What Is a DVD Recorder and a Burner?

Which will work best for you?

DVD recorders and DVD burners create DVDs by "burning" via a laser to a blank DVD. The laser creates "pits" on a recordable DVD using heat (that's where "burning" comes in) that store the bits of video and audio information needed to create a playable DVD.

Differences Between DVD Recorders and DVD Burners

What makes a DVD recorder different is that it refers to a specific type of standalone unit that resembles and functions very much like a VCR. On the other hand, a DVD burner refers to either an external add-on or an internal DVD drive for a PC or MAC. These devices are also called DVD writers. DVD writers record video and read and write computer data and store it on a blank DVD.

All DVD recorders can record from any analog video source, and most can also record video from digital camcorders via Firewire. Like a VCR, DVD recorders all have AV inputs, and most have an onboard TV tuner for recording TV shows. DVD Recorders come in several configurations such as Standalone, DVD Recorder/VCR Combo, or DVD Recorder/Hard Drive combo units.

Magnavox MDR-865H DVD/HDD Recorder (top) - Funai DV220FX4 DVD/VCR Recorder (bottom)
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Another characteristic of most DVD writers is that they can also record video and audio onto CD-Rs/CD-RWs. In contrast, standalone DVD recorders cannot read or write computer data or record onto CD-R/CD-RWs.

Also, to record video and audio onto a PC-DVD burner, the user must input the video to the computer's hard drive using Firewire, USB, or S-Video through a video card in real-time. However, you can then copy the resultant files from the hard drive onto a blank DVD.

Recording From Different Sources

Although a standalone DVD recorder can record from compatible video sources (such as its tuner or external device), it must be direct to a blank DVD in real-time.

You can only make copies from VHS to DVD from an external source or within a DVD recorder/VHS combination recorder in real-time. The same goes for DVD-to-DVD if copying from an externally plugged-in DVD player. However, for DVD recorder/Hard Drive combos, if you record video to the hard drive from an external VHS or DVD source, you can copy it to the DVD section in either real-time or via Hi-Speed dubbing.

When making copies from either externally sourced VHS or DVD content, or a DVD recorder Hard Drive to a DVD, video copy-protection limitations apply

You cannot use standalone DVD recorders to connect to a computer to record data files. They can only record video from analog video inputs and, on most DVD recorders, from a digital camcorder via an iLink (Firewire, IEEE1394) input. Standalone DVD recorders typically do not come with drivers that are required to interact directly with a PC.

However, some PC video editing software might allow for exporting standard DVD video files made on a PC to certain standalone DVD recorders through a PC's and DVD recorder's firewire interface. In this rare instance, consult your software and DVD recorder operating manual or tech support for specific details. If no information is available regarding this feature, the recorder will likely be incapable of this type of operation.

Final Thoughts

Although DVD burners for PCs are still available as either built-in or add-ons, DVD recorders are rare due to restrictions on what consumers can record onto DVD, as well as the preference for video-on-demand, internet streaming, and downloading services.