VCRs still have one key advantage

Despite all the gains that DVD is making, don't throw out that videocassette recorder just yet. It will take years for movie companies to get all their content onto the new discs. And given the price of the new technology, many consumers may want to put off the switch.

"The VCR is not going away anytime soon," says Jim Barry of the Consumer Electronics Manufacturing Association. Last year, American consumers snapped up more VCRs than ever before. While sales of DVD video players reached 1 million units, VCR sales topped 18 million.

Part of the reason is that DVD players can't fully replace VCRs because they can't record programs. Manufacturers are pushing toward creating a standard DVD recorder, but it's not likely to show up until next year.

Even if you never press the "record" button of your VCR, there's the cost to consider. Some DVD machines now sell below $300. That's quite low for such new technology, but it's still $200 above the cost of a low-end VCR.

That leaves picture quality, which DVD wins hands down. If you really want to see movies clearer and brighter than ever before, buy a DVD player and start building your disc collection. More than 2,500 titles are already out, and the list is constantly updated. Many DVD discs don't sport outrageous price tags.

On the other hand, consumers who hold off 18 months or so could land themselves a new generation digital machine that would be cheaper and record video.

That would really begin to push VCRs into the garage sale or the kids' bedroom.

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