quality 'XP' recording runs at a bit-rate of around 8Mbit/s and, as you'd expect, looks great.

The next step down is quite a leap for the compressor, crunching video to a mere 4Mbit/s, but this looks mightily impressive, too. In fact, we had to drop to the lowest 'EP' mode for off-air recording before we really started to notice compression artefacts in playback.

Of course, matters were helped by the fact that we were recording from Sky Digital - where all footage is processed to help get away with high compression - but we're impressed nonetheless. Recording from DV sources via Firewire was more of a challenge, but the deck again fared well, giving excellent performance at XP and SP quality levels and only just beginning to fall apart in Long Play mode - but even then you'd have to be a true perfectionist to take issue with it.

Sound was recorded in Dolby stereo at a datarate of 256kbit/s, and sounded absolutely fine. For DVD-RAM recordings, users can take advantage of a picture-in-picture feature, allowing simultaneous viewing of DVD playback and an incoming video signal, with either source set as background or overlay.

There's also a Timeslip mode, for viewing recordings in progress, but unlike some other RAM-based players, the Samsung offers timeslip viewing only in a picture-in-picture format, with the recorded image as the overlay and live recording as background. It works well, but it's nowhere near as comfortable a solution as being able to catch up with a recording fullscreen.

The DVD-R100E allows video titles to be renamed and locked to prevent re-recording, regardless of the type of disc on which it has been stored. Deletions, however, can only take place on rewritable media - DVD-RAM or DVD-RW - and while it makes sense not to offer a deletion tool for write-once discs, it can be useful just to remove all access to unwanted clips from the disc's table of contents, as is possible with some other recorders.

Chapter markers can't be edited for DVD-R and, once finalised, we find that discs have no menus of their own - all onscreen navigation is provided by the DVD-R100E itself. Instead, videos are simply played in sequence from start to finish. And, if chapter markers have been automatically added, it becomes even more difficult to tell where one movie ends and another begins.

More complex editing tools are provided for DVD-RAM recordings, but these discs aren't easily shared with friends and family, unless they also have a RAM-compatible player or recorder. Good options are provided for DVD-RW, but only when recording in VR mode, which again is incompatible with many set-top players. It's in this area that DVD-RW recorders fall behind their DVD RW counterparts, which often provide excellent tools for menu and title editing.

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