Reaping awards for its digital cameras, Mustek is hoping that its success within the camera market will apply to its range of DVD recorders. The pitch for the R100B-5 is, ‘records your favourite TV programs to DVD'. A slight change in tack from previous DVDRs, heralded as the death of VHS and the saviour of keeping programs forever.
Sadly the 100B-5 itself isn't a design classic. The main display is buried behind a slightly frosted strip, giving a nice glow and almost retro 1980s look, but some unnecessarily garish LEDs begin to annoy after the first few chapters. A flip down cover would certainly improve the look. The buttons to the right of the display don't inspire confidence either, not as tactile as one might expect, and they certainly draw one's gaze. For the less fussy out there, these are but minor irritations. It's a sacrifice of style over function in the quest for value for money. However where the player does score is the offering of front access to the audio, I-Link and S-video inputs to save you the hassle of trying to reach around to plug in a video camera.
Menus are controlled via the television and displays are simple and clear, overlaying blue boxes in the style of popular PC software. Mustek's offering will record from and preserve your collection to DVD, sure. Recording TV to DVD, though? The quality derived from a TV dub would hardly justify the expenditure on the blank disc in my opinion. With a Freeview player and built in hard disc available under £170 and the vastness of Sky Digital Plus, recording to DVD seems an overcomplicated alternative. Then again, the recording time for DVD-RW or DVD+RW isn't diabolical, with lots of options on compression (4.7 GByte,12 cm single-sided, High Quality is 1 hour, Standard 2, LP 3 and EP 4) and even 6 hours via Super Long Play. The twin scart points support a direct transfer from another DVD player, (remember folks, there's copyright law to consider), and there are basic editing tweaks via the On Screen Display. The second scart input is also handy for plumbing in a TV decoder.
You'll need full support of Dolby Pro Logic to make a decent transfer that sounds crisp. If you have an existing home cinema kit, digital/satellite TV and NICAM VHS, all are supported. It'll record and playback NTSC videos, providing your telly supports it. Likewise with Predictive Scan.
The problem is that while the functionality is here you won't get holistic quality without the extra help of top spec hardware to connect to. If you've money in hand and want to beef up your front room, this unfortunately may not be the answer. That said, for a budget alternative it is all here- picture viewer, one touch record, timer and basic editing functions, just without the bells and whistles.