DVD Recorder vs. DVD Burner?

Which will work best for you?

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

Overall Findings

DVD Recorder
  • Functions like a VCR.

  • Records from any analog video source.

  • Multiple inputs and configurations are available.

  • Records from compatible video sources in real time.

DVD Burner
  • Drive for a computer.

  • Records video or audio.

  • Records computer data.

  • Copies in real time or uses Hi-Speed dubbing.

A DVD recorder is a specific type of standalone unit that resembles and functions like a VCR. DVD recorders record from any analog video source, and most record video from digital camcorders using Firewire. Like a VCR, DVD recorders 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 and VCR combo, and DVD recorder and hard drive combo units.

A DVD burner is 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.

Magnavox MDR-865H DVD/HDD Recorder (top) - Funai DV220FX4 DVD/VCR Recorder (bottom)
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Media: CDs or DVDs

DVD Recorder
  • Records video and audio.

  • Only records on DVD-R and DVD-RW.

  • Can't record on CD-R and CD-RW.

DVD Burner
  • Records video or audio.

  • Records on DVD-R and DVD-RW.

  • Records on CD-R and CD-RW.

Another characteristic of most DVD writers is that these devices also record video and audio onto CD-R and CD-RW discs. In contrast, standalone DVD recorders can't read or write computer data or record onto CD-R or CD-RW discs.

Also, to record video and audio onto a PC-DVD burner, you 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 copy the resulting files from the hard drive onto a blank DVD.

Sources: Television or Computer

DVD Recorder
  • Connects to a television.

  • Requires device-specific connections.

  • Can't record copy-protected material.

DVD Burner
  • Internally or externally connected to a computer.

  • Requires device-specific software.

  • Some burners have encryption software, although it's illegal to record copy-protected material.

A standalone DVD recorder can record from compatible video sources (such as its tuner or external device). However, 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.

On 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 using 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.

Content: Video, Audio, or Data

DVD Recorder
  • Only records analog video with audio.

  • Records from any compatible analog video source.

  • Creates DVDs from digital camcorders.

DVD Burner
  • May export standard DVD video files.

  • Records videos, audio, and photos.

  • Reads and writes computer data.

You can't use standalone DVD recorders to connect to a computer to record data files. These devices only record video from analog video inputs and, on most DVD recorders, from a digital camcorder using 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 the software and DVD recorder operating manual or tech support for details. If no information is available regarding this feature, the recorder is likely incapable of this type of operation.

Final Verdict: Best Choice Depends on Needs

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.

If you want to record using your computer and wish to burn multiple types of media and data, DVD burners for PCs are available as either built-in or add-ons, covering all of these options.

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