Sony VRD-VC20 Review

Highs

  • Simple to operate; analog and Digital video inputs; supports dual-layer discs

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 4

Lows

  • No apparent video enhancement on analog inputs; no video output
The VRD-VC20 is primarily targeted at the consumer who is converting their analog or digital video recordings to DVD...

Summary

The VRD-VC20 is Sony’s 2nd generation stand-alone DVD recorder. The VRD-VC20 adds a DV (1394) digital video input and dual layer writing capability to the previous generation VRD-VC10. The VRD-VC20, like similar products, is directed at the consumer who has amassed a library of analog video recordings and would like to convert them directly to a DVD but without connecting to a PC.  Unlike a combination VCR / DVD recorder, the VRD-VC20 contains no tape drive and is therefore very compact.  When not performing as a stand-alone DVD recorder, the VRD-VC20 connects to a PC for general DVD recorder duty. 

Features and Design

The VRD-V20 is the size of typical external DVD recorders for PCs. The only obvious differences are the rear video inputs and front LCD display.  A nice packaging feature of the VRD-VC20 is the placement of the tray eject button on the “top” of the unit instead of on the front, near the tray.  Similar products that package an internal drive in an external package often make it inconvenient to locate the tray eject button, especially when the tray is open.

For PC-connected operation, the VRD-V20 comes packaged with DVD burning SW from Nero:


  • NeroVision Express DVD video editing and authoring software

  • Neroâ„¢ Burning ROM SE CD/DVD mastering software

  • InCDâ„¢ drive letter recording software

  • Neroâ„¢ Showtimeâ„¢ soft DVD player software

  • Neroâ„¢ BackitUpâ„¢ backup software

For stand-alone operation, the VRD-V20 supports DVD+R, DVD+R DL (Double Layer), DVD+RW, DVD-R, and DVD-RW media.  Recording is done in real-time with a built-in MPEG encoder.  There is an 8MB write buffer.

When connected to a computer with the USB2 cable, the drive is specified at the following write speeds:


  • DVD+R DL: 4X CLV (max.) writing

  • DVD+R: 16X CAV (max.) writing

  • DVD+RW: 8X Z-CLV (max.) rewriting

  • DVD-R: 16X CAV(max.) writing

  • DVD-RW: 6X CLV (max.) rewriting

  • DVD-ROM reading (single layer): 16X CAV (max.)

  • DVD-ROM reading (dual layer): 8X CAV (max.)

  • CD-R: 48X P-CAV (max.) writing

  • CD-RW: 24X Z-CLV (max.) rewriting

  • CD-ROM: 48X CAV (max) reading

The Sony VRD-V20
The Sony VRD-V20 connected to a camcorder

Performance

Performance

 


  • Time to write a 4.10GB directory to DVD+RW 2.4X: 21:56

  • Time to Write a 4.10GB directory to DVD-R 16X: 6:11

 

CD Results

 


  • Time to write a 525MB directory to CD-R 48x: 2:35

 

Speed: AVG 27.81x

 

Interface:  24MB/s Burst rate

 

Nero DVD Seek Times

 


  • Random 114ms

  • 1/3 121ms

  • Full 204ms

 

CPU Usage

 


  • 1X 1%

  • 2X 2%

  • 4X 5%

  • 8X 9%

 

Designtechnica Test System

Windows XP Professional; Intel LGA 775 3GHz CPU; 1GB Crucial Ballisitx DDR2 533MHz RAM; MSI ATI X800 XT video card; Western Digital 7200RPM SATA 80GB hard drive

Setup and Use

Stand-Alone Operation

The VRD-V20 includes a manual, quick setup guide, AC adapter, and USB cable.

Connection to a digital camcorder was simple with a single DV cable.  For connection to an analog output from a camcorder or VCR, there is a composite video input and S-video input plus the two audio channel inputs.

The LCD displays the input used, recording quality, and Sync mode. With the display and buttons it is also possible to enable auto-chapter insertion with title thumbnail images at 5-, 10-, or 15-minute intervals.  Auto-play may also be selected so that the finished DVD will start playing as soon as it is inserted into a DVD player.  The display and buttons are easy to see.  The LCD has a blue backlight.

The type of video input can be sensed automatically or selected manually.  Sync mode allows the VRD-V20 to start a digital camcorder automatically when “record” is pressed on the VRD-V20, or both can be started manually.  With an analog camcorder or VCR, Sync can start the VRD-V20 when a signal is detected, or both can be started manually.  Recording quality is set manually for 1 hour (HQ), 2 hours (SP), or 4 hours (SLP.)  These times are doubled for a dual layer DVD recording.

A Panasonic PV-GS200 digital camcorder was used for a digital video source. Connection from the Panasonic PV-GS200 to the VRD-V20 was simple with the camcorder’s DV cable.

