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JVC HM-HDS1/£1000 (tbc)

You've got to admire JVC; the future of video recording – in the short to medium term at least – belongs to disc-based technologies but it is determined that VHS is not going to disappear without a struggle! First there was a belated attempt to rejuvenate the S-VHS format, then came the D-VHS and now we have the HM-HDS1, the world's first hybrid hard disc drive and S-VHS video recorder.

 

This apparently bizarre combination actually makes a lot of sense and you get the best of both worlds with the facility to do clever things like pause live TV – more about that in a moment – and it overcomes the main drawback of hard disc recording systems by providing a simple means to archive recordings. There's more, unlike TiVo and the new Pace satellite HDD recorders the HDS1 is entirely free standing in that it's not tied to a subscription or restricted to only recording digital satellite channels.

 

Pausing live TV is the facility that sells HDD recorders but it can be hard to appreciate until you've seen it in action. In the default Live Memory Replay mode the HDS1 continuously records whatever you are watching onto hard disc (for 30 minutes, 1 hour or 3 hours, before being overwritten) and what you see on the screen is actually an instant playback. In fact the picture and sound are a couple of seconds old by the time you see it and if you press the pause button – to answer the phone, or the door -- the picture freezes, but the machine continues recording.  You can resume playback by pressing Play or you can also playback at 1.5x normal speed so eventually you catch up with the 'live' transmission. It's still watchable and the sound is completely coherent. That alone should be enough to sell the HDS1 but it can do much more besides.

 

The 40Gb drive can record for up to 14 hours in SP mode or up to 40 hours in the lowest quality SEP mode. Recordings can be copied to tape, or edited using the built in 8-scene RAE (Random Access Edit) controller. The VCR is a fully fledged NICAM Hi-Fi machine with NTSC playback, a Video Plus+ timer, satellite control, UHF tuner with auto installation and audio dubbing.

 

It's quite daunting, there's a lot to take in and the remote handset is a nightmare. Just getting to grips with the controls takes a while but there are some useful aids to moving around the vast amounts of material the machine can store. The Navigation menu shows recordings stored on the disc as a series of thumbnails and search speeds of up to 360x normal speed let you skim through the disc, and still make out what's going on. The only slight niggle is the built in delay, which can become a nuisance when changing channels on a satellite receiver.

 

Picture performance on the HDD section is impressive in the SP mode, it's close to broadcast quality with only a very slight reduction in the amount of fine detail and colour depth, MPEG 2 processing – the same as that used by DVD -- is very clean with no noticeable motion artefacts. Pop videos are a tough test with lots of movement rapid changes in brightness and colour levels, Wyclef Jean's Perfect Gentleman and Lady Marmalade pushes the system to its limits with a mixture of fast lighting changes and intense colours but the HDS1 never falters. At the other end of the scale it's perfectly happy with the subdued and more naturalistic shades of your favourite soap. Copying from HDD to S-VHS involves only a very slight increase in noise and a small drop in resolution. Recording off-air to tape is less satisfactory; it's good by tape standards but the picture does look quite soft by comparison with HDD material.

 

HDD audio is recorded using MPEG layer 2 compression and very good it is too, at least as good as NICAM, if not a little better with very low levels of background noise. The Hi-Fi soundtracks on S-VHS recordings sound crisp and lively but noise levels are a lot higher, it's not too intrusive but you are aware of it.

 

It's big, butch and quite pricey but with more HDD recorders on the way this is an intriguing alternative to recordable DVD, for home recording at least, and in the case of the HDS1 a hint that there could still be plenty of life left in the old VHS dog yet. Go see it in action, you'll be impressed!

 

Verdict 4/5

 

JVC UK 0870 330 5000, www.jvc.co.uk

 

Ratings

Overall              4

Picture Quality            5

Sound Quality            5

Features                       4

Ease of Use                  3

Build Quality                  4

Value for Money            4

 

Pros

Pausing live TV, AV quality, novelty factor

 

Cons

It's big and expensive and doesn't play DVDs…

 

Rival Buys

Tivo £300

 

Quote 20

'Pausing live TV is the facility that sells HDD recorders but it can be hard to appreciate until you've seen it in action'.

 

 

BUYERS GUIDE XTRA INFO

 

MAKE/MODEL            JVC HM-HDS1

£                                  £1000

VERDICT                      4

SCARTS                       2

SAT CON                      Y

NTSC P/BACK            Y

ISSUE                          95

 

 

 

---end---

Ó R. Maybury 2001, 2507

 

 

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