HP – MovieWriter DC4000 review

Get your VHS tapes onto DVD
Photo of HP – MovieWriter DC4000

At first glance, you could be forgiven for approaching the HP MovieWriter DC4000 with cynicism. It’s billed as a device to transfer your old analogue video and camcorder tapes to DVD and, as such, it would have been nice to find support for both DVD and VHS within the same unit. Not so, for what HP has done here is to effectively provide an external DVD burner (the DVD 420i to be exact, an 8x DVD dual-format drive) with one or two tricks up its sleeve.

The key trick is that mounted on the right-hand edge of the burner are connections for analogue input. That means you directly hook up your analogue source to the external unit itself, which is a handy and tidy way of handling video capture. Once installed – and that’s a breeze – to get going you simply press the button on the MovieWriter DC4000 itself, and then HP’s software package (developed by ArcSoft, whose ShowBiz DVD is also included) whirrs into life.

The software is an absolute breeze to use and really deserves credit. It takes you step by step through what you need to do, from determining the quality of the footage you want to capture (it doesn’t give you numbers, instead offering up ‘good’ and ‘best’, for instance) to taking you through to the capture screen itself.

There are some slight niggles here, mind. You’re asked to cue up your analogue device, yet when you hit play and then click to instruct the computer to start the capture, there’s an unfortunate and unpredictable delay while it gets going. A bigger irritation is that we had problems using some of the created video files outside of HP’s software.

You’ll have spotted, though, that we’re talking video capture here, and thus you can probably piece together how this works. It takes footage from the analogue device, transfers it to your hard drive (with the requisite disk space consumption, which you need to be aware of in advance – we’re talking gigabytes here), then the software helps you build up a menu and suchlike, and then you can start the burn.

The thing is, if you already have a DVD burner, then the only piece of the hardware that’s of use here is the capture equipment. The software gives you a choice of burners to use when outputting your work, and any existing DVD burners are already listed. What you’re then paying for are good, straightforward pieces of software (which lack too many obvious advanced options, but genuinely do a very good job) and an analogue capture device. Do the maths and you’ll realise that you can get this combination cheaper elsewhere.

That said, if you lack a DVD burner and are looking for an easy way to get your tapes onto DVD, then this very much fits the bill. It’s a doddle to use, will eat up large chunks of your hard drive, but delivers the goods. It’s packaged well, with the necessary cabling included, and is a device of some merit.

Company: HP

Contact: 0870 241 1485

While there's still room for a simpler way of getting VHS to DVD, this is a nice package that does what it's supposed to do. It's good value too, unless you already own a DVD burner.