Lite-On LVW-5025GHC+ DVD Recorder Review
A DVD Recorder with an 80Gb hard drive for less than £200?
10th May 2006 · Last updated: 5th October 2016
A DVD Recorder with an 80Gb hard drive for less than £200? Sounds like a bargain. The Lite-On LVW-5025GHC+ handles a wide range of formats, including DVD-R and DVD+R, plus video, picture and music discs. Unlike many cheap models available, it also offers progressive scan for better picture quality if your TV supports it. You can record onto the hard drive or DVD, edit saved footage, and import video from a camcorder or other source. It has two SCART sockets at the back so connecting your old video recorder to archive tapes isn't a problem. There are also sockets for a camcorder and amplifier.
But is it worth considering at the price, or should you opt for a similar model from the big names, which are typically £100 more? The first thing to note is that not all machines can handle both DVD-R and DVD+R, two of the different formats available. While the Lite-On doesn't offer support for a third format, DVD-RAM, it does handle just about everything else (except the newer high-definition discs). The full list of supported discs and formats is as follows:
DVD, DVD-R/-RW, DVD+R/+RW, DVD+R DL (playback only), VCD, SVCD, CD, CD-R/-RW, MPEG-4, MP3, AC3, WMA, WAV, LPCM, AVI, DIVX-VOD, DIVX, DIV, XVID, SUB, SRT, TXT (the last three are MPEG-4 subtitles), JPEG, BMP, Dolby Digital 2/5.1 channel, DTS.
Setting up the machine is relatively straight-forward. There's a Quick Start guide, or you can follow the more detailed instructions in the lengthy manual. Tuning in my TV stations resulted in a few weak and fuzzy channels being added that were unsuitable for watching. These were basically echoes of the main channels, but I was soon able to remove them. I had to swap one main channel around, and add a VideoPlus+ code for another, but all this was easy to do.
I didn't need to alter any other settings besides entering the date and time, as everything seemed okay. The recording quality is set to SP by default, which isn't the highest quality mode, but allows you to fit 2 hours on a standard DVD. I can't tell any difference between this mode and live TV, so I've left the machine as it is. You can also set the qualiy to HQ (allowing for 1 hour per DVD), LP (3 hours), EP (4 hours) or SLP (6 hours). There's also a variable rate called 'Just Fit'. I noticed the lack of a mode which would have allowed 8 hours on a DVD. You can increase the time on a DVD by using double-sided discs, but this model doesn't support those.
A big problem I noticed was brighter than normal colours when watching TV through the SCART socket going from the machine to the TV. This is something I've noticed on other makes as well, and personally I think it can ruin the enjoyment of watching TV. It's not simply a matter of turning down the colours, because when you switch back to the direct TV signal, it will then appear washed out. There's no way to match the two signals, which left me feeling frustrated. I don't know why companies feel they must boost the colours on the video channel. Why can't the signal be left exactly as it is? I don't like the look of salmon-coloured faces, toxic-green grass and burstingly-bright red.
I also noted the image was softer than straight from the aerial. This looked bad flicking from TV to the machine, plus there seemed to be less contrast as well. However, you soon adjust to it, and some people might actually prefer the softer image. I would blame the SCART connection but it doesn't occur with my video recorder, nor my last DVD player.
Another problem is that the brightness is constantly adjusting itself! Say you're watching a dark scene, followed by a pure white background. The white will suddenly step down slightly in brightness every second or so. This self-adjustment seems totally unnecessary. You also think your eyes are going funny when it happens.
Luckily it only occurs when watching live TV, not on recordings. But why do it?
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Playback is superb. I could find no difference between playing a recording from the hard drive or from a DVD, even when fast-forwarding. You can pause, step frame by frame, or move slowly by two speeds. A special navigation menu allows access to the slow speeds, which is available anytime during playback. It also offers features such as Repeat, Zoom (including panning when viewing pictures), and a feature that allows you to move to a specific time in the recording.
You can also jump to a set chapter using the number buttons on the remote. Chapters are generated every 5 minutes by default (you can change this if you like). Or you can insert your own chapters later.
The machine offers a variety of ways to record from TV or another source. The One-Touch button starts recording instantly, using the default settings. If you press the button repeatedly, you can also set the length of time it records for, in 30-minute intervals.
