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Hard disc video recorders have been hovering around the home entertainment margins for the past three or four years but devices like TiVo and Sky Plus have yet to make a significant impact. Part of the reason is that it’s a tricky concept to grasp when you’re used to tape, that and the higher prices, programme guide subscriptions, not to mention privacy issues plus the recent BBC ‘spam’ recording debacle…


The technology works fine but it has become too clever by half, what’s needed is a simple to use box that works like a VCR, just recording and time-shifting TV programmes. Add a DVD player, call it a Samsung DVD-H40 and you’ve got the makings of a very useful home entertainment device.


The H40 is not as bizarre as it sounds; hard disc drive (HDD) recording and DVD are natural bedfellow s (see box). It scores highly for convenience, one box does everything, which in this case includes a reasonably well specified entry-level DVD player with MP3 replay and JPEG picture file display (all DVD players should have this!) a zoom, 3-scene bookmark and 3D sound options. The video recorder part has all the usual home cinema trimmings including NICAM sound, Video Plus+ timer, stereo hi-fi sound and a full set of trick play functions. There are also bonus features in the form of a multi-brand TV remote, program editing (so you can chop out commercials), you can watch a DVD whilst recording and then there’s pause-live-TV. In case you haven’t come across this before, it does exactly what it says; if you’re watching TV and the phone or doorbell rings press the pause button and the programme you’re watching freezes, meanwhile it is recorded on the hard disc drive so when you come back you can resume watching from where you left off or fast forward to catch up with the live broadcast.


It cannot copy DVDs with copyright protection (which is most of them) but it can copy JPEG picture and MP3 music files from CD-R to the hard disc. A ‘Jukebox’ feature lets you edit and create playlists and slideshows for all of the tunes and pictures on a CD or the hard disc.


The H40 has three recording modes giving around 5, 2.5 and 1.5 hours respectively on the 40Gb disc drive. Picture quality in SQ (standard quality) mode is a wee bit crusty, a bit like VHS on a bad day, the HQ mode compares well with high-end VHS and SHQ is close to Super VHS quality, but the picture looks noticeably crisper with much lower noise levels. Trick play in all modes is immaculate. DVD performance is fine with no major glitches though contrast balance is on the narrow side, suppressing detail and colours in darker scenes. Audio quality on recordings and DVD replay is consistently good and comparable with most mid-range players.


On-screen displays could be better, more information is needed, showing what’s going on and how the disc is being managed, the controls are quite sluggish and our sample was prone to ‘freeze’ though we’ll be charitable and put that down to the fact that it was a very early sample. Don’t junk you VCR just yet, you’ll still need it if you want to keep recordings but as an alternative TV timeshifter and DVD player there’s much to commend it, and hopefully it has given us a taste of even better things to come.




The reason DVD and HDD recording go so well together is because they both use MPEG II processing. MPEG II or motion picture experts group is a compression scheme that reduces the amount of data in a video image, so it takes up less room on the recording or storage media, which in this case is a DVD or 40 gigabyte hard disc (identical to the types of hard drives used in PCs). In a nutshell MPEG processing works by analysing each frame of picture information and then discards redundant data, such as parts of the picture, which do not change, or changes little from one frame to the next, such as static backgrounds etc.


HDD recording sounds simple on paper but it’s actually a very complicated business that requires a lot of computing power and the breakthrough, which has made the H40 a viable proposition, has been the development of microchips that can carry out MPEG II processing in ‘real time’, i.e. more or less instantaneously. For the record, after processing the H40’s three video recording modes (SQ, HQ and SHQ) use up around 2, 4 and 6 megabytes of disc space per second respectively.


Apart from the fact that the H40 records onto a hard disc, rather than a tape, in most other respects it is similar to a conventional VCR. It has a conventional TV tuner and a VideoPlus+ timer and a NICAM decoder for high quality stereo TV sound. Playback options are also broadly similar, though unlike tape slow motion and picture search are rock steady, and a far greater range of speeds are available. Moreover, disc recording allows more or less instant access to any part of a recording – no waiting for the tape to wind back and forth.




What's good


Simple VCR like operation

AV performance

Pause live TV

JPEG replay

One-box convenience


What's bad


Poor on-screen display info

Secondary controls take some getting used to

Sluggish control response

Constant background noise from cooling fan

Prone to lockups and freezing


Value for money             3 (assuming £600-700)
Picture quality for DVD             4
Picture quality for HD   4
Sound Performance                  4
Features                                   4
Build                                         4
Overall                          4

Overall comment

Hugely convenient and a brilliant TV timeshifter but don’t throw out the VCR just yet…

List of key Features

HDD: up to 5 hours HDD recording, pause live TV, NICAM, Video Plus+, stereo hi-fi sound. DVD:  Region 2 PAL & NTSC replay, JPEG & MP3 replay, picture zoom, multi brand TV remote


Reasonably well laid out with glow in the dark buttons and considering what the H40 can do, fairly easy to get to grips with


Samsung 0800 521652, www.samsung.com




MAKE/MODEL            Samsung DVD-H40

£                                  £600 -£700?

VERDICT                      4


COMMENTS            clever one-box home entertainment solution

TYPE                            DVD & HDD Recorder combi

5.1 OUT                        N

OUTPUT                       Dig

COMP’NT VID            N

SCARTS                       2

ISSUE              106




Ó R. Maybury 2002, 1006





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