Sony’s DVDirect is designed to help you unshackle yourself from the computer when you want to store/backup your digital media. It is specifically aimed at digital camera and camcorder users. You can use it to create DVD slideshows of as many pics as you can squeeze on to various DVD formats including DVD+/-R, DVD+/-RW, and importantly, DVD+R Dual Layer discs. You can also choose from a few menu backgrounds and music to accompany the slide show.
And, with its multiple inputs (composite audio/video, S-Video, USB, DV and SD, MS, xD, CF, and Memory Stick Duo card slots), the device isn’t strictly limited to backing up photos and camcorder movies. For example, you can also use it to back up VHS into DVD format.
The form factor is quite distinctive – pretty typical for Sony – although it does look like two different units have been squeezed together. But at least it should be at home on a desk or table. It also has a weighty, robust feel to it, so even though it doesn’t look particularly ideal for carrying around, should you want to take it out and about instead of weighing yourself down with a laptop, it should hold up pretty well.
Usability is generally pretty good and uses a basic menu structure that lets you choose between the various different functions you can perform – be it recording direct from the contents of a camcorder or transferring pictures from a memory card. One thing you don’t seem to be able to do is directly copy a combination of pics and movies from your memory card. On the other hand, a sensible feature is the option to record a selection of photos to the disc, then add more later on before you finalise the disc. This is particularly handy if you want to get the most out of a standard single layer disc’s capacity while conserving space on you memory card or camera.
The DVDirect also has PictBridge compatibility, so you can cut out the computer when both storing and printing your pics, as long as you have a compatible printer.
Although the DVDirect isn’t exactly huge (it measures in at roughly 22.0 x 20.5 x 6.5 cm), it still seems like it’s taking up a lot of space for what it actually is – a DVD burner with a rudimentary interface. In terms of volume, that isn’t much less than most laptops… That would be more forgivable if it was particularly quick at performing its various tasks but instead it suffers from pretty slow loading times, and inserting a disc will usually force you to wait up to 20 seconds while it assesses it.
Another annoyance is that some of the options aren’t actually available in the main menu. When you want to record video direct to DVD you need to plug in the video inputs first, turn on the unit, then enter the blank disc (in that order) otherwise it won’t give you the direct recording option. Oh and it won’t accept rewriteable DVD for some tasks, which is a bit restrictive. In the end, until you are completely familiar with the interface, this tends to mean a lot of switching it off and on again and more time spent watching the loading screens.
Compatibility: DVD+/-R, DVD+/-RW and DVD+R Dual Layer
Inputs: Composite, S-Video, USB (Handycam), DV (i.LINK)
Card slots: Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick, SD, xD and CF
Four DVD menus, four slide show music tracks
Five recording quality settings
Apart from the occasional hoops you have to jump through just to get what you want from the machine, its does exactly what it claims to, and most available actions are very easy to access and perform using the interface. But there isn’t much that the DVDirect can do that isn’t already offered by plenty of alternatives (i.e. a decent DVD drive and some good software), so its only real differentiator is that you can do it all without a computer.
The price tag of around £180 strikes me as a little on the expensive side too, but that at least is a fair bit cheaper than a laptop.
Related sites: Sony