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Shopping DVR/HDD - Pioneer 420/520 vs. Tosh XS32 vs. Pana 85 vs. ?


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#1 of 41 OFFLINE   Peter Jessee

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Posted July 13 2004 - 04:01 PM

With Costco putting the Pioneer 420 on sale next week for $399, I'm seriously shopping for a DVD Recorder with a HDD. I've read this forum and browsed a little at AVS, but I'd really like to hear anyone's experiences with the combo units listed or any others available for under about $500. I expect to use this as a VCR replacement, with chasing playback and commercial skipping being the features I'm most looking forward to. I'm not interested in TIVO/Replay services, mainly due to the monthly fees. I can set a VCR timer with the best of 'em, and I don't use VCR Plus, even though all my VCR's have it. I'm looking for hand's-on feedback - which decks are easiest to program, have better picture quality, have problems that aren't advertised, etc. I read about some decks requiring reformatting of the hard drive periodically - do all require this? Decks that make it easy to remove commercials from programming before archiving to disc would be attractive to me. If it matters, I also have a computer with a +-R/RW drive in it, which so far I've only been using for burning audio CDs. I know the Pioneer 420 lacks a Firewire port, but I don't have a camcorder and don't expect to use this anyway. Can anyone suggest other issues that disqualify any of these choices? C'mon, you folks who have already taken the plunge can really help me (and the lurkers) out on this one. Thanks for any help. Peter

#2 of 41 OFFLINE   SteveK

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Posted July 14 2004 - 12:53 AM

Peter- I have the Toshiba XS-32, but unfortunately I've only had it for about 3 days, so I can't give you an expert opinion. But I can give you my first impressions, and they are quite favorable. I obviously haven't had the opportunity to "play" with it much, but it seems that it can do everything I want it to do. It can record either to its 80GB hard drive (HDD) or to DVD (but can't record to both at the same time). It can copy from HDD to DVD or from DVD to HDD, but of course won't copy commercial DVDs. You have a wide choice of recording speeds that will net you anywhere from about 6 hours on a DVD to about 1 hour, and you have a choice of three audio modes, including LPCM. I've read comments that DVDs recorded on the Toshiba look "washed out" on other DVD players, but have read other comments that disagree with this assessment. I haven't yet had the opportunity to make a recording on DVD and play it on another player, so I can't comment on this and whether or not it is a problem. Toshiba will be introducing a new model in a few months, which will have a 160GB hard drive instead of an 80GB drive. Of course, the list price will also be about $100 higher than the current model. Based on my limited use, I can certainly recommend that you at least consider the Toshiba XS-32. Good luck! Steve K.

#3 of 41 OFFLINE   Peter Jessee

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Posted July 20 2004 - 02:13 PM

I've been focusing on the Toshiba and the Pioneer 420 at Costco. The black level issue with the Toshiba is a concern, but as you say, some folks don't seem to have a problem with it. Have you spent any time with the Pioneer? I've read complaints about it's noisy hard drive, but I don't know if it's loud enough to annoy me. Back to Good Guys, I guess.

#4 of 41 OFFLINE   SteveK

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Posted July 21 2004 - 12:47 AM

Peter - When I posted the other day, I had not yet recorded anything to DVD on my Toshiba, so I could not comment on the black level issue. I've now made several DVDs (primarily from movies on Turner Classic Movies), and then watched brief segments on my Panasonic DVD player and Sony television that is in my computer room. I saw no evidence whatsoever of a problem with the black level. I watched portions of the "AFI 100 Years, 100 Songs" special, which featured both color and B/W films, and everything looked fine both on the Toshiba and my Panasonic. I'm not saying the black level problem is imaginary, but I did not experience it at all. Unfortunately, I can't comment on the Pioneer, as I'm not familiar with that model. I did limited comparison shopping, and the Toshiba seemed to offer everything I was looking for, so I didn't look seriously at other models. Good luck in your decision, and I'm sure you'll enjoy whichever model you purchase. Steve K.