When a DVD is inserted into the VRD-V20, the type of disc is identified and you are asked if you would like to erase or format the disc.  Erasure is a pretty fast process, so it may be doing a Quick Erase, which doesn’t remove the old data.  Once the disc is ready and the camcorder has been manually queued to the first scene, recording with Sync is straightforward.  As soon as the Record button on the VRD-V20 is pressed, the camcorder begins to play and the VRD-V20 begins recording. 

A Sony DVD-RW disc was used for the single-sided recording tests, first with “HQ quality mode” selected, then “SLP mode.”  A Verbatum DVD+R DL disc was then used with “HQ mode” selected.  After recording, when the eject button is depressed, the VRD-VC20 will ask you if you want to finalize the disk for playback in a DVD video player.

The recorded discs were played back in a Sony DVP-NS700P single disc player.  When recorded in HQ mode, the video from the disc and the original DV tape looked identical.  The same recording was then made in SLP mode for comparison.  The video quality in SLP mode looked similar to that from an average VCR in SLP mode.  We wouldn’t recommend this recording mode for any serious archiving of a digital video source.  The audio sounded fine in both HQ and SLP mode.  Creating an unedited copy from tape to DVD couldn’t be easier.

Next, we tested the analog input recording quality of the VRD-V20.  For this test, a Sony CCD-TR81 Hi8 camcorder was used as the video source.  The CCD-TR81 was connected to the VRD-V20 with an S-Video cable.  “Sync mode” was selected for the analog test as well.  With “Sync mode” selected with an analog input, the VRD-V20 “record” button is pressed and the VRD-V20 waits (pauses) for a video signal on its S-Video input.  As soon as play is started on the analog camcorder, the VRD-V20 begins to record.  When “stop” is pressed on the camcorder, the VRD-V20 also pauses.

The video quality when using HQ mode on the VRD-V20 was virtually as good as the original Hi-8 recording.  In LP mode, there was a noticeable degradation from the original, but still quite good.  Again, SLP resulted in a significant reduction in video quality.

Finally, the VRD-V20 was tested with the analog output from the PV-GS200 digital camcorder.  Normally the digital output of a digital camcorder should always be used for the best quality DVD recording, but we wanted to test the analog input of the VRD-V20 from both a digital recording and analog recording source.  The DVD recording quality from the analog output of the PV-GS 200 digital camcorder was still judged to be better than the analog CCD-TR81 Hi8 camcorder, though of noticeably lesser quality than that obtained from the digital output of the PV-GS-200.  This indicates that the video A/D converter and MPEG encoder in the VRD-V20 are of sufficient quality for the intended analog video sources.      

Unlike some combination VCR / DVD recorders, there appears to be no video enhancement circuitry in the VRD-V20 to help restore old video tape recordings. 

PC-Connected Operation

One of the biggest advantages that the VRD-V20 has over a combination VCR / DVD recorder is that it can also be used as a DVD burner for PCs.  The VRD-V20 is connected to a PC with its USB cable. For this test, the included Nero software was used on the PC.  Installation was quite easy and the software suite is very complete. 

Note that the analog inputs of the VRD-V20 cannot be used when the VRD-V20 is connected to a PC that is turned on.  However, with the PC turned off (or the USB cable removed), normal operation of the VRD-V20 front panel controls returns.

Sony VRD-VC20
Sony VRD-VC20 connected to a PC

A video that had been previously recorded on the PV-GS200 and edited with Pinnacle Studio Version 9 was used for the PC-connected DVD burning tests.  The Studio 9 software detected the drive, identified the blank DVD, and successfully burned the video.  A Sony DVD-RW disc and Verbatum DVD-R discs were used for the single-sided recording tests.  A Verbatum DVD+R DL disc was used for the double-sided burning tests.  “HQ mode” was selected for all of the PC-connected tests.  The video DVDs were tested for compatibility on the DVP-NS700P single disc player and played flawlessly.

All writing speed tests used data files and were measured using Nero CD/DVD Speed Test.  The results were good, as shown in the performance section.

Conclusion

The VRD-VC20 is primarily targeted at the consumer who is converting their analog video recordings to DVD or transferring digital video recordings directly to DVD without editing.  As an extra bonus, when not being used for this purpose the VRD-VC20 does double duty as a PC connected burner, something that combination VCR / DVD recorders are ill-suited for.  It’s a unique niche, but we like the concept.  Basically, once your analog library is archived to DVD, this DVD recorder does not become obsolete.

If the VRD-VC20 had a video output and remote control, it could also be used as a bookshelf DVD player, but with an MSRP of $299 that may be asking too much.  

Pros


  • Simple to operate, especially in stand-alone mode

  • Analog and Digital video inputs

  • Double layer writer

Cons


  • No apparent video enhancement on analog inputs

  • No video output

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