|Humax DRT-800 DVD Recorder/DVR|
|Home Theater Media Servers Satellite & Cable Receivers/PVRs/DVRs/TiVo|
|Written by Matthew Evert|
|Wednesday, 01 December 2004|
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Test Driving TiVo with a DVD-R On Board
As I said before, recording shows with TiVo is a piece of cake. I used the Season Pass™ to grab all my Redskins and Chargers NFL games for the winter. The Redskins vs. the Lions last Sunday happened to start during my yoga class. I used the TiVo to allow me to relive the highlights of the first half during the halftime break. Immediately, I noticed no obvious signs of video degradation compared to the live feed. The bright burgundy jerseys were perhaps not as saturated in color and as bright as the original, but the picture was a good 95 percent of the original by my rough estimate. This degradation was partially due to the fact I had to use S-video from my receiver to the TiVo instead of component video (which my DirecTV receiver has).
Being able to rewind the instant replays over and over to see how the referees robbed the Redskins of a first down completion was essential and a feature that I cannot ever live without. Those who haven’t experienced the splendor of TiVo simply need to take my word and get it. It is absolutely necessary for anyone who values his or her time and, moreover, values time in from of the tube. I also get the NFL games in high definition (HD) and the difference is night and day, even though this unit needs to downconvert 1080i and 720p versions to 480i. There are no blurry faces of players during close-ups and no jagged edges on the yard lines. I can’t wait for the HD version of this unit.
Next up I watched “I-Spy” (Columbia/TriStar) on HBO while recording it to TiVo in high mode, the Humax’s best quality storage setting. After watching it both ways, I also burned it to DVD, using the easy DRT800 TiVo interface. Again, there was little noticeable difference between the live and recorded versions in terms of video reproduction. Colors were decent and images were clear for a 480p satellite signal. Lots of explosions and action were present in this movie. The opening scene in Uzbekistan set the stage for the movie, with avalanches and machine gun fire as Owen Wilson’s character narrowly escapes the Russians. The sound of the explosions played on the DVD did not have punch in terms of bass that the original seemed to have. In general, the sound was noticeably degraded at both the high and the low ends of the frequency range. Overall sound was weak due to the fact that no digital audio was available, so rear sound effects were not obvious and some of the “wow” factor was absent, bringing me back to the days where Dolby Pro Logic reigned. If there were a built-in satellite tuner, some of these video and audio issues would be drastically reduced.
To test just the quality of the progressive scan DVD player in this DTR800, I played “The Suicide Kings” (Artisan Entertainment) DVD. Denis Leary’s character is hilarious. Leary uses his tough guy voice to intimidate people, but then shows his soft side when helping his friend Jennifer talk to her abusive father. When the father disrespects Leary, he comes back into the room and cracks the father’s skull up with a toaster – ouch.
The sound for this scene was much improved and did utilize the digital audio output this time. Rear sound effects were now obvious when Leary grabbed the toaster from the other room and walked back into the living to clock dear old Dad. There was more bass present and less colored midrange when the raindrops fell upon Sean Patrick Flanery and his girlfriend in his car. The pelting of the rain against the steel body of the car was dramatic and involving. I compared the DRT800’s progressive scan DVD player directly to my $1,600 reference Marantz player and found the performance of the Humax to be much reduced in both picture and sound. The question remains: can you use the DRT800’s DVD player as your primary player or is this just a cool tool for backing up your recorded television? Overall, the performance of the DVD portion was decent but not something that will compete with most dedicated DVD players. If you have simple video needs, it will be fine, but if you have a 5.1 sound system that you want to sound its very best, you may want to have a dedicated player for your DVD playback.