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on 1 April 2010
Pioneer DVR-560HX HDD/DVD Recorder Review

Bought this model to replace a previous Philips DVDR80 recorder. Eventually the laser of the Philips failed and I needed a replacement Current Philips models don't have the best reviews, so I checked comments of the other major brands including models with built-in hard drives. An earlier Pioneer model seemed to have the best review.

At the time, I could not find a user review for this model, so I took the plunge on the basis of the Pioneer reputation. The specification of this model, with built-in Freeview tuner and 160GB hard drive is very comprehensive and ticked all my boxes. The built-in hard drive enables you to edit out any commercials on the hard drive before making a DVD copy. You can also copy from your own DVD's to the hard drive and make a duplicate on another disc It plays and records every disc format, including dual layer and DVD-RAM. The recorder features full HD 1080P upscaling via HDMI.

On the back is the full range of sockets with 2 in/out SCART's, component video out, AV and stereo audio, 2 S-video sockets and HDMI-out. Under a full-length flap on the front, there are camcorder inputs, DV, S-video, composite video and audio, USB ports and discrete buttons for playing Div-X, music and JPEG files and the principal controls for playback, recording, selection of DVD, hard drive or TV.

The remote control is black with a plethora of tiny buttons and grey captions, not easy to read without good lighting (and specs, if you need them).

This is an extensively specified machine that is accompanied by a 175-page manual all in real English with a comprehensive contents list but no word index, so you often have to scour the pages for the bit you need.

I connected the Pioneer to my Toshiba digital TV using both component video and HDMI. I cannot fault the picture quality of broadcast programmes and find them equally as good as images displayed direct by the TV tuner. HDMI gives a very slight improvement over component video, although I cannot distinguish the difference from my normal viewing position. However, when using HDMI, the Toshiba TV "greys out" 14:9, which is often needed, so I use component video where the TV supports all formats. The playback of commercial discs is faultless.

When "Record" is pressed it starts recording almost instantly. The recorder features "Pause Live TV" which starts recording to HDD and enables pause, rewind and replay while recording. The progress of recording or playback is visible in the LCD display, but there is little separation between numbers, so they are almost impossible to read.

There is a Digital Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) and an Info feature with brief programme description, both of which updates very swiftly. The EPG is very clear, loads and responds to changes very quickly, but when selected, the audio of the current programme is silenced, which is a major irritation!. To record a selected programme from the EPG you press the red button or the <ENTER> button. The Timer Programme Window will appear (and the audio will restart) and various recording options can be selected, such as the destination (DVD or HDD) and record mode.

The record mode will normally be one of the presets, such as XP (1h), SP (2h), LP (4h) and so on, the times relating to the capacity of a standard DVD. The previous Philips recorder showed the decoded image, so you could see the effect of extended recording times, whereas the Pioneer gives no indication of this. For HDD recording, there is no point in selecting a quality setting better than would be used for the DVD to be copied to later. For recording to HDD or DVD you could also select one of 32 "manual" modes. Unfortunately in the Timer Programme Window, the manual mode is only shown by number and NOT by recording time, which is no help! You can set by time, but it's not an obvious process! Another feature is "optimised" recording, to enable the last title to fit in the remaining space on a disc. Chapter points can be at regular intervals, major scene changes, or both. For SP, the regular interval is 10 minutes - 5 minutes would have been better.

To be sure of catching the beginning of a programme you often need to start a minute or two early. To do this you have to leave this screen and go into the Home menu and then use a Modify function with further selections making what should be easy, into a tedious business.

Titles on the HDD will "Resume" play from where any previous playback was halted. If the Stop button is pressed a second time, the next playback will be from the start of the Title. In the case of DVD's, "Resume" only applies while a DVD is in the drive.

Editing of recordings on the hard drive works very well. For removing unwanted sections, there is a choice of frame-accurate editing or "video" mode. With "video" mode, edits in an SP recording can be selected in steps of 12 frames (1/2 sec) with the advantage that the final version can be copied to DVD at high speed. The editing process is easy to use, with a timeline display where all existing chapter points are shown. In either mode, there is a barely noticeable hesitation of a few frames at the edit point. Other edit functions include splitting a title, selecting thumbnail, title name, genre and additional chapter points.

A Disc Navigation Screen shows all the details of each recording.. The selected title shows a moving image complete with audio and your choice of title name alongside.

There is a choice of 9 DVD menus, 8 of them with thumbnail images. The range is repetitive and the designs are primitive. On each of the first 8 menus, if a title name exceeds 20 characters, it fits the remainder on a second line! The result is ridiculous, with part of one word on the top line and the remainder on the lower line. Users would have been better served if there had been fewer menu designs, but more like the Disc Navigator menu. You don't get the opportunity to see how the captions will appear on a menu until a DVD has been committed and you reach the Finalise stage. The 9th menu has just a single line for each title name, with provision for 28 characters but has a very ordinary layout in a garish blue colour.

Good - Recording quality, comprehensive input and output connections, instant record, accurate editing, copying between HDD and DVD, EPG functions, Disc navigation Screen, user manual.

Poor - EPG cuts audio out, primitive DVD titling, inadequate LCD display, fiddly programme timer adjustment, no index in manual.

I give it 4 stars because the recording quality by the Pioneer DVR-560HX on HDD or DVD is first class - and that's what you buy a recorder to do.
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on 13 November 2014
old kit these days but has served me faithfully for many years.
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