JVC Portable High-Def Video Player/Recorder

Let's get one thing out of the way right up front: JVC's CU-VH1 is a niche product aimed at professionals and hard-core video enthusiasts who live and breathe state-of-the-art technology - in this case, high-definition video recording. It also happens to be the world's first portable video player/recorder to support the new high-definition video (HDV) camcorder format developed by Canon, JVC, Sharp, and Sony. And what's more, it's a MiniDV deck that uses regular DV tape for both standard- and high-def recording and playback.

As you've probably guessed by now, the $2,000 recorder is intended for use with a high-def camcorder. While HD cams from Sony and other manufacturers are reportedly on the way, JVC is still leading the pack with two models: the $3,500 GR-HD1 (click to read the July/August 2003 review) and the newer, pro-oriented JY-HD10, which costs $500 more.

Fast Facts
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 8 3/8 x 2 1/8 x 6 1/8 inches (with LCD viewscreen closed) WEIGHT 2 5/8 pounds with battery, cassette, and SD card PRICE $2,000 MANUFACTURER JVC, www.jvc.com, 800-252-5722
Key Features
• Portable high-definition videotape player/recorder • Uses standard MiniDV cassettes • 3 3/8-inch color LCD monitor and mono speaker • Accepts SD or MultiMediaCard for showing slides, storing still images from video, and navigating tape via saved thumbnails • inputs/outputs four-pin i.Link (FireWire) input/output; composite/S-video input/ output with stereo audio; component-video output via BNC connectors (RCA-to-BNC adapters supplied); microphone input; headphone output; USB output

At first glance, you might mistake the CU-VH1 for a portable DVD player. It's very compact and runs on AC or battery power, so you can take it just about anywhere. For example, you could use it as an extra monitor at a family event you're recording or for playing back your home movies on a big-screen HDTV, or to transfer footage to a computer without tying up the camcorder. The deck has a fold-down 4:3 LCD screen measuring only 3 3/8 inches diagonally - similar to the viewscreen on the GR-HD1 camcorder itself. The display contains 240,000 pixels, which is a far cry from high-definition, so you'll need to connect the player to an HDTV to watch your tape in high-def.

The CU-VH1 doesn't include a hard drive to offload video from tape, nor does it enable you to do any editing. For that you'll need to transfer your footage to a computer using the i.Link port (a.k.a. FireWire or IEEE 1394). You can save stills to a flash-memory card, though - the CU-VH1 accepts the SD and MultiMediaCard (MMC) formats - and transfer them to a computer via the USB port.