However, for a detailed look at what makes standard Commercial DVDs you buy at your local retail outlet different from the DVD recording formats discussed below, also be sure to check out my Quick Tip: What Makes Home Recorded DVDs Different Than Commercial DVDs.
Without getting into the technical aspects of each format (for more info check related links at the end of this article) the relevance of each format to the average consumer goes like this:
DVD-R: The most universal of recordable DVD formats that is used by computer DVD writers as well as most DVD recorders. DVD-R is a write-once format, much like CD-R and discs made in this format can be played in most current DVD players. DVD-R discs need to be finalized at the conclusion of the recording process (like a CDR) before they can be played in another DVD player.
DVD-R DL A record-once format that is identical to DVD-R, except that it has two layers on the same side of the DVD. This allows twice the recording time capacity on a single side. This format is being incorporated slowly on some newer DVD Recorders. Although the actual recording format is the same as DVD-R, the physical difference between a standard DVD-R disc and a DVD-R DL disc may result in less playback compatibility on some DVD players that normally have the ability to play standard single layer DVD-R discs.
DVD-RW: Recordable and rewritable format (like CD-RW) promoted by Pioneer, Sharp, and Sony. Discs are playable in most DVD players, provided it is recorded in the straight Video Mode and finalized. In addition, the DVD-RW format also has the ability to perform Chase Play, which is similar to Time Slip used in the DVD-RAM format (refer to the explanation for the DVD-RAM format). However, this function is available only in what is referred to as VR mode. DVD-RW recordings made in VR mode may not be as compatible with other DVD players.
DVD+RW: Recordable and rewritable format promoted primarily by Philips, with a host of partners, including Yamaha, HP, Ricoh, Thomson (RCA), Mitsubishi, APEX, and Sony. Claims to offer a greater degree of compatibility with current DVD technology than DVD-RW. The DVD+RW format is also the easiest to use, in terms of basic recording, as the discs do not need to be finalized at the conclusion of the recording process in order to play in another DVD player. This is due to the finalization process being performed during the actual recording process itself.
DVD+R: A record-once format introduced and backed by Philips and adopted by the other DVD+RW proponents, that is said to be easier to use than DVD-R, while still playable in most current DVD players. DVD+R discs need to be finalized before they can play in another DVD player.
DVD+R DL A record-once format that is identical to DVD+R, except that it has two layers on the same side of the DVD. This allows twice the recording time capacity on a single side. This format is being incorporated on most new PCs with DVD writers, but is slowly being introduced into standalone DVD recorders. Although the actual recording format is the same as DVD+R, the physical difference between a standard DVD+R disc and a DVD+R DL disc may result in less playback compatibility on some DVD players that normally have the ability to play standard single layer DVD+R discs.
DVD-RAM: Recordable and rewritable format promoted by Panasonic, Toshiba, Samsung, and Hitachi, which is not playback compatible with most standard DVD players, and is not compatible with most DVD-ROM computer drives. One of the unique features of DVD-RAM, however, is its ability (with its random access and quick writing speed) to allow the user to watch the beginning of a recording while the DVD recorder is still recording the end of the program. This is referred to as "Time Slip". This is great if a phone call interrupts your viewing or if you come home late from work and miss the beginning that important TV episode or televised sporting event. Another advantage of DVD-RAM is its extensive capability for on-disc editing. With its quick access speed, you can rearrange the playback order of scenes and delete other scenes from playback, without erasing the original video. However, it must be re-noted that the recording made is not compatible with playback on most standard DVD players.
Proceed to the next question: Is there a DVD recorder that records in all formats?