It's probably the best in its class, but some sacrifices have to be made to achieve the low price
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Samsung's DVD-R100E is a multiformat recorder contender. It utilises the DVD-R/-RW format, alongside the edit-friendly DVD-RAM, and as such adds up to a pretty different prospect all around.
This is another machine that is clearly proud of its AV-kit heritage. It's a very standard oblong block with sharp edges and a brushed-metal fascia. In aesthetic terms, it's so similar to the preconception of a DVD deck that it's not really worth dwelling on for long...
Annoyingly, the DVD-R100E has no component outputs and so cannot offer progressive scan playback with suitable displays. But you get two (one input, one output) RGB-enabled Scart sockets, composite/S-video outputs, two stereo audio outs and both optical and coaxial digital audio connections. There are also two sets of composite/S-video and stereo audio inputs (one of which is on the front panel) and an i.Link port for hooking up to a camcorder.
As the DVD-R100E is a DVD-RAM and -R/-RW machine, there are a few operational differences to the other recorders tested. To begin with, -RAM and un finalised -RW discs are very unlikely to play on a different machine (unlike RW discs, which tend to cause few such troubles). On a more positive note though, the DVD-RAM discs act much like a hard drive, allowing you to edit, record and delete in a non-linear way; removing and replacing clips whenever and wherever you like. Some DVD-RAM discs are also double-sided, so you can fit up to 9.4GB of information (which equates to a maximum 12hrs of video with this machine) on each.
One feature that's sadly missing on the rival machines tested is Time Slip, which is common to the DVD-RAM format. Although it doesn't quite work like the similar functions of hard-disk based recorders, it does allow you to view a programme you're actually recording. You can also rewind it to check earlier footage while it's still recording.
There are some trade-offs, though. For instance, there are only four preset recording modes - XP (1hr), SP (2hrs), LP (4hrs) and EP (6hrs). An extra mode, FR (Free Recording), will however choose the optimum bitrate for the length of a timed recording.
Recorded images are very acceptable, particularly at the higher rates. Even on EP, there's nothing outstandingly wrong with the images. They can swim in artefacts, though - making them comparable to VHS.
It also copes well with movie playback. Colours seem slightly muted, and detail doesn't shine as it does with some of the competition. But to be fair, it'd be hard to get much better at this price level.
Audio too, is functional rather than spectacular. It performs well on all types of disc and there are no glitches or errors on recorded footage. One highlight is MP3 playback, which is surprisingly good, making this a good choice for those with large collections of compressed music on their PC.
In the battle of the big-brands, the DVD-R100E just shades it over its rivals - mainly because of the improved editing functionality that DVD-RAM brings. But it too is marred by the lack of component outputs and progressive scan support! A final note of warning - it won't play DVD R/ RW platters.
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