Sony DVDirect VDR-P1 Express

Sony's DVDirect VDR-P1 Express is a portable DVD burner compatible with the 2009 SX and SR handycam ranges.

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Sony DVDirect VDR-P1 Express
  • Sony DVDirect VDR-P1 Express
  • Sony DVDirect VDR-P1 Express
  • Sony DVDirect VDR-P1 Express

Pros

  • Turns video footage into DVDs in one easy step, slimline design, no power supply required

Cons

  • It only works with Sony’s latest batch of HDD/flash memory handycams

Bottom Line

Despite the universal appeal of 'instant' DVDs, very few people will ever be able to use the Sony DVDirect VRD-P1 Express due to limited compatibility. Nevertheless, if you happen to own a camcorder that it will recognise, the device will not disappoint.

Would you buy this?

The Sony DVDirect VDR-P1 Express is a portable DVD burner that performs essentially the same function as a DVD writer in a desktop PC or notebook. It allows you to directly transfer camcorder footage onto blank DVDs.

Which begs the question — why buy it when your computer does a perfectly good job? Here at PC World, it’s easy to forget that not every camcorder owner is computer savvy, or even computer literate. Indeed, there are some — particularly in the pensioner set — who don’t even own a PC, let alone know how to use one.

Not surprisingly, technologically challenged individuals have a hard time when it comes to converting their home movies to DVD. Unless they own a disc-based camcorder, the poor wretches are doomed to a life of fiddly cables, tiny remote controls and fruitless AV channel-hopping.

Thankfully, the Sony DVDirect VDR-P1 Express has come to the rescues of Luddites everywhere. In addition to the afore-mentioned computer-dodgers, the DVDirect VDR-P1 will also suit vidoegraphers in need of a fuss-free portable disc writer (e.g. for selling copies of a live event on location). In the unlikely event that you don’t own a DVD player, you can also connect the VDR-P1 to a television via your handycam's AV connection.

If you own a compatible Sony camcorder, the DVDirect VDR-P1 Express will achieve its primarily purpose well. We tested the device using the Sony DCR-SR47 camcorder. Transferring files could not be easier — at the press of a button, the VDR-P1 recorded everything on the DCR-SR47’s 60GB hard drive (or as much as could fit on the DVD) while we sat back and watched.

There are only three buttons on the device to worry about — Record, Play and Eject — with any additional commands relegated to the camcorder’s touch screen. Naturally, you can elect to record specific clips by selecting the relevant thumbnails in the handycam’s menu, or automatically burn new content that you haven't previously copied to DVD. By following the simple prompts, practically anyone will be able to transfer their footage to DVD — from tykes to pensioners.

The combination of an ultra-compact body and one-cable design makes for a very portable device. It should easily slip inside a medium-sized camera bag, with no bulky AC adaptors to weigh you down. Unlike previous DVDirect units, the VDR-P1 is powered directly from the handycam’s USB connection. However, road warriors will still need a power outlet, as the VDR-P1 cannot run off the handycam’s battery — instead, your camcorder needs to be connected to the wall at all times. This kind of defeats the purpose of a bus-powered portable disc writer, but at least it’s one less cable to worry about.

Now for the bad news — and there’s quite a lot of it. Although the DVDirect VDR-P1 Express does a good job of simplifying the disc-burning process, a cavalcade of limitations reduce its appeal. For starters, it’s incompatible with Mini DV and high-definition video formats, along with all non-Sony camcorders.

On top of this, only Sony’s current generation of XR/SR handycams are supported (the DCRSX40, DCRSX60, DCRSR47 and DCRSR67). If you own a Sony handycam from 2008 or earlier, you’re sadly out of luck. And the limitations don’t end there: you’re also restricted to using regular DVD+R and DVD-R discs (8cm, dual-layer and DVD+RW/-RW discs are not recognised by the device). Given these draconian hardware restrictions, we were half-expecting the discs to only work with Sony-branded DVD players — fortunately, this is not the case.

Nevertheless, the VDR-P1 will be of absolutely no use to the majority of camcorder owners. By contrast, Sony’s previous DVDirect model, the VRD-MC5, allowed you to record from any device which outputted video via composite or S-Video, and offered Mini DV and AVCHD support. It also had an inbuilt memory card slot, something that its slimmer brother lacks. All in all, the Sony DVDirect VDR-P1 Express is a disappointingly niche product.

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