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If you read my recent review of the Samsung LE-40R88BD you will know that along with a new TV I was also replacing the old JVC video recorder with a combi VCR/DVD recorder. The one I identified that seemed to meet my needs was a model from Daewoo, the DVRT-40, which appears only to be available from the Currys/Dixons Group, in the UK. I promised you a review so here it is. Sadly it tells a very sorry tale.
I have to confess that I've not kept up-to-date with the latest technology where TV and video is concerned. The original TV and video came as a rental package. To this setup I had added in recent times a Sagem Freeview 160Gbs Hard Disk recorder and it was this that introduced me to the wonders of tapeless recording.
It also introduced me to the limitations of tapeless recording. When a tape runs out you just whack in another one and keep what's on the old one. That's how we ended up with hundreds of tapes that have on them things we've not watched for years. On a hard drive recorder, once your run out of space you have to delete something to make space. But what if you have to remove something you want? In that case you have to find somewhere else to copy it to.
Of course, you could simply copy it to that video recorder but, let's face it, even those produced in recent years hardly count as advanced technology. They were designed for the analogue era, not the digital one. What we needed was a DVD recorder. However, that meant two machine instead of just one. Enter the Daewoo.
Now, I know, the Daewoo is not the only combi VCR/DVD recorder out there but what attracted me to it was that it seemed on the face of it to do all the things I wanted it to do. It also appeared to have all the features that would make it at least a little bit future-proof, if there is such a thing these days.
Most of the machines that have been produced up until recently only feature SCART interfaces but I now had an HD TV with high quality input capabilities via HDMI sockets. The Daewoo was amongst the first that I had seen that had an HDMI output capability, with upscaling to 1080i. That put a tick in the first box.
The second thing I was looking for was the capability of the DVD drive to play DiVX encoded files. DiVX is becoming the accepted standard in video recordings and I have a number of videos I've shot with my Sanyo camcorder that I've converted to DiVX format. I was looking for the ability to be able to play these on the TV. The Daewoo supports DiVX format files although, as I was to find out, this came with limitations. However, second tick.
Another thing I was looking for was the ability to directly record from VHS video tape to recordable DVD. The Daewoo claimed to be able to do this "One Touch". The recording would be into DVD format though; nothing as sophisticated as direct to DiVX on offer. Still I could do that on the computer once I'd got it on DVD. We have amongst our mountain of VHS tapes several with old videos of the kids when they were young. OK, these are around 15 years old so hardly likely to be top quality but, memories are memories and worth preserving.
The Daewoo also has a built-in digital Freeview tuner, only one, but if the worst came to the worst and we needed to record another programme when already having reached the limit on the Virgin V+ box then this would do the trick. The Daewoo also supports files in various other formats such as MP3 Audio, standard Audio CDs (but not SACD it seems), VCD and Super VCD plus all the DVD and recordable DVD formats you would expect. In addition the Daewoo has a USB port to which you can connect things like an MP3 player although it seems that only MP3 format files are playable though this interface.
Inputs and outputs consist of the HDMI socket (just one and output only), two SCART sockets, component video output, S-Video socket and stereo RCA audio plus coax digital audio output. The audio would not be getting any use in my setup as all the audio goes to our home theatre system direct from the TV via an optical link. There is, of course, also an aerial input to feed the Freeview tuner plus a pass-through aerial socket for daisy-chaining machines together so that they all get a TV aerial signal.
Plugging the Daewoo into our setup was pretty straight-forward. Switching it on initially brought up a disturbing "Mode not supported" message on the screen but this soon vanished and we were into setup mode. The first action that the machine performed was to request to start a scan for TV channels and within about a minute it had found all the ones I would have expected and then, politely, it asked if I wanted to save them. Too right sunshine!
Finally we had BBC1 in all its glory! Well, perhaps not. The picture from the Daewoo's Freeview tuner didn't appear to be quite as crisp as that from the Samsung's built-in tuner but, it was acceptable. So, that works. However, one odd thing with the Daewoo is that when you call up the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), unlike most machines, the current programme disappears, not even a small window in the top corner of the picture and definitely no sound!
There are a couple of other things to check and set up next, and these are accessed from the "Setup" button on the remote. Here you need to go to the "Preferences" menu and check the display settings. The default is 4:3 screen dimensions but in my case I needed to change this to 16:9. Below this is the output signal protocol. This is RGB by default but, as I was taking output via the HDMI interface I needed to change this to the 1080i standard supported by the Samsung TV.
