DVDirect is a sleek, stand alone device with a very specific purpose.
Sony Electronics
By Columnist
updated 4/25/2005 2:18:30 PM ET 2005-04-25T18:18:30

I’m in the process of moving and I’ve just found a huge stash of old VHS tapes buried way back in the loft. Instead of packing them all up in boxes, I wished I could transfer their content to DVDs, which take up much less space in my new living room. I just didn’t want to deal with recording through my PC in the process. Luckily, Sony has answered my prayers.

They’re marketing something they call DVDirect. It’s a standalone video recordable DVD drive.  So you can use it with your computer (they provide the software) but you can also record directly from your video camera or VHS player. It was just what I was looking for: a way to burn DVDs without hooking everything up to my computer.

Using the DVDirect is very, very simple. You can set it to operate in a synchronized mode, where it senses when you begin video playback and starts to record, or manually. Inputs consist of a USB 2.0 port for PCs and both composite and S-video for standalone video use. Sony provides you with a USB 2.0 cable but you have to provide cables for any video connections you need to make.

There are three recording modes available. The default is HQ, high picture quality. In this mode you get up to one hour on a single layer disc or two hours on a double layer disc. In standard SP mode you get two and four hours, respectively. In SLP mode you can record for six or 12 hours.

Operating the box is straightforward. There are very few settings to mess up. For me that’s a good thing. In my tests, I was able to successfully record from my vast selection of old VHS tapes and a video camera in both synchronized and manual modes from the composite, S-video inputs. DVDirect worked flawlessly when connected to my computer, too.

When you’re done recording you need to finalize DVD+R (but not DVD+RW) discs so you can play them back on other DVD devices. It’s easy to do: You press the function button until it asks if you want to finalize the disk, select yes, reconfirm your selection and the DVDirect does the rest. The finished product played perfectly on my home DVD machines and my computer’s drive.

Here’s some technical stuff: The device handles NTSC color signals then encodes the video in MPEG-2 video with 2-channel Dolby Digital audio. When you’re recording directly from a video device into the box, DVDirect writes in the DVD+VR format on DVD+R, DVD+R (DL) and DVD+RW discs. When you’re attached to a computer, you can also record on DVD+R Double Layer, DVD-R, DVD-RW, CD-R and CD-RW discs and read virtually any DVD or CD you can throw at it. DVDirect measures 9.25 by 6.4 by 2.5 inches, weighs nearly 4 pounds and since it’s designed to stand on its longest side, it takes up very little desk space.

I wish DVDirect had digital video inputs so that you could easily attach a digital camcorder. It would also be nice if the box would allow you to pass video from your camcorder into the PC for editing before burning it onto a DVD. But, then, Sony never claimed it would do this.  For transferring video from a camcorder or VHS machine, DVDirect does exactly what it’s supposed to — and does it well.

DVDirect sells for $299.99 on Sony’s Web site. You can find it for up to $50 less on other Web retailers if you do a little research. If you’re in need of an easy way to transfer your tapes to DVD, there’s nothing easier than Sony’s DVDirect.

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