At a Glance
Samsung's sleek, black DVD-VR325 pairs a DVD recorder with a VHS videotape recorder, a winning combination that makes copying old videotapes (if they aren't copy-protected) a breeze. Another noteworthy attribute: The $400 DVD-VR325 has HDMI output to support an all-digital video and audio connection--in a single cable--to an HDTV. (HDMI remains a rarity on DVD recorders.)
We liked the image quality of the recorded video: Recorded from a high-quality video source in best quality mode, video looked smooth, with sharp detail and bright, accurate colors. Contrast was good, too, with plenty of shadow detail and deep blacks. Our only quibble involved the slightly greenish cast of some deep colors (such as the jet black in some clothing); this effect was very minor, however, standing out only when we watched video simultaneously on side-by-side units.
The DVD-VR325's HDMI output improved the quality of video playback on an HDTV: Images were sharper and movement looked smoother than on video piped through the analog component connection. The DVD-VR325 can also up-convert standard-definition video to 720p or 1080i--an advantage if you want to get the best-quality playback of analog NTSC video on an HDTV.
When connecting the DVD-VR325 to the HDTV, we occasionally got an error message about a problem with the connection. We cleared up this issue, however, by turning both the recorder and the HDTV off and then on again--and once you've connected the two, you're unlikely to plug and unplug the cables often. A nice bonus: The unit comes with an HDMI cable.
We had no trouble using the on-screen menu to sync and copy video between the DVD and the VHS tape player; but unlike the Sony RDR-VX515, the unit has no hardware buttons for this. The unit's well-laid-out remote includes buttons for dubbing in both directions. The DVD-VR325 lacks an electronic program guide, such as TV Guide On Screen, so your options for scheduling recordings are much like those on a typical VCR: You have to enter your recording information manually.
We generally liked the natural feel of the remote. Unfortunately, one of the main keys on the remote pulls multiple duty in a way that's confusing. The so-called Anykey can access a number of different features, depending on what the player happens to be doing at the time, but it isn't always obvious that this key is the way to reach such options as the subtitle language or the repeat play mode. Further confusing matters: A key labeled Menu sits next to the Anykey. If you don't consult the manual, you may assume incorrectly that the Menu key accesses all of the recorder's functions.
The unit records to DVD-R/RW and to DVD-RAM discs. On a double-sided DVD-RAM disc, it can record up to 16 hours of video at the lowest quality setting (though you'll have to flip the disc over halfway through); and on a less expensive DVD-R or RW disc, it can accommodate up to 8 hours of video. The DVD-VR325 also supports -RAM discs housed in a cartridge--a good way to keep the discs free of scratches and fingerprints.
On-disc editing is easy: Using DVD-RW or -RAM discs, you can chop and change recorded video, joining or splitting chapters. Removing sections of video is straightforward, too: You simply mark the start and end of the section to be removed, click a button, and it's gone. This process yielded smooth video results on DVD-RW; but when we did this using our DVD-RAM disc, the video paused for a fraction of a second at the point of edit.
At $400, the DVD-VR325 costs a little more than most other recorders in our January 2006 roundup. But the model's built-in VCR, HDMI output, and up-conversion capability--along with the high quality of its recordings--make it a strong choice for prospective buyers who own an HDTV setup.
This high-end DVD and VCR combo device offers HDMI output and up-scaling, making it a good addition to an HDTV setup.