If you’ve ever wanted a TiVo or a ReplayTV-like device, but don’t happen to live in that part of the world where their subscription service is offered, the JVC HM-HDS1 S-VHS VCR has come to the rescue.

JVC has included a 40-gigabyte hard drive to its latest VCR, allowing you to record all those episodes of Meteor Garden while you waste your life away at the office – without ever touching a single VHS tape. You can record up to 40 hours of video in SEP mode, which makes for a lot of episodes! Well, this VCR provides a navigable picture index of all your recorded shows for easy viewing selection, as well as queuing them for dubbing to a VHS tape so you can watch them again next year and wonder why you ever recorded them in the first place.

Programming the VCR is almost brainless, since you no longer have to guess what those flashing LEDs on the front panel mean. A full-screen interface shows all the information you need: date, start and end times, channel, recording speed – it even allows you to program in Weekly or Daily mode, another plus for those afternoon soap fans.

Although it doesn’t offer the ReplayTV’s commercial-skipping feature, it does have Skip buttons that allow you to jump forward or backward in 30-second increments – perfect for not having to see any more skin-whitening product commercials. Ugh!

The coolest feature of this VCR is that it allows you to pause live TV! Let’s say it’s the last segment of Fear Factor, and the phone rings, and the person on the other end gives absolutely no care in the world about how important this show is to your so-called life. You merely press the Pause button while the VCR records merrily away everything that’s happening on-air. That’s precisely what the hard drive is for, but don’t change the channel, or all that recording will disappear in an instant into digital heaven.

A non-linear editing mode is also provided, so you can dump your home movies into the hard drive, and edit it down to our viewing treshold of about 15 minutes, so we won’t have to watch all your shooting mistakes which we absolutely do not find as amusing as you do.

Lastly, it actually keeps track of all the shows you’ve transferred to VHS tapes – maintaining a database of all your VHS tapes, and all their contents! Pretty cool!

JVC’s MSRP for this unit is US$1899.95, but I was able to buy mine from an online reseller for less than a third of that price. “The world’s first 2-in-1 solution to integrate a hard disk recorder and Super VHS recorder into a single unit,” as JVC’s web site claims, has given me the opportunity to catch up on all those shows that I wouldn’t have missed.

August 2003