LG RC897T DVD Recorder/VCR Combination Review

Introduction to the LG RC897T DVD Recorder/VCR Combo

LG RC897T DVD Recorder VCR Combo - Front View With Accessories
LG RC897T DVD Recorder VCR Combo - Front View With Accessories. Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The LG RC897T DVD recorder/VCR combo records most DVD formats and plays most DVD and CD formats, including MP3, WMA, and Jpeg files. The user can also record directly to VHS or dub non-copy-protected video content from VHS to DVD or DVD to VHS. The HDMI output and video upscaling function makes the RC897T a good match for an HDTV. The RC897T also has both analog and DV video inputs, a USB input for digital image and music file playback and complies with the upcoming DTV transition requirements, with its built-in ATSC tuner.

After reading this review also check out my Photo Gallery and Video Performance Test Results.

DVD Recording Overview

A DVD recorder refers to a standalone unit that resembles and functions very much like a VCR. All DVD recorders can record from any analog video source (most can also record video from digital camcorders via firewire). Like a VCR, DVD recorders all have AV inputs as most have an onboard TV tuner for recording TV shows. DVD Recorders come in several configurations: Standalone, DVD Recorder/VCR Combo, or DVD Recorder/Hard Drive combo units. The type of DVD recorder that is being reviewed here is the LG RC897T DVD Recorder/VCR combination.

A DVD recorder can be used to copy any homemade videos, such as camcorder videos and videos made from TV shows, and can also copy Laserdiscs, and other non-copy guarded video material.

However, just as you can't copy commercially made video tapes to another VCR due to Macrovision anti-copy encoding, the same applies to making copies to DVD.

DVD recorders cannot bypass the anti-copy signal on commercial VHS tapes or DVDs. If a DVD recorder detects the anti-copy encoding on a commercial DVD it will not start the recording and display some sort of message either on screen or on its LED front panel display that it detects the anti-copy code or that it is detecting an unusable signal.

If you need more info about DVD recording, check out my DVD Recorder FAQs before continuing on with this review.

LG RC897T Product Overview

1. The RC897T Records to all current DVD disc formats with Super Multi-Format Recording: DVD±R /DVD±RW/DVD+R Double Layer/DVD-RAM.

2. Digital music, photo, and video file playback with a flash drive via front USB port.

3. The RC897T features 1080p video upscaling via HDMI output for both DVD and VHS playback.

4. This unit has an ATSC tuner for reception and recording of over-the-air Digital TV signals. This complies with DTV Transition requirements.

5. An IR blaster cable is provided for control and recording from cable and satellite boxes.

6. VHS to DVD and DVD to VHS cross-dubbing of non-copy-protected video content is featured.

7. A front panel DV (IEEE-1394, iLink, Firewire) input for recording from digital camcorders is provided.

8. Video Inputs included: RF Coaxial and Composite Video (1 rear, 1 front).

9. Audio Inputs included: 2 sets of analog stereo inputs (1 front, 1 rear).

10. Video Outputs included: 1 HDMI, 1 Component (red, green, blue), 1 S-video, 1 Composite.

Audio Outputs: 1 Digital Optical, 1 Digital Coaxial, 1 set of analog Stereo outputs.

NOTE: HDMI can output both audio and video.

HDMI Overview

HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface. Get a closer look at an HDMI connector.

The RC897T has the ability to DVDs, VHS tapes, and ATSC tuner signals and send them via HDMI output to an HDTV equipped with an HDMI or DVI-HDCP (via a connection adapter) input. It must be noted that HDMI can transfer both video and audio signals.

Overview of Video Upscaling

The RC897T can output 720p, 1080i, or 1080p (in addition to 480p) to your HDTV.

720p is 1,280 pixels displayed across a screen horizontally and 720 pixels down the screen vertically.

This yields 720 horizontal lines, which are displayed progressively, or each line displayed following another.

1080i represents 1,920 pixels displayed across a screen horizontally and 1,080 pixels down a screen vertically. This arrangement yields 1,080 horizontal lines, which are displayed alternately. In other words, all the odd lines are displayed, followed by all the even lines.

1080p represents the same pixel resolution as 1080i, however, the lines are displayed progressively, rather than alternately, providing a better visual look. Check out more details on 1080p.

The Practical Side Of Video Upscaling

The capability of the RC897T to output a video signal in 720p, 1080i, or 1080p format allows its video output to more closely match the capabilities of today's HDTVs.

Although this is not the same as watching DVDs or other standard definition sources in true high definition, there is increased detail and color over a non-upscaling DVD player.

The upscaling function works best on fixed pixel displays, such as LCD or Plasma sets, the upscaling process may sometimes result in harsh images on standard CRT and Projection sets.

The RC897T is designed to do the following:

1. Record DVDs in a variety of formats.

2. Play standard DVDs and Music CDs.

3. Play and Record VHS Tapes, and dub from VHS to DVD and DVD to VHS.

4. Receive over-the-air DTV signals.

5. Watch DVDs, VHS tapes, and live DTV signals in an upscaled format.

6. Play music, photo, and video files from a Flash Drive.

The RC897T CANNOT do the following:

1. You cannot dub most commercially made VHS movie tapes to DVD or vice versa due to the presence of copy-protection.

2. Although RC897T receives over-the-air DTV/HDTV signals via its ATSC tuner, it cannot record high definition onto DVD. All HDTV signals are downscaled before the recording process, but DVDs are upscaled on playback.

3. The RC897 cannot play Blu-ray or HD-DVD discs, nor can it record them.

Hardware Used In This Review

Home Theater Receivers: Onkyo TX-SR705, Harman Kardon AVR147.

