At a Glance
The $450 Samsung DVD-TR520 is the first DVD recorder we've seen that has two DVD drives, allowing you to copy video from one disc to another. It can record to DVD-R, DVD-RW, and DVD-RAM discs, including double-sided DVD-RAM discs that come in protective cartridges--an especially useful type for storing precious home movies.
The DVD drive on the left side of the unit is a rewritable drive; the drive on the right side is read-only. While this approach keeps the cost of the recorder down, it leads to an annoying usability problem: If you've just recorded a TV show and want to make a copy of it, you have to eject the newly recorded disc from the recorder drive, put it into the read-only drive, and insert a blank disc into the recorder drive before proceeding.
Having a dual-deck unit doesn't mean that you can copy any discs without limitation. The manual details what you can and can't do. For instance, you can't copy a full DVD-RAM disc to a DVD-R disc, since DVD-R media can't hold as much data as DVD-RAM discs can. You also have to be careful to convert discs to compatible formats. The recorder won't copy double-layer discs, and of course it won't duplicate copy protected discs.
But you can record on one deck while simultaneously playing back another video on the other. Another nice touch is the Flexible Recording mode, in which the unit picks the highest recording quality that will allow the content you're recording to fit in the space left on the disc. As on the DVD-TR520's sibling, the DVD-VR325, the process of copying (in this case, from one disc to the other) is seamless; you initiate it either via the on-screen menu or with the direct copy button on the well-designed remote. You do have to schedule recordings manually, and there's no support for VCR Plus+ codes or any sort of program grid. There's no way to schedule a repeat recording, either.
The remote on this unit has the same advantages as the one supplied with Samsung's DVD-VR325: The remote itself feels comfortable, and the thumb falls naturally over the buttons used to navigate the menu and make selections. But this remote also has the same Anykey button for accessing different features depending on what the player is doing at the time. Unless you've read the manual, you may not realize that this key--and not the neighboring Menu button--is the way to reach certain features. We wish that Samsung had come up with a more intuitive solution.
On-disc editing is easy. With DVD-RW or -RAM discs, you can chop and change recorded video, joining or splitting chapters with aplomb. Removing sections of video is a straightforward process: You simply mark the start and the end of the section to be removed, and it's gone.
The dual DVD decks on the DVD-TR520 add a new level of versatility, and (with some limitations) it makes copying video from DVD to DVD easy.