A Timer can be set to record at a set time and date, or you can use VideoPlus+ codes. Since the unit does not have a built-in Freeview tuner, there is no EPG (Electronic Programme Guide), which is fully understandable. Recording quality can be set at the time of programming to make a recording, along with a choice between saving to the hard disk or DVD.
Stored recordings are shown with a representative thumbnail based on the start. You can change this to any image from the recording if you prefer. Recordings can also be listed as a text list.
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Recordings can easily be edited. The features include splitting a recording into two, merging two recordings into one, renaming the title, and inserting, removing, hiding or showing chapters. The only omission I can see is that there's no way to delete a section of a recording, such as the adverts. You have to split the recording first, then rejoin it later. I'm not sure if all recorders work in this way or not, but in practice, I don't see this being a major problem.
You can then copy from hard drive to DVD, or vice versa, providing the material isn't copyrighted of course.
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One irritation is that the buttons on the remote are on the small side. Ideally they could do with being larger and spaced further apart. The remote is usable, but I imagine people will find they press the wrong buttons now and then. On the plus side, there are two big blue buttons, the first which gives access to the main features via an 'Easy Guider' screen. The second shows the contents of the hard drive or DVD.
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Saved DVD menu
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This feature allows you to pause live TV. Although this is an amazing idea, in practice it is imperfect. When you resume viewing the TV programme you paused, the machine starts playing it back with a noticeable drop in quality. Text is slightly fuzzy, and the image is definitely grainier. This means it's recording in a low-quality mode. Alas I can find no menu option to set the recording quality when using Timeshift. It's a shame, as I didn't want to watch half of a programme in normal broadcast-quality, then pause it, only to watch the rest in a lower, fuzzier quality. There's also no way to rewind live TV.
There is a way around the problem with Timeshift though! At first I thought the machine was incapable of recording and playing back at the same time in high quality. After all, when you pause TV, what's happening is that a recording starts in the background. When you then press Play to unpause the programme, you start watching the recording from the start. But the machine is also carrying on recording in the background, so you don't lose any of the programme. At that point, it's playing and recording at the same time. Now if you manually start a recording by using the Record button, you can press Play to watch the start of the recording before it's finished. I found that a high quality mode such as the default SP setting isn't a problem here. So why isn't Timeshift also able to play back and record at high quality?
My advice is to ignore Timeshift and just hit Record instead when you want to break off from watching something. When you come back, press Play to begin watching from the start of the recording, and it will start from where you broke off. The picture quality will be better than if you had used Timeshift.
If you can live with the bright colours and varying brightness of the SCART signal, then this is a machine to think about. If the 80Gb hard drive doesn't seem large enough for you, there are also models available with 160Gb and 250Gb hard drives. Some models also allow for double-sided DVDs.
I found the menus easy to navigate, the manual fairly easy to read and understand (though it is long) and setup not a problem. I have yet to try recording from other sources beside TV, but in theory it should work just like recording TV. Copying from hard drive to DVD is straight-forward, with a progress bar showing a percentage, which is also mirrored in the front panel's LED as it counts up. The free blank DVD+RW that came with the machine seemed to have to be formatted, but this happened automatically after putting it in the machine, and didn't take long.
Both recording and playback appear smooth. It's a joy to record something and play it back as if you were watching it live, the quality is that good. But then be able to pause, rewind, fast-forward or edit it later. Using the hard drive is quick and easy and saves on blank discs, plus it also allows you to run off more than one copy if you're planning to archive a programme, or lend it to someone to watch.
The machine runs quietly, despite a fan in the back. Of course you'll hear the hard drive clicking on and off, but it's not loud enough to cause distraction, and the noise of the TV will block this out most of the time.
The design of the unit is pleasing, with a simple row of useful buttons on the right, and a drop-down fascia for connecting a camcorder or other device. I wasn't overkeen on the yellow LED used for the display, which hides beneath a plastic panel, but in fairness it's clear and easy to read from a distance.
The fact that this model is able to play a wide range of DVDs while many more expensive makes can't, coupled with the reasonable price makes this well worth considering. Some units matching the price don't even have a hard drive. It's just a pity about the image problems. I use mine on a CRT TV so the quality might be different on an LCD or plasma screen. I was unable to test the progressive scan mode as my TV doesn't support it.