So, now let's try a few of the other functions.
The first thing I wanted to try was recording programmes from the Virgin V+ box. The V+ has a very neat facility for enabling a recording to take place on one SCART socket whilst you are watching something else on the TV via the other SCART socket or via the HDMI interface. With a supply of various formats of recordable and re-recordable DVDs at my disposal, I put one in the machine and pressed "Rec Mode" on the remote so that the machine could check and prepare the disk for recording.
One thing you can't do when doing a background recording like this is to edit the programme to top-and-tail it or remove the adverts. You have to record as is and do any editing on your PC. The copy it made played just fine in the Daewoo but wouldn't play on my Acer laptop. I then discovered that you have to use a function under the "Disk Op" button on the remote in order to "finalise" the DVD, before it will play on other machines. Once I'd done that the copy played faultlessly on my laptop. You don't have to do this with re-recordable DVDs though, as these are formatted in advance of making a recording.
The next thing to check was to convert the standard DVD to DiVX format. I use Dr DiVX to do this. This SourceForge project has produced a freeware utility to convert video to DiVX without the need to pay out for the official DiVX Converter. However, the utility is somewhat limited in conversion options right now. The standard Home Theatre Quality (HTQ) conversion would play fine although not filling the screen. The same DiVX file edited with SolveigMM AVI Trimmer, whilst playing just fine on my laptop, wouldn't play on the Daewoo. I think we can say that the Daewoo is a little sensitive about DiVX formats but will play most OK.
The next thing to try and the primary reason for me buying the Daewoo, is the VCR to DVD copy function. For the test I used a VHS tape that contained a compilation of various videos that had been shot over the years on our camcorder. The tape played without any problems in the Daewoo and I eventually selected a section containing a video sequence that I especially wanted to keep.
Stopping the video at the start of the section I inserted a re-recordable DVD in the DVD bay and pressed the VCR->DVD button on the front of the machine. This brings up a window identifying the type of DVD to be used as the target and how much time is available on it. Clicking "OK" now on the remote, what should happen then is that you then press the VCR->DVD button a second time (thus giving the lie to the claims of "One Touch" copying) and the copy starts. What actually happens is that a new window now appears with the message "This media cannot be copied" and with a red arrow pointing to the video tape symbol!
Now, this was very strange. The video tape plays OK but for some unknown reason the very same tape cannot be played in order to copy it! Just to make sure it wasn't an isolated case I tried it again and then tried it with a different tape. I got the same result every time.
Now it was time to try out Daewoo's Customer Support. Daewoo can be contacted by phone or email; I tried the phone. The call was answered within less than two minutes and the person who answered was clear, polite but couldn't help with the problem; he promised to get a technician to call me to try to resolve the problem.
Later on the same day I got the call from the technician and explained the problem again. He was baffled. He could see no reason why the function wouldn't work other than that the machine was defective. He recommended I take it back to the retailer and get it replaced, which is exactly what I did. The replacement demonstrated exactly the same defect.
A return call to Daewoo support defeated them. Their suggestion of taking yet another replacement didn't fill me with confidence. Their reply to a question about a new level of firmware produced a very odd comment that seemed to suggest that they didn't even realise it was possible and yet the Setup menu contains a System Info sub-menu that gives Firmware Info and an Update / Restore sub-menu that gives you the opportunity to "Check for Software Update"!
After more discussions they suggested I take the machine back and get a refund. I asked, "So, you're suggesting I buy a product from another manufacturer because yours doesn't work?" Rather sheepishly the response was in the affirmative!
So, there you have it. In the Daewoo DRVT-40 we have a product which only partially works and which the manufacturer has no idea how to fix. I even suggested that I could bring the machine to them with the media I was using so as to try to diagnose the problem, as they are based only about 10 miles away. However, they would have wanted to keep it for days so I withdrew the offer.
I will now be following their recommendation and drawing a line under this machine. Under the circumstances you will appreciate that I wasn't inclined to test out any more of the features nor am I able to recommend the purchase of this device, which is a pity because it has bags of potential. At just under £200, the Daewoo, with all the features advertised is a good buy. As it is I shall just say, "Goodbye". Sorry Daewoo but you really should be able to do better than this!