Pioneer DVR-57H TiVo DVR/DVD Recorder

Photos by Tony Cordoza Modern consumer electronics is so modular in design and construction that you could almost invent a new component category using the old Chinese-restaurant formula: choose one technology from column A and another from column B. Sometimes you'll end up with the electronic equivalent of an inedible mess, like a portable CD player with component-video outputs. But surprisingly often the result will be potentially useful, and on rare occasions you'll get something like Pioneer's Elite DVR-57H, a 120-gigabyte (GB) TiVo hard-disk recorder (HDR) combined with a DVD-R/RW recorder. It's positively delicious!


KEY FEATURES • 120-GB hard-disk recorder with TiVo Basic service; upgradable to TiVo Plus • Basic DVD-R/RW recorder • Plays DVD-Video, DVD-R/RW, CD, CD-R/RW, and MP3 formats • Progressive-scan output with Faroudja DCDi processing available for all signals

INPUTS/OUTPUTS two composite-video inputs and outputs; one S-video input, two outputs; one component video output (switchable between interlaced and progressive-scan); two stereo analog audio inputs and outputs; one optical digital audio output; antenna input and pass-through output; modem jack; USB port

DIMENSIONS 16 1/2 inches wide, 3 3/4 inches high, 15 3/8 inches deep

WEIGHT 22 pounds

PRICE $1,800 (non-Elite model with 80-GB hard drive, DVD-810H-S, $1,199); TiVo Plus, $12.95 a month or $299 for life of HDR

MANUFACTURER Pioneer Electronics USA, Dept. S&V, 2265 E. 220th St., Long Beach, CA 90810;; 800-421-1404

If you've used TiVo, you already know how its easy programmability can transform your TV viewing experience, gathering shows you really want to watch with little effort on your part. The addition of the DVD recorder makes that convenience permanent by letting you save shows that the TiVo would eventually have to erase as its hard-disk space gets used up.

The contributions here of the two systems are not equal - the recipe definitely leans towards TiVo. Once you've used the DVR-57H for a while, you'll find that it behaves like a TiVo recorder with a DVD recorder/player tacked on "for fun." The TiVo features have all appeared in previous products we've tested, and they operate the same way here - with the same fabulously easy-to-use graphical interface and the same audio and video quality. The DVD-57H comes with TiVo Basic service, which has only a three-day program guide and doesn't include some of the most convenient search and selection options. You'll almost certainly want to spring for TiVo Plus service, which is $12.95 a month, or $299 for the lifetime of the recorder.

In either case, you can record one program while watching another you previously recorded, you can pause live TV, and you can watch a program that's being recorded from any point earlier in the recording. TiVo's program guide is updated automatically via modem, so you need a phone connection. The Plus service covers two weeks and lets you select shows for recording by title, genre, actor, or keyword. And if you select a series, you can sign up for a Season Pass and have TiVo record all broadcasts or only first-run episodes.