With just 48 hours before Christmas, it's now officially crunch time for deciding which of the new high-tech gadgets you're going to get your family this year. Should it be a Tivo video recorder or a DVD recorder? Should you spring for a movie camcorder or a digital camera? According to “Today's” tech editor Corey Greenberg, the answer this holiday season is yes, as long as you have a few bucks to spend.
First of all, what are TIVOs and DVD recorders, and why are they so hot this Christmas?
TIVO is a DVR, or Digital Video Recorder. Think of it as a VCR on steroids, but one that records TV shows on a PC hard drive instead of a magnetic VHS tape cassette. PVRs let you do lots of tricks that traditional VCRs don't, like pausing live TV and recording one show while you watch another. And the latest PVRs have extremely large hard drives, which means you can record and store hundreds of shows (try that with an 8-hour VHS tape). Owning a TIVO, or the similar ReplayTV PVR, changes your life when it comes to watching TV -- no more missing your favorite shows, or revolving your evenings around the networks' schedules. PVRs let you watch whatever you want, whenever you want, and they even let you skip over the commercials too. I recommend ReplayTV PVRs because the menus are cleaner and easier to navigate, and 3 years of free program guide subscription is included in the price (and only 99 cents a month afterward).
ReplayTV RTV5504: $499.99
DVD Recorder is also like a VCR, except it records directly onto DVD-Recordable discs, which can then be played back on most home DVD players. The maximum recording time is only a few hours per disc, but DVD Recorders are wildly popular because people have wanted to record onto DVDs since they first hit the market five years ago, and now the latest DVD Recorders are as easy to use as a VCR. They're also great for transferring home movies on tape to DVD, which will preserve your family memories for hundreds of years vs. magnetic tape which degrades over time and eventually becomes unplayable.
Sony RDR-GX7 DVD-R/RW DVD Recorder $800
DVD-R/RW and DVD+RW recording, TV tuner and timer recording
Gateway AR-230 DVD+R/RW DVD Recorder: $300
What's the next step beyond TIVOs and DVD-Recorders?
A combination DVD-PVR Recorder! This is the latest hot-ticket tech gadget, combining all the features of a DVD-Recorder with a built-in hard-drive to record TV shows. Now you can record all your favorite shows on the hard-drive and then save your favorite episodes onto DVD -- in other words, you could have a DVD box set of the last season of "Friends" years before NBC finally gets around to releasing the official version.
Panasonic DMR-E100 DVD-R/RAM DVD Recorder: $1199
It allows you to re-write up to 100,000 times and allows for PVR like functions-simultaneous playback and record
Pioneer DVR-810H DVD-R/RW DVD Recorder/Player with Hard Disc Record and TiVo: $1,199.00
Basic TIVO Service included, with no startup cost or monthly fees. Pioneer is the world's first company to offer this powerful combination.
Lots of people this time of year are trying to choose between buying a camcorder or a digital camera, and some are even buying both -- are there any gadgets that shoot movies and still photos?
Most digital camcorders will also let you shoot still photos, but the resolution is very low -- usually 640 by 480 pixels, which is less than a single mega pixel, so photos look grainy and jagged. But people don't want to haul two gadgets to every family event just to shoot movies and take pictures. The latest trend in camcorders is 2-megapixel photo capability, combining movies with still photos sharp enough to print out at 4 by 6 that can stand comparison with a good quality digital camera.
Canon Optura 300 camcorder with 2 mega pixel camera built-in: $1299
Gateway DV-S20 MPEG-4 camcorder and 2-megapixel camera: $199
What about HDTV? Can any of these camcorders shoot high-definition home movies?
Right now there's only one consumer camcorder on the market that can shoot true HDTV, and that's JVC's remarkable GRHD1. At $3,499.95, though, it's as expensive as some of the cameras we use here at NBC, and editing options are few and far between on your PC or Mac. But if you want to shoot your home movies in full HDTV resolution, the JVC is the one to have.
JVC GRHD1: $3,499.95