Although this model is discontinued, the Sony SLV-N750 (*Est. $75) received good reviews in its day. This standard VCR is still available in some overstock and discount stores. It has an analog tuner, so you'll be able to record TV shows, whether from an antenna or cable box, until Feb. 2009 when TV signals switch to digital. After that, you'll need a converter or a different unit. This Sony VCR is a standard four-head unit with input jacks for a second VCR, gaming console or camcorder.
You may also still see the Zenith VCS442 (*Est. $65) in some stores. This VCR has standard features and a front panel with inputs for gaming consoles, camcorders or a second VCR. Other useful features include automatic clock setting and automatic head cleaning. This model gets several reviews at Amazon.com and Epinions, but the overall rating is poor.
Rather than a VCR, you're most likely to find DVD player/VCR combos in stores. A good option is the Sony SLV-D380P (*Est. $100). This space-saving unit has a four-head hi-fi VCR that delivers a good picture and its DVD player offers good image quality as well. It also plays audio CDs as well as photo files on CDs and DVD discs you may have recorded on your computer. The combo deck allows you to watch a DVD while recording a TV show on the VCR. Owners at Amazon.com give this Sony DVD/VHS combo player decent scores -- but several owners say they are disappointed there's no tuner. This won't matter much to those who use a cable box or satellite receiver, but if you get your TV over an antenna or with basic cable, you won't be able to record.
We found equivalent middling owner reviews for other DVD player/VCR combo decks, including the Toshiba SD-V295 (*Est. $80). Features are nearly identical to that of the Sony SLV-D380P. Again, there's no tuner, and a few owners complain about the remote control, which has about a five-second delay whenever a button is pushed. The Philips DVP3340V (*Est. $160) has a hi-fi stereo VCR and a DVD player with progressive scan. This Philips model also has a feature not found on the Sony or Toshiba players above. The Philips DVD/VCR has direct dubbing that allows you to easily transfer DVD to VHS (as long as the DVDs are not copy protected). The Philips DVP3340V also plays CD music discs, MP3 files and JPEG digital photos. At Amazon.com, this model gets slightly better overall ratings than the Sony SLV-D380P and Toshiba SD-V295, but it shares the same complaint -- no tuner -- and it's very expensive.
Because of an FCC mandate that requires all products with analog tuners to also have digital tuners, most manufacturers now make devices with no tuners at all. If you use an antenna to watch TV, the lack of a tuner in these new devices is a problem. To record on the VCR, you need cable or satellite television or an external tuner. Starting in 2009 all tuners will be digital, so we should start seeing DVD/VCR combos with digital tuners. Most DVD recorder/VHS combos do have digital tuners, but these are more expensive.