Affordable DVD recorders are no longer the reserve of obscure, supermarket-only brands. Samsung's latest, the DVD-R100E, is a case in point - it offers the Korean giant's home cinema expertise for as little as £160 (from online retailers).
The most obvious indication of the DVD-R100E 's entry-level status - aside from its unremarkable design- is that there's no built-in hard disk, meaning no huge storage capacity or advanced editing functions. Still, this is hardly unsurprising at the price, and when it comes to disc formats this deck does offer considerable flexibility. It handles rewriteable DVD-RAM discs, for flexible recording and editing functions, DVD-RW (also rewriteable ) for editing and compatibility in other players, and writeonce DVD-Rs, for access to cheaper blank discs and even broader compatibility.
Connections are par for the course at this price. Sadly this means no component video sockets for sending progressive scan images to your flatscreen. Still, there's an RGB Scart output, for good-quality DVD signals, and an RGB input for recording from a set-top box at equally high quality. You can also export DV camcorder footage directly to DVD via the front-mounted i.Link port.
Lost for words
Usability doesn't quite garner top marks. While the on-screen menus are reasonably attractive and simple, the strange wording of some screen messages is a little frustrating, and the deck also failed to tune TV channels in the right order. And the remote manages to be big and cramped at the same time!
There are four recording modes, providing varying quality and a disc capacity of 1-6hrs. The main advantage of DVD-RAM is that you can play programmes from a disc while still recording - a feature called Time Slip here. Both DVD-RAM and DVD-RW discs also offer editing functions. You can create a playlist to show specified parts of a recording, move scenes around and change edits - although navigation was quite unresponsive.
Timer recordings can be set manually or made easy via VideoPlus , and there's an auto fit (FR) option that can alter the recording mode to cram recordings on a disc (although, of course, the quality is affected).
The DVD-R100E shows why it's a budget model when it comes to performance. Our Desperate Housewives recording looked okay in the top XP mode, but this provides no more than 60 minutes of space on a disc - room for just one episode of our favourite over-the-top drama. With SP mode (2hrs), recordings started to look a little soft, while the jump to LP (4hrs) is a big one - the housewives' antics looked even softer and suffered drastic loss of detail. EP (6hrs) mode is virtually unwatchable - there was no definition in the image, outlines were ropey and movement caused digital breakup.
Spinning a pre-recorded DVD didn't do much to improve matters. The dazzling visuals of our Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind test disc looked sadly muted, with fuzzy outlines, while Jim Carrey was even more washed out and pasty than the director intended! The film's audio was adequately presented via the coaxial output, but it's an uninspiring performance.
While we don't expect any entry-level product to be perfect, the DVD-R100E's performance problems can't be overlooked. However, there are other budget DVD recorders that offer much more bang for your buck.