The Go-Video DVR4000 proudly talks out of both sides of its mouth. Although not an admirable trait in everyday life, it works for this combination DVD/VCR deck.
Take a look at that faceplate. Like a monument to technology of today and yesterday, a trim-line DVD drawer sits alongside the gaping mouth of a four-head videocassette recorder. Historically, such combination units -- and that includes the TV/VCR -- have been plagued by lackluster quality and a higher breakdown rate than, say, a stand-alone DVD player or VCR. Something has to suffer when two machines are crammed into the space of one.
But for many consumers, convenience and saving space override any doubts about combo units. Then there's the powerful attraction of having to set up one machine instead of two and read only one mind-numbing manual.
The $349 DVR4000, at 4 inches high, is slightly bigger than a standard DVD player. But, it'll take up about half the space of two standard-size components on a shelf. It's easy to set up using the on-screen menu. Then the DVD-VCR tandem permits such viewing luxuries as watching one of the new "Godfather" discs, while taping "The Sopranos."
So what's not to like? Well, what appears to be the greatest luxury -- a "Copy" button on the front panel for copying a DVD to a VHS tape -- is an illusion. The function works, but only with DVDs not encrypted for copyright protection. That excludes virtually every DVD movie in the world except maybe porn. So much for making copies of "Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" and its deleted scenes for all your friends. If you try copying an encrypted disc, the readout instantly flashes "End." As in, end of taping.
The VCR has several convenience features, but Sensory Science, which owns Go-Video, stripped the DVR4000 of the most desirable, VCR Plus+, when it revamped its predecessor, the DVR5000. Why? Instead of one-touch recording, the user must now follow a 10-step procedure for a single timer recording.
If this decision was designed to reduce costs -- the DVR4000 retails for $50 less than the DVR5000 -- then Sensory Science seriously misjudged the marketplace. A convenience product needs convenience features.
The big attraction now on the VCR side is a fast-forward feature that jumps ahead in one-minute increments, just enough to blow through a series of advertisements. The VCR deck also can be programmed to automatically play a tape upon insertion and automatically rewind it at the end. At least you won't have to worry about setting the clock -- it can detect the time automatically.
With VCRs, four heads are better than two. With those extra heads, the DVR4000 has cleaner slow-motion and freeze-frame capability. But none of this makes up for the glaring omission of VCR Plus+.
The DVD deck, meanwhile, doesn't play CD-R or CD-RW discs, but it is a good fit for owners with an old television that might have only RF jacks, the type often used for cable connections, on the back. These jacks are common on VCR decks, but not on DVD players.
As individual components, the DVR4000 is neither an exceptional DVD player nor an exceptional VCR deck.
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