Source Components: OPPO DV-983H DVD Player (used for standard DVD upscaling comparison).

Loudspeaker System1:2 Klipsch F-2's, 2 Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2 Center, 2 Polk R300s, Klipsch Synergy Sub10.

Loudspeaker System2: 2 JBL Balboa 30's, JBL Balboa Center Channel, 2 JBL Venue Series 5-inch Monitor speakers, Polk Audio PSW10 Subwoofer.

TV/Monitors: A Westinghouse Digital LVM-37w3 080p LCD Monitor, and Syntax LT-32HV 720p LCD TV. Displays calibrated using SpyderTV Software.

Audio/Video connections made with Accell, Cobalt, and AR Interconnect cables. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used.

Software Used

Standard DVDs: Crank, House of the Flying Daggers, The Cave, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, V For Vendetta, U571, Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander.

Comparison DVD recordings used in this review were originally recorded on the Sony RDR-HX900, Philips DVDR985, and Pioneer DVR-533H DVD recorders.

CDs: Al Stewart - A Beach Full of Shells, The Beatles - LOVE, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Blue Man Group - The Complex, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, Lisa Loeb - Firecracker, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me.


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Video Recording and Video/Audio Playback Performance

Using the RC897T I observed the following:

1: Video quality was very good for all compatible disc recording formats. At the one and two-hour record modes, I found very little visual difference between the source material and finished recording.

2: The simultaneous recording/playback feature with the DVD-RAM format worked well. It was easy to view both the the current recording and playback of earlier segments while still recording the rest of the current program. However, discs recorded using this format are usually not playable on other DVD players.

3: This unit performs well as a DVD recorder, DVD player, and CD player. Dolby Digital and DTS were excellent, and the 1080p video upscaling did a good job on DVDs. The video and audio quality was definitely as good as many upscaling DVD players, and also did satisfactory on standardized tests, but the upscaling performance of the RC897T was not as good as my OPPO DV-983H DVD player which I use as a benchmark reference.

4: I also found that the RC897 had no difficulty playing recorded DVDs made on other DVD recorders; DVD-Rs made on a Sony RDR-HX900, on a PC, and DVR+Rs/DVD+RWs that were previously made on a Philips DVDR985.


5: However as much as I was pleased with the DVD record and playback performance of the RC897T, I was disappointed in the quality of VHS recording and playback. Although the 1080p upscaling feature works on VHS output, the quality of the VHS images was not as good as I would have expected. My old RCA VR-725HF VCR has better standard VHS-quality recording and playback. Another disappointment with RC897T is that even though it does have an S-Video output, it does not have an S-Video input.

6: On the other hand, the one-touch bi-directional dubbing function and user interface were both easy to use.


What I Liked About The RC897T

1. The HDMI output works for both DVD and VHS, as well as the live ATSC tuner feed.

2. 1080p upscaling function also for DVD and VHS Tape playback, as well as the ATSC tuner feed.

3. Based on test results and real-world viewing the RC897T has more than acceptable DVD Upscaling Performance.

4. The RC897T records in most recordable DVD Formats, giving it flexibility with both dubbing and editing.

5. The incorporation of an ATSC tuner meets tuner requirements for the DTV Transition. The RC897T also features Set-top Box Control Option, which means it can change channels on a cable or satellite box.

What I Didn't Like About The RC897T

1. The VHS video playback and upscaling were lackluster.

2. The provided wireless remote control has small buttons and is not backlit. This makes it harder to use in a darkened room.

3. There is no true Super VHS quality playback - just quasi-S-VHS.

4. There is no S-Video input, only an S-Video output. This means that when recording video from external analog video sources, the only option is to use a standard Composite video input. However, a DV input is provided for digital camcorders.

5. There is no SACD or DVD Audio Playback. This is not a deal breaker as there is no DVD recorder available in the U.S. with this capability, but I always point that out for those that ask.

6. Below average still image playback quality from Flash Drives.

Final Take

To sum everything up on the RC897T, I found that as a DVD recorder, DVD player, and CD player this unit works well. The DVD upscaling provides a satisfactory viewing experience on an HDTV and the flexible DVD recording formats make DVD recording decisions easy.

Also, I found that the RC897T's over-the-air reception of DTV/HDTV channels was definitely superior in quality than its reception of analog channels.

When you setup the RC897T and activate the channel scan function, it scans for both Analog and Digital TV signal sources, so you have two sources of programming.

Since digital channels are either on or off, marginal channels may not be detected on the digital side, but marginal channels may be detected on the analog side, although not with the best reception quality. The point that if you receive over-the-air programming, you can choose which is the best source for you to record from.

However, keep in mind that if you are cable or satellite, the onboard ATSC tuner is bypassed by your cable or satellite box.

With regards to DVD and VHS playback, as mentioned previously, the upscaling function via HDMI works very well, but VHS playback, even with upscaling, still looks lackluster. It would have been nice for LG to give more thought to the VCR side of the RC897T, but with the state of VHS, I am sure both money and time were a consideration.

On the other hand, having a front panel USB port is a nice touch. It is important to note that the RC897T cannot record from this port, but you can play back digital still photos, music files, and video files from a flash drive inserted into this port.

However, one disappointment was that the still images played through the LG RC897T definitely did not look as good as they did when played through the USB port on the OPPO DV983H Upscaling DVD player used for reference.

The RC897T has a very good DVD/CD section, but the lackluster VCR section, lack of S-video input, and non-backlit, small-button, remote does affect its overall rating in my book.

For a closer look at both the video connections and functions, as well as the video upscaling performance, of the LG RC897T DVD Recorder/VCR Combination, also check out my Photo Gallery and Video Performance Test Results Report.

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