capsule review

Sony RDR-VX515

At a Glance
  • Sony RDR-VX515 DVD Recorder/VCR (Progressive Scan)

    PCWorld Rating

Sony RDR-VX515
Photograph: Rick Rizner

Sony's RDR-VX515 is a combination DVD and VHS unit that packs some cutting-edge components: It's one of just two recorders we tested for or January 2006 roundup (the other being the Pioneer DVR-633HS) to support dual-layer discs, which increase the maximum amount of video you can store on an 8.5GB disc to as much as 12 hours at lowest image quality or 2 hours at highest image quality--nearly double the usual capacity. And while the Pioneer supports dual-layer DVD-R, only the Sony also supports double-layer DVD+R media).

You don't have to pay close attention to which write-once media you buy at the store. In single-layer mode, the RDR-VX515 can record to both DVD-R and DVD+R discs--a rarity among DVD recorders. It also supports rewritable discs in both - and + formats, as either DVD-Video (for playing back in set-top DVD players) or DVD-VR type discs (which you can edit and reuse on compatible players without having to finalize the discs).

Dubbing content between the DVD and the VHS decks is very easy: Two buttons on the front of the unit permit copying in either direction with a single click. The usual copy-protected media restrictions apply: If you attempt to duplicate a copy-protected disc, the unit either will refuse to copy it or will produce a garbled, unviewable copy.

When going from DVD to VHS, you can copy the entire disc or just selected chapters--a nice touch if you want to create a highlights tape of a family movie, for instance, and give it to someone who lacks a DVD player.

Editing video recorded to a DVD-RW disc is relatively straightforward: You can delete sections of chapters by selecting beginning and end points (Sony calls this A-B erase; other manufacturers refer to it as A-B editing); this feature is great for removing ads from a recorded program. The same editing tools allow you to create chapters within a title and to generate a playlist that covers only certain parts of the disc, without deleting the bits you don't want to play.

Though the remote control fits comfortably in a hand and the keys are of different sizes and colors, making them easy to find, other controls lurk beneath a flimsy sliding panel on the bottom of the remote. And you might use some of the hidden buttons more often than you do some of those that aren't covered: The record button sits under the panel, for instance, while the button to change surround sound modes is in plain sight.

The RDR-VX515 lacks support for VCR Plus+ codes or any other scheme for automatically scheduling recordings. You have to manually enter recording details, including those for each instance of a program you wish to record regularly. The recorder does support a system called Synchro-Rec, where the recorder will start recording whenever it detects a video signal, but this arrangement depends on having a video source (such as a cable box or satellite receiver) that can turn itself on or off at a preset time--and most can't. The recorder doesn't let you control a separate cable box or satellite receiver, either.

The RDR-VX515 has a good range of useful features for the price, but its awkward remote and its inability to support regularly scheduled recording are big drawbacks.

Melissa Perenson

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At a Glance
  • Sony RDR-VX515 DVD Recorder/VCR (Progressive Scan)

    PCWorld Rating
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