Shopping Made Simple: DVD Recorders Page 2

ABCs of Recordable DVDs The five recordable formats fall into three families: DVD-R and DVD-RW, DVD+R and DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM. As with CD-R and CD-RW, "R" stands for recordable (but unerasable) and "RW" for rewritable (erasable). DVD-R and DVD+R discs, the least expensive kind of recordable DVD, will play on most new DVD players and computer DVD-ROM drives. The +R and +RW formats are compatible with one another, as are the -R and -RW formats. Recorders that can record on +RW discs, for example, can also record on +R discs. And players that can read -R and +R discs can probably also read the corresponding -RW and +RW rewritable formats. Many newer players can handle all disc types except DVD-RAM.

Like the RW formats, DVD-RAM is erasable and rewritable. All DVD-RAM decks can record on DVD-R discs, and models from Hitachi, JVC, and Toshiba can also record on DVD-RW. A few decks can record on both DVD-R/RW and +R/ RW, but no machine yet records on all five formats.

You can record DVD-RW discs in either VR (Video Recording) or Video mode. The VR mode allows for flexible editing - removing commercials, for instance - but discs recorded in the Video mode are more widely compatible with older DVD players.

Of the erasable formats, DVD-RW discs made in Video mode and DVD+RW discs will play in the widest range of DVD players and computer drives, so they'll probably play on any machine you try. Most new DVD players will play DVD-RW discs done in VR format, but DVD-RAM discs are compatible with only a few DVD players (mostly ones from Panasonic) and computers with DVD-RAM drives.

Playing Nice Together The issue of playback compatibility tends to get overblown. After all, the owner'smanual for every DVD recorder warns that no type of disc, unerasable or rewritable, is guaranteed to play on every machine. So if you want to make sure the disc of your home videos will work on grandma's player, you - or she - will just have to try it.

If your computer has a recordable DVD drive, you might want to use the same type of discs in a DVD recorder. While this narrows your choices, many recent computer drives - especially external ones - record on -R/RW and +R/RW discs, which will considerably widen the number of recorders you can consider.

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