If you have a pile of aging VHS tapes that you want archived to DVD, GoVideo's VHS/DVD combo recorder makes it easy. The GoVideo VR2940 ($350 list) produces impressive VHS-to-DVD copies, eliminating much of the video noise you'll find on older tapes. But its most-convenient feature is the ability to automatically create DVD menus complete with thumbnails for the chapter stops. On the other hand, videophiles will cringe at the lack of S-Video inputs--for them, we recommend an S-Video-equipped VHS/DVD deck such as the older GoVideo VR3930 or the RCA DRC8300N.
Measuring 17 by 3.5 by 14 inches, the dull-black VR2940 doesn't look like much; your visitors could easily mistake it for a garden-variety VHS deck. Nonetheless, the front panel provides most of the controls you'll need, including Play/Pause, Stop, Rewind, Fast-Forward, and Channel Up/Down buttons. The DVD/VCR button toggles the controls between the DVD and VCR decks, while a pair of handy one-touch Copy buttons let you begin VHS-to-DVD or DVD-to-VCR dubbing. A small section of the front panel flips open to reveal a set of A/V inputs, including a single FireWire input.
The GoVideo's remote control isn't backlit, but we like the intuitive keypad layout. Just beneath the central navigation keys is the large, circular Play/Pause button, which is flanked by the Previous, Next, Reverse, and Fast-Forward buttons. After a short learning period, we had no trouble using the remote in the dark.
Aside from the FireWire jack, the VR2940's connection options are pretty disappointing. The output selection is fine, including component out, S-Video, and coaxial digital audio (composite and RF outs are also available), but in terms of inputs, you get only composite video on the front and back panels--there's no S-Video input. The good news, however, is that the GoVideo lets you play VHS tapes over the component-video output, even with the deck in progressive-scan mode. Many players force you to use another S-Video or composite-video output for VHS playback.
The VR2940's menus are relatively simple, and after setting up the device and scanning for available channels, we were recording within a matter of minutes. You can set up timed recordings, but there's no onscreen programming guide or even VCR Plus, so don't cancel that TV Guide subscription just yet. There's also no IR blaster for controlling your cable box, so you'll have to make sure your tuner is set to the right channel before setting up recordings. The lack of VCR Plus functionality--a given for even the cheapest VHS decks--is a glaring omission.