The only drawbacks which might affect future use are the fact it doesn't upscale standard DVDs for playback on a high-definition TV. (Not many players can as this is a fairly new feature.) Also the lack of a Freeview tuner means it's not directly able to record from digital TV using an EPG. You might be able to get round this with a separate box, I'm not sure. But if you can live without those two features (which will cost more to have) then this is a reasonable budget machine.
I've changed my opinion of this device after using it for a while, and testing it out in various ways. At first I thought the dreaded brightness changing effect didn't occur on recordings, only during live TV, but I was wrong. I tested a piece of saved footage which clearly showed the brightness changing. On a PC the effect was still there. This means all recordings I make will suffer from this — great. I wanted to make perfect archives of anything I wanted to, but now they will always be slightly imperfect. To be honest, most of the time you don't notice the effect, but when you do, it's an irritation.
I'm also not crazy about the brighter colours. I turned down the colours on my TV as low as I could, but the screen was still too colourful! So I switched to direct TV, which was then completely black and white! That proves the colours are brighter via the SCART, but how do you turn them down? You can't! I've even thought of buying a video processing box that can turn the colours down, but couldn't find one in the shops last week.
Another problem occured when I used VideoPlus+ to record a show to DVD+RW. I used PDC and left the machine in standby. But the next day I found only half the programme had been recorded! Was it due to PDC, that can sometimes cut a recording short? If so, I find it hard to believe it would happen half way through a show. So I don't know what happened.
Thinking it might be a bad disc, I tried two more recordings (after erasing the disc first) but this time left PDC off. Both programmes were recorded perfectly.
Overall, I can't help feeling I should have gone for a more expensive machine — even one without a hard drive. I usually go for the top brands like SONY, Toshiba, Samsung and so on. In fact it was a choice between the Lite-On or a similar Samsung model. Maybe that would have been better? Or perhaps all makes suffer from the same problems. Who knows?
- Handles a wide range of formats
- Intuitive menus
- Reasonable price
- Progressive scan mode
- 80Gb hard drive
- PIP during menus (except VideoPlus+) so you can still watch TV
- Small buttons on remote
- Bright colours via SCART lead even when TV set to black & white!
- Brightness visibly adjusts itself when viewing TV and on recordings
- Pause TV mode restarts at lower quality
- Can't change channel being recorded during a recording
- Can't switch to a DVD while recording on the hard drive
- No way to save stored Timeshift recordings
- Some commercial DVDs don't autoplay
- Large JPEGs cut off (at least on my 29-inch TV)
- Seemed to show BMP files corrupted
- Can't zoom > 100% on pictures
- Recorded discs can't be ejected while machine in standby mode
- VideoPlus+ menu PIP shows only the channel you are setting, so you can't also watch TV
- Can't copy multiple files in one go?
- Unit stays on when PDC used for VideoPlus+
- One-Touch recordings only last for 6 hours
- Single-sided DVDs only
- Dates only allow up to 31 December 2099
- No built-in Freeview tuner
- No HDTV upscaling
- No 8-hour mode for recordings on a single-sided DVD
- Timeshift pause has a limit of 3 hours
- Eighty gigabytes of storage
- Those fuzzy old TVs like your parents had
- Digital Theater Systems
- Available in various formats for recording on
- Works like a hard drive, but not supported by many recorders
- Used for listing and recording TV programmes on digital channels
- Digital TV
- A screen where each dot represents a set pixel so accuracy is superb
- Allows for programs that overrun on VideoPlus+
- Picture In Picture
- Standard multi-pin connector for home video equipment
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Comments are locked on this topic. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment.
hello, i get a crackling when i record from normal Tv channels but NOT via scart (sky tv) do u have any idea why that would be and where have u got your external aerial connectd to? any ideas would be great
Posted on 28 May 2006 at 10:33 pm ¶
- Chris Hester:
That's odd. I've no idea why. How is the TV connected?
My aerial goes into the back of the DVD recorder. I then use the supplied aerial lead to loop to the TV for a direct signal. The recorder goes to the TV via the main SCART.
Posted on 28 May 2006 at 10:33 pm ¶
Is there an electronics version of the user manual for the LVW-5025GHC+ ?
Posted on 1 June 2006 at 1:55 pm ¶