Samsung's DVD-R135 is a DVD recorder with a built in TV tuner. This is coupled with HDMI out and the ability to upscale DVDs to High Definition at either 720p or 1080i. It all sounds like a great replacement for the VCR, but there are a few major limitations that prevent the system from being a must have.
- HDMI cable included, easy to find recordings, wide range of supported formats
- Analogue tuner
A decent enough DVD recorder, but the lack of a digital tuner is a big letdown
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
First up, one of the biggest problems with the DVD-R135 is the lack of a digital tuner. It's all well and good for Samsung to laud the High Definition features of this device, but when the TV tuner uses an analogue signal it seems a little inconsistent. A digital tuner would have made far more sense, improving the picture quality and increasing the number of channels, yet not adding much to the price. Worse still, if you plan to connect your existing set top box to the DVD-R135 you can only do so using a composite or S-video connection.
The second problem is not specific to the DVD-R135 but to all DVD-recorders. This is the lack of a hard drive. On the highest quality setting you can get approximately an hour's worth of recording time out of a single recordable DVD. If you're the kind of person who likes to record a lot, this means plenty of disc switching. Of course there is one advantage to ditching the hard drive and that's price; DVD recorders come in at a fraction of the cost of hard disk recorders.
Once you've moved past these particular limitations the DVD-R135 is a decent little machine. Coming in an attractive piano black and silver combination Samsung has got the aesthetics spot on. Setup is incredibly simple, and what the recorder may lack in inputs it makes up for with outputs. Everything is covered here including component, optical and coaxial. This is of course in addition to HDMI, and Samsung are one of the few generous manufacturers who actually include an HDMI cable in the box. For anyone without HDMI on their television Samsung has a cheaper, yet near identical model, the DVD-R130, which lacks HDMI. Recording is made as easy as can be, with the option for instant record at the touch of a button or the ability to set times in advance.
Unfortunately the DVD-R135's formats are rather limited, with only DVD-R and DVD-RW discs supported both for recording and playback. This isn't a huge issue as there is plenty of media available in these types, but with many devices supporting a full range of formats (DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM etc.), it is noteworthy nonetheless. When it comes to playing back recorded scenes Samsung has included an incredibly easy to use list system, which previews the footage in a corner window. Each recording is time stamped and is labelled with an editable file name. At the highest quality setting we found recordings to differ only slightly from the television broadcast, with small compression blocks occasionally visible. Moving to standard quality, which allows about two hours of recording, things were not as good, but still acceptable. Turning to long and extended recording modes, however, which can record up to eight hours on one disc, things really took a downturn. These modes are only recommended if you really don't care what it looks or sounds like.
One other nifty feature is the inclusion of fast playback with audio. This means when you use fast forward it is still possible to hear the sound, though only up to 1.5x speed. Samsung suggest this is helpful for when you want to hear all the news, but just don't have the time to sit through the whole thing. We tested it, and it works, but unless the audio is very clear it becomes hard to work out what is being said; and everyone sounds like they've just inhaled helium.
DVDs can also be recorded straight from a camcorder using a FireWire connection, which is useful. In addition the DVD-R135 can play data discs containing MP3s, JPEG photos or MPEG4 videos. Though this isn't the best implementation we have seen, the interface was generally easy to follow and all the files we tried worked. MPEG4 videos include both AVI and DivX, so their support is definitely a welcome feature. The final feature of the DVD-R135 is its use as a regular DVD player. We tried a few DVDs and found the quality to be slightly above average at standard 576p.
Overall, Samsung has done a decent job with the DVD-R135, but we still feel the lack of a digital tuner will be a major turn off for most people. If you want to make recordings from external sources, however, then the system is a good buy.
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