Price (RRP): $1,499
When Sony’s RDR GX7 DVD recorder first came out, it was ground-breaking stuff because it straddled the recordable format camps. Although it provided support for the ‘official’ DVD-R and DVD-RW formats, it could also write to DVD+RW discs.
Nevertheless, DVD+ enthusiasts were disappointed by Sony’s failure to fully exploit the capabilities of the ‘+’ format. First, instead of the +VR video recording format normally employed on these discs the GX7 wrote DVD+RW discs only in the standard, uneditable, ‘Video’ format. Secondly, it didn’t support the write-once DVD+R format. Sony says that support for DVD+R will come in future models when support is provided on the blank discs for ‘CPRM’, a copyright protection mechanism that responds to broadcast control codes.
For those keen on editing, though, there remains full support for the DVD-RW VR format (even though these rarely work in regular players).
Happily, the GX7 offers connections for virtually every component you may want to connect. Most importantly, it carries a DV/i.LINK input on the front panel to accept digital video camera dubs, and provides a good set of controls and synchronisation functions. As well as the regular analog composite and S-Video inputs, one of the SCART sockets on the back accepts RGB signals from digital TV receivers. Output, likewise, is good with composite, S-Video and RGB via SCART, or even component video.
During testing, the basic performance was strong, with high quality recording managed very nicely with the RGB inputs. The GX7 offers six recording time/quality tradeoffs from one hour up to six. The former encodes the video at over 9Mbps while the latter manages just 1.5Mbps and reduces the picture resolution to 352 by 288 pixels, although subjectively it is about par with a VCR recording. The three and four hour versions also reduce resolution to 352 by 576 pixels.
For DVD-R and DVD-RW you can specify an output aspect ratio of 16:9 in the top three quality settings. The 1.5 hour HSP is an especially useful length for 90 minute movies, although the addition of a 2.5 hour mode would be useful as well. The audio, regardless of the quality setting, is laid down in Dolby Digital 2.0 format at 256kbps.
The final DVDs produced in video mode look reasonably professional, but there are no picture menus, just a list of text titles. The dreadfully organised text entry screen is mitigated by an enormous capacity, with titles up to 64 characters possible (although only 32 would display on the main menu).
Operating the RDR GX7 is quite slow to fire up for recording onto DVD-R. To time things right it?s necessary to prepare it with the Rec/Pause key. And when you press the ‘Stop Rec’ key, there’s no indication that anything has happened other than the recording-time display stopping its count, and the loss of response to any key presses for the following 30-odd seconds.
Niggles aside, the RDR GX7 is a solid performer and those prepared to learn the unit’s idiosyncrasies will be well pleased.