This year Pioneer became the second DVD recorder maker to release in Australia a hard-disk equipped recorder. Their descendents, the new Pioneer DVR-520 / 720H recorders share the same basics as the 320H; the difference is the addition of a hard disk of 80GB (520H) or 160GB (720H).
In this review it?s worth focusing more on the hard disk features, since the prime advantage of this is to allow you to edit your recordings before committing them to a DVD, as well as the sheer volume of what you can record ? up to a massive 204 hours in the case of the 720H.
Consider the simple case of recording something from commercial TV. Before dumping it onto a DVD-R it would be nice to remove the advertisements. With this recorder you can go through the material you have recorded on the hard disk and edit the original file, or create a ?Copy List? which allows you to do the same editing, but without altering the original recording. This makes it very forgiving of mistakes.
But before you start editing – using either method – you have to make a decision: do you want to be able to edit down to the precise frame in a video, or will within half-a-second be good enough? This is something you specify in the set-up menu.
The former speaks for itself in terms of getting the exact cuts you want. But it has a drawback: in this mode you cannot do a high speed copy from the hard disk to a DVD. Conversely, at their highest speed, these units allow up to 48x copying directly from the HDD to DVD-R/-RW discs to archive material without the need for decoding or re-encoding. This ensures that no image or audio data is lost, maintaining the exact quality level as recorded originally.
The Advanced Disc Navigator allows you to select a thumbnail image and see the corresponding title play in that thumbnail frame, with audio, allowing you to quickly recognise recorded programs. Using the Disc History function, users can easily find out which disc has sufficient capciticy (or content that may be overwritten) without the need to actually load and check the discs in their libraries.
Disc finalisation itself was very fast, taking just 90 seconds including menu creation.
There are lots more goodies with these recorders, including a highly configurable recording time. As mentioned at the top of this overview, read the Pioneer DVR-320H review (opposite) for more information on these two models.