Pioneer DVD Recorder/Hard Drive Combo Review

Performance and Style

Pioneer DVR-533H-S DVD Recorder/Hard Drive Combination - Front View
Pioneer DVR-533H-S DVD Recorder/Hard Drive Combination - Front View. Pioneer Electronics

Pioneer DVR-533H-S DVD Recorder/Hard Drive Combination

The DVR-533H, Pioneer's stylish entry-level DVD Recorder/Hard Drive combo, carries on this tradition as a reasonably priced unit that provides performance and flexibility for those entering the world of DVD recording. While this unit has been discontinued, it is still available as used on many commercial websites.

DVR-533H Product Overview

The DVR-533H is a DVD Recorder/Hard Drive Combination featuring DVD-R, DVD-R LD, DVD-RW (Video Mode), and DVD-RW (VR Mode) recording capability in tandem with an 80GB Hard Disk Drive.

Additional Features Include:

  • Playback Format: DVD video/-R/-R DL/-RW, DVD+RW, CD/C-R/RW/MP3/WMA/JPEG, and VCD.
  • AV Inputs: 3 composite video/S-Video, 1 RF, and 1 IEEE 1394 (FireWire/iLink/DV) input, Stereo audio.
  • AV Outputs: 2 S-video, 2 component video, 2 composite video, 2 stereo, one optical Digital Audio output.
  • Progressive scan with 3:2 pulldown supported via component video outputs.
  • Dolby Digital and DTS pass-through via the digital audio outputs.
  • TV Guide Channel listings/Programming system built-in - works with over-the-air and cable TV systems.
  • Real time dubbing from DVD to Hard Drive, High-Speed Dubbing from Hard Drive To DVD of non-copy-protected material.
  • Chase Play (Simultaneous Recording and Playback) supported when recording in DVD-RW VR mode.
  • Disk Backup feature allows dubbing home made DVD back to hard drive to allow high-speed dubbing to additional DVDs.
  • On-screen Disc and Hard Drive Nagivation and TV Guide listing and programming systems accessed via wireless remote Performance

    VD Recording Peformance and Options

    Video quality was very good using the 80GB hard drive or direct-to-DVD recording option. At the 1(XP) and 2-hour(SP) record modes, I found little, if any, visual difference between source material and a finished recording.
    • Recording to the hard drive first, then dubbing to DVD yielded less dropped frames than recording to DVD directly, based on the blank media I used.
    • The Chase-Play feature (simultaneous recording/playback) in the DVD-RW VR format worked very well. Toggling between live recording and playback of earlier segments while still recording the rest of the live program was easy. However, discs recorded using this format are usually not playable on standard DVD players.
    • The DV-input recording was easy. When recording from the GS35, a camcorder control menu was displayed on the 533 which allowed combined control of the DVD recorder and the camcorder playback functions.
    • I found accessing the hard drive recording title list held a interesting surprise; the small image icon next to the titles actually begins to play both the audio and video of the recorded title. You can scroll through the hard drive title menu and play each title as a small window, thus easily previewing your recordings while in the title menu mode.
    • The One Touch Copy function worked well. You press the One Touch Copy button while your DVD or Hard Drive video is playing. This function then goes back to the beginning and copies the entire recording from DVD-to-Hard Drive or Hard Drive-to-DVD, determined by which one was playing when the one touch copy button was pressed.
    • I found the TV Guide programming feature took a long time to initially set-up and wasn't very intuitive to use at first, which may intimidate some users. However, I found that once I got used to the user interface, recording TV programs became easier than on a typical VCR.
    • Video/Audio Playback Performance

      This unit not only performs very well as a DVD recorder, but is an excellent DVD/CD player. Dolby Digital and DTS pass-through was excellent, as well as the standard and progressive scan component video outputs. CDs and DTS music discs played well with no audible audio shortcomings.
    • The 533 had no difficulty playing DVDs made on other DVD recorders; DVD-Rs made on a Sony RDR-HX900 or Pioneer DVR-7000 and several PC-DVD drives played fine, as did DVD+RW discs made on a Philips DVDR985. By the same token, DVD-Rs recorded on the Pioneer DVR-533H played fine on all of the DVD players used for comparison.
    • What I Liked About The DVR-533H and What Could Be Improved

      Strong points of the 533-H included:
      1. Performs well as both a DVD recorder and DVD/CD player, very good video quality.
  • Runs cool and quiet, slimline design is attractive and practical for installation.
  • Extensive recording and playback options.
  • Includes DVD-R DL (DVD-R Double Layer) Disc Recording capability.
  • Simultaneous Record/Play in DVD-RW VR Mode.
  • Features that could be improved or added:
      1. Owner's manual can be confusing, there is lot of cross-page referencing that requires too much page flipping.
  • No DVD+R/+RW Format or Audio-Only CD-R/RW Recording. With the trend by many manufacturers to include both - and + format DVD recording, Pioneer may consider this addition. Also, adding CD-R/RW audio recording would also be a great bonus.
  • TV Guide programming feature requires long initial setup time. In order for TV Guide to work, it has to download the channel and programming information for your location through your cable or antenna. This process initially takes about 24 hours and is done during times when the DVD recorder is off. You cannot record TV programs until this process is complete. If this could be done more quickly, it would make using the TV Guide option easier to use initially.
  • No HDMI or DVI output. With more DVD players including this connection option, it would make sense for this feature to be included in DVD recorders also. HDMI/DVI, in conjunction with upscaling, would improve the playback quality of DVD recorders on the new generation of digital televisions.
  • No SACD/DVD-Audio Playback Compatibility. It seems odd that Pioneer includes this feature on budget-priced DVD players and not on its DVD recorder line-up. The would certainly increase playback flexibility.
  • DVR-533H-S Final Take

    With its stylish profile, excellent complement of features - including the incorporation of an 80GB hard drive and DVD-R DL recording capability, very good video/audio quality in both recording and playback operation, and plentiful connectivity options, the 533 is great example of how good a DVD recorder can be in terms of consistent performance and practical features.
    • However, added HDMI/DVI connectivity, SACD/DVD-Audio playback, as well as a little more refinement in the owner's manual, user interface, and less cluttered remote would be desirable.
    • The Pioneer DVR-533H DVD recorder/Hard Drive combination is definitely worthy of consideration. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
    • Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see ourĀ Ethics Policy.
    • Manufacturer's Site