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Lite-On LVW-5045 DVD Recorder
At $290, the Lite-On LVW-5045 is the least expensive of the DVD and hard drive recorders we looked at for our January 2006 roundup, despite including both a DVD and a VHS deck. But there is a trade-off: Many features that make the more-expensive hard-drive models interesting are missing from this product.
The PC World Test Center found the LVW-5045 the slowest of any recorder at recognizing a newly inserted blank DVD-R disc, taking 55 seconds to scan the disc and get ready it for recording (compared to 21 seconds for the Pioneer DVR-633H-S, which was the fastest at this task). Though not a major problem, this could be annoying if you realize that a show you want to record is about to start but you have to wait for the recorder to recognize the disc. (The delay didn't occur when recording to hard drive, however; so if you're in a hurry, you can record to hard drive and then transfer to DVD.)
The hard-drive-to-DVD transfer process was quite slow. Most of the other units we tested took around 6 minutes to transfer a 1-hour program from hard drive to DVD; the LVW-5045 needed 18 minutes.
Image quality was a little disappointing, too. In my tests, video looked washed out, as though the contrast had been tuned down, producing muddy blacks and pallid colors. The video looked soft, with fine details lost in the blurry edges, and it was noticeably noisy, particularly in areas of flat color.
Scheduling a program recording session is more difficult with the Lite-On than with the other hard-drive models. The LVW-5045 is the only hard drive recorder that comes without a program guide, so you can't browse or search for a program title. The model does support VCR Plus+ codes, however (there's even a dedicated button on the remote that takes you straight to the screen for entering the codes).
The Easy Guider--a wizard-based system for setting up manual recordings--helps streamline the process in a way that other manual recording interfaces don't. The Easy Guider walks you step-by-step through the process of selecting the channel, the date, and the length of the program. This is much simpler than entering the details on one screen, as other models require. In addition, the Easy Guider shows you a preview of the channel you select--a convenient way to ensure that you picked the right one. It's also possible to change the channel designations, so you can rename channel 2 as Fox or channel 4 as NBC, for example.
Other niceties include support for both DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW format discs; a roomy 160GB hard drive that can hold up to 196 hours of video (at the lowest quality setting; capacity falls to 33 at the highest quality); the ability to pause live TV; and a no-nonsense remote control that won't overwhelm you with options.
This is one of the least-expensive hard-drive-equipped DVD recorders we've seen, but its image quality isn't great and it transfers video from hard drive to DVD very slowly.
Lite-On LVW-5045 DVD Recorder
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