Consumer electronics giant Sharp has made the foray into the DVD recorder market in a somewhat strange way. Rather than wrestling in the mud of the low-cost, low-feature market, its first model, the DV-HR300X, comes loaded with a 80GB hard disk drive.
Hard disk drive
I used the hard disk drive to capture a number of videos and then transferred them to DVD-R after editing. You can choose frame accurate editing, but the trade-off is the ability to perform high speed dubs. During recording, the aspect ratio of the input signal was preserved for proper operation on all screen types.
On the hard disk you can set the menu thumbnail picture, but this is lost if transferred to DVD-R and a new one cannot be assigned, so you’re stuck with the first frame. Likewise with chapter breaks. DVD-R finalisation was fairly quick and consistent at less than two minutes.
A stand-out feature of this unit is the abandonment of the usual LED display panel. Instead, it offers an attractive (although small) LCD panel, which glows a pearly white when the unit is on, showing basic time information. A few LED dots show other aspects of operation (such as whether the hard disk or the DVD is selected and whether recording is in progress).
For the SCART inputs and outputs there?s a choice between Y/C and ‘COMP’ (plus ‘RGB’ for the output). But neither ‘Y/C’ (which is S-Video) nor ‘COMP’ (which could be read as either composite or component video, although actually the former) is explained, even in the manual.
The Sharp?s digital audio output also needs a bit of ironing out. You can set it to convert all digital audio to PCM (except DTS, which remains on anyway) or output all as a bit stream. First, letting DTS through regardless is dangerous. To a PCM decoder DTS looks just like PCM (i.e. CD-type audio) and will be converted into a searing blast of white noise, potentially damaging you speakers. No one has a decoder that can do DTS but not Dolby Digital, so the reasoning is confusing here.
Second, if you want Dolby Digital to reach your receiver, there?s another problem. Any MPEG audio will also be sent as a bit stream, but very few home theatre receivers have MPEG decoders. Normally this doesn’t matter because few commercial DVDs use MPEG audio. But this recorder uses MPEG audio for its own recordings, so what’s normally a minor irritation becomes a substantial inconvenience if you want to use this recorder to playback commercial DVDs as well.
The remote control is comprehensive, with explicitly allocated stop and pause keys for recording, but it?s hampered by a silly door on the bottom, which hides a number of useful keys. I found it had to be pointed with reasonable care to work reliably.
While there are a couple of minor problems, these are largely out weighted by the DV-HR-300X?s merits. Ultimately, it?s a solidly performing hard disk-equipped DVD recorder from a major manufacturer, and it comes at a reasonable price.