Pioneer DVR-810H DVR/DVD Recorder

Turning DVDs with Pioneer's DVR-810H is so simple my dog could do it (true, he is a German shepherd). That's because the deck is also a TiVo hard-disk recorder, and it restricts any DVD burning to dubbing what's already on the hard drive. In other words, it doesn't give you the flexibility of a standalone DVD recorder, but it's ridiculously easy to use.

Fast Facts
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 16 3/4 x 4 1/8 x 14 inches PRICE $1,199; TiVo Plus service, $12.99 a month or $299 for life of recorder; TiVo Home Media Option, $99 MANUFACTURER Pioneer Electronics USA, www.pioneerelectronics.com, 800-746-6337
Key Features
• TiVo Series2 80-GB hard-disk recorder with TiVo Basic program guide service and VCR Plus+ • Integrated DVD-R/RW recorder can dub from hard disk • Progressive-scan video output (all modes) via Faroudja DCDi chip • DVD player with full Dolby Digital/DTS decoding • Home Media Option gives access to music and photos on PCs or Macs, allows sharing of programs with another TiVo recorder • inputs/outputs 2 composite-video with stereo audio inputs; switchable interlaced/progressive-scan component-video and 2 composite/S-video outputs, all with stereo audio; optical digital audio output; USB networking port

The DVR-810H neatly melds a progressive-scan DVD player, TiVo Series2 hard-disk recorder, and a DVD-R/RW recorder in one component the size of a conventional DVD player. TiVo, as you may already know, buffers video, in digital MPEG-2 form, to the internal hard disk, so you're always watching "from behind" even with a live program. That's why you can pause the show or skip and fast-search through it. You can record a program by keying the record button or by pointing and clicking on a listing in the onscreen guide, which TiVo updates nightly via an Internet connection (either dial-up or broadband). You can also find programs and schedule them for recording by title, genre, actors, and more. TiVo's Season Pass feature can even record an entire schedule of a regular show, with or without repeats, as you direct.

Setting up the DVR-810H was easy. You follow an intuitive setup routine and, after an initial data download, it boots up fully operational with TiVo's Basic functions activated. The usual pause, slo-mo, and fast-scan operations all worked, and I could record by simply pointing and clicking. But the onscreen guide stretched only three days forward. If you want more sophisticated program-search options, a guide that covers a full two weeks, Season Pass recording of a series, and considerably more, you'll have to upgrade to TiVo Plus service and pay $12.99 a month (or $299 for the life of the recorder).

There's also the $99 Home Media Option, which enables multiple TiVos on the same network to share programs and access music and photos from networked PCs or Macs. It also puts an online program scheduler at your disposal so you can set your TiVo to record from any computer.

The DVR-810H will seem an old friend to TiVo owners, with the same familiar, Mr. Peanut-shaped remote control, the same easy-to-navigate menu structure, and the same automated recording of programs the recorder "thinks" you may want to watch. I won't go into these in any further detail (tivo.com has good explanations of them), but I must point out two foibles of the Pioneer as a TiVo recorder.

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