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Do I still need a VCR?

VCRs, DVD And DVR Players

Jeff Colen (President, A Sharper Home, Inc.) gives expert video advice on: Do I still need a VCR?; What types of DVD players are available?; Will Blu-ray and HD DVD players work with my current set-up? and more...

Do I still need a VCR?

A lot of folks like to use VCRs to record programmes and archive them. The challenge with a VCR is that a VCR recording with the latest high definition, high resolution contact system won't work. So, the VCR is fading out and is being replaced by recordable DVDs which you'll see more and more of in the coming year.

What types of DVD players are available?

There are three types of DVD players on the market. There is a standard, or progressive scan, DVD player, which plays very nice pictures back to you. There are two new, higher-definition competing formats out there on the market: Blu-ray and HD DVD. If you're looking for a DVD player, you're going to look at the price. You're going to look at its capabilities: does it have the ability to play regular DVDs? does it have the ability to play high-def DVDs? does it have the ability to play Blu-ray DVDs? You'll have to make your decision based on that.

What is the difference between "Blu-ray DVD" and "HD DVD"?

The difference between HD DVD and Blu-ray is that Blu-ray has the ability to store more information on a disc. It also provides a higher definition picture than the HD DVD. On the flip side, the HD DVD is less expensive, both for the DVD itself as well as the player. In my opinion, in the format war between what's better, HD DVD or Blu-ray, there is no clear choice at this time. We're waiting for the joint players to come out that will play both formats, and they should be out later this year. I like HD DVD a little bit better, just because I think it's going to win because of price.

Will Blu-ray and HD DVD players work with my current set-up?

Blu-ray and HD DVD players probably will work with your current setup. Once again if you want to hear surround sound and you have a stereo that's a little bit older and you have two speakers then you may not get the full advantage of enjoying the functions of blu-ray and HD DVD players, and also if you do not have a TV or other projection device that supports high-definition and you try to play a HD DVD or a Blu-ray DVD it won't work.

What is a "multi-region DVD player" and do I need one?

Multi-regional DVD players allow you to play DVDs from other countries. Other countries have different recording standards, in terms of lines of resolution on the TV. The biggest one is NTSC versus something called PAL. Multi-region DVD players allow you to play both types. If you like to watch movies from a different country - Europe or the Far East - you probably need to get a multi-region DVD player in order to enjoy those movies.

What is a "DVR" or digital video recorder?

A DVR is a digital video recorder, otherwise known as a Tivo. In the same way that 'Xerox' is used by a lot of folks to refer to a generic copy machine, DVR is known as or referred to as a Tivo by a lot of people. What it allows you to do is to record your programmes directly to a computer disc and play them back later on. Some of the advantages of that, obviously, are that you get to watch your TV programmes when you want to see them, you can record series as opposed to just one show (like you have on your VCR), and you can also time shift. You can fast forward through commercials. There are other advantages to using a DVR.

What is a "combo unit" and should I get one?

A combo unit is a combination of a VCR and a DVD player, and now more and more frequently we see a recordable DVD player with a regular DVD player. The single biggest advantage of a combo unit is the ability to copy content. If you have a favorite DVD - your Aunt Millie's wedding, for example - and you want to burn that into a more permanent format, you can go ahead and take that old VHS tape, play it on one side and store it on a DVD. Conversely, a lot of the DVD units out there, you drop a DVD in, you can record it to VHS tape.