Meet a 'VCR on steroids'

, posted: 11-Apr-2003 21:26

What do you get when you marry a DVD player to a 40GB hard disk? You get the DTH 7000E Digital Media Recorder from Thomson of France, a VCR on steroids.

The device plays audio and video DVDs, VCDs, audio CDs/CD-Rs/RWs, plus mp3 music and jpeg pictures, and records TV to its hard disk.

Recording video digitally and playing it back is what the DTH 7000E does best. The fast hard disk means rewinding, fast-forwarding and skipping between programmes is instant, unlike tape VCRs.

This, and the simultaneous recording and playback ability, means you will never want to go back to a standard VCR.

In low-quality mode, up to 36 hours can be recorded to the DTH 7000E; this goes down to 20 and 10 hours in normal and high-quality recording modes. There is a noticeable difference in picture quality between the modes, but even the lowest setting is quite acceptable.

Recorded programmes can be renamed, and the DTH 7000E displays a small preview of the ones stored on the hard disk. Selecting programmes for recording is easy with the on-screen "NaviClick" channel listings. But this feature works only with channels that send teletext signals and delivers no more than two days of listings.

Viewing of live TV is enhanced with the DTH 7000E - the device buffers up to 45 minutes of the programme you're watching, so you can "pause" it, and then return to where you were. You can also repeat scenes, and zoom in on the picture with up to four times magnification.

Thanks to an abundance of connectors, the DTH 7000E should fit into most home entertainment systems. It accommodates TV sets, satellite receivers, camcorders, AV amplifiers and even VCRs, but oddly enough, not a network connection.

If your TV/amplifier comes with it, the DTH 7000E supports Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS multichannel sound. It can also mimic both these through the SRS TruSurround feature, on sets with only two channels.

A front panel flip-down lid hides a headphone socket and another set of AV connectors for camcorders. There's also a USB 1.1 jack for connecting memory card readers.

Unfortunately, the DTH 7000E doesn't recognise any other USB devices, such as MP3 players and digital cameras, nor does it support the faster USB 2.0 standard.

Setting up the DTH 7000E isn't hard, once you master the multi-function Philippe Starck/Olivet-designed remote. The DTH 7000E is aimed at the European market and is thus able to identify a dizzying array of TV channels. No New Zealand stations are listed, but you can use the generic TV1, TV2 and similar labels for the local channels.

The "Audio Jukebox" feature of the DTH 7000E lets you copy MP3 music to the hard disk for playback, but ripping CD audio tracks isn't possible, which is a miss. Pictures in jpeg format can also be stored, but DTH 7000E displays these very slowly.

The most glaring shortcoming of the DTH 7000E is that it can't record to removable media such as DVD-R or CD-R. This means you can't share copies of your funniest home videos, or create a programme library outside the hard disk.

While superior to a standard tape VCR, Thomson needs to up the feature ante for the DTH 7000E to deserve the Digital Media Recorder moniker and justify the high price.

How it rates

Thomson Scenium DTH 7000E Digital Media Recorder

* $1700

* Pros: Easy to use, records up to 36 hours, pause, rewind and record live TV for up to 45 minutes.

* Cons: High price, cannot record to removable media, no network support, single zone DVD player.

* Rating: 6.5/10

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