capsule review

Pioneer DVR-640H-S

At a Glance
  • Pioneer DVR640HS DVD Recorder (DVR, 160GB Hard Drive)

    TechHive Rating

If you don't require an electronic programming guide, Pioneer's $399 (as of 10/27/06) DVR-640H-S is probably what you're looking for. The machine offers high-quality recordings, superior ease of use, and a boatload of features. The DVR-640H-S reads and writes virtually every type of media, including dual-layer DVD±R, DVD-RAM (noncartridge), and memory cards via USB. It also pulls double-duty as a MP3/WMA/JPEG jukebox, even ripping audio from CDs (albeit at only 1X).

The DVR-640H-S's remote control is a joy: It's simple, the buttons are intuitively arranged, and the less frequently accessed features are tucked away beneath a cover. The menu could use a tad more attention--the color schemes are a bit brash and not always consistent--but it's extremely well thought-out and easy to navigate. The unit's music/photo playback and cataloging features (such as the ability to sort and play by artist, genre, etc.) are far superior to those of the Lite-On HD-A760GX, the only other model we tested for our recent chart that offers jukebox functionality. If you're looking to consolidate your digital media for playback in the living room, the DVR-640H-S might be a good alternative to a multimedia network.

As with all the recorders we tested for our chart, this unit's overall recording quality was excellent. The DVR-640H-S offers 32 manual modes in addition to the standard 1-hour to 8-hour types that vary video and audio bit rates, so you can optimize quality for discs of various capacities. The only thing keeping this device from being ideal is its lack of an electronic programming guide, though I have no qualms about using VCR Plus codes and scheduling recordings manually. The unit also has a very responsive 29-second commercial-skip function, which really cuts down on the time necessary to watch recorded programs.

On the downside, the Pioneer's 160GB hard drive seems a bit undersized considering all the multimedia the product can handle, and it doesn't have an HDMI or DVI output. But in light of the many supported formats, the exceptional remote, and the wealth of other features such as jukebox functions, these shortcomings are easy to forgive.

Jon L. Jacobi

This story, "Pioneer DVR-640H-S" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • Pioneer DVR640HS DVD Recorder (DVR, 160GB Hard Drive)

    TechHive Rating
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