#5 of 41 OFFLINE   DavidAnthrope

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Posted July 24 2004 - 01:12 AM

Well THAT was nice. Great site here. Peter - I just composed a rather lengthy reply for you but thanks to this site's terrific "policy" of disallowing url links in a post until you've submitted 15 posts, I lost the entire reply. The url by the way, was to another thread here and my review of the Panasonic E85. Tell you what tho - I won't take it out on you just because this site is rather retarded - but I gotta tell ya I'm pretty well pissed off about it! I don't have time to waste on lost posts due to this sort of nonsense. In any case - you can PM me if you're interested in hearing more and I'll try to recall everything I wrote in my reply.

#6 of 41 OFFLINE   DavidAnthrope

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Posted July 24 2004 - 01:14 AM

Hey Peter - as I'm not "allowed" to post the url link to my review in the other thread, I'll just paste it here. I wanted to offer some feedback in case anyone is interested in hearing from an experienced owner. This is my third Pana unit, and I'm about to switch brands. Here is why: I started with an HS2 (when they were $999). I have a library over 1200 SVHS and VHS tapes to dub, along with making recordings of tv-shows and movies from satellite. I have done over 1500 DVD-R recordings with the HS2, and the E80 I replaced it with. I am now on my third, the E85. The HS2 lasted exactly 90 days before the 40gb hard drive died. (I didn't realize it had a 90 day warranty by the way, so I was a dumbass and waited a few days and by then it was too late to slide in with that 1-2 day grace period). The symptom was that, all my recordings on the HD were gone and it wanted to reformat. And reformat. And reformat. Had it repaired, and kept using it for 6 more months. I will point out that the user interface was pretty decent, no complaints, and editing a recording was very simple and straight forward. Also, once I figured out what brands of blank DVD-R's worked well, I had VERY few coasters. Typically, 0-1 in a spindle of 50. I used Fuji's (at $2/ea then) for my high-end stuff and Ritek/Ridata's at $.85/ea for my less valuable stuff. All in all, I wasn't unhappy. Skip forward, sold the HS2 and upgraded to the E80. Same interface for the most part, a few minor improvements, but twice the hard drive capacity. This one I've had for just over 4 months now - and the hard drive died. Again, symptoms, loss of all recorded content, reformat, ok, then failure again, reformat, and refusal to reformat with errors. I'll add that, yes, I probably am using my recorders more than the average joe as I am still dubbing many SVHS/VHS tapes to DVD-R and also recording broadcasts. I do perhaps 5-6 recordings a day. But usually the unit is off by 9pm and not back on until 8am. I don't leave it on, and this unit actually puts the drive (and unit) to sleep after a period of time. I will add that, unlike the HS2, this unit does NOT over-heat. The HS2 DID over-heat frequently, refusing to burn a DVD and requiring powering off and waiting 10mins for it to cool down. The E80 is much better that way. Ok, so my E80 is busted. Still, it's done a fair amount of work for me and the interface was pretty good, and I had VERY few failures. AND a bonus - I just found out thanks to some nice member here that Panasonic increased the warranty to 90 days!!! In the mean-time I bought an E85, with a 120gb drive, I expected to have the E80 experience with more space. WRONG They completely reworked the user interface. And it's HORRIBLY BUSTED. I mean BAD. The timed recordings REFUSES TO RECORD arbitrarily. Got daily recordings you want to make? Forget it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don't. Oh, and if you have "DAILY" - meaning EVERY day, not M-F but S-S, forget that too, they don't have that option. You have to put in 3 entries to get that, M-F, Sat & Sun. And there's LOTS of less critical issues, stupid stuff, like the navigator listing your recordings, try scrolling down the list to get the next page, forget it, no scrolling. There's supposed to be page up/down buttons, forget those too. I could go on for pages, but the point is that it's a complete rework and nothing like the E80 and HS2, and it's absolutely horribly broken (IM[!]HO of course). There you have my feedback - 3 machines - 2 busted hard drives within 3-4 months - and a completely busted UI on the new one. All in all - it's time to look for a new brand. Too bad too, I was liking the E80. I'm submitting this NOT to bash Panasonic - but to hopefully help some new buyers be forewarned. Anyone interested can PM me for more info if they wish.

#7 of 41 OFFLINE   DavidAnthrope

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Posted July 24 2004 - 01:15 AM

And here's some additional info about the problems with the E85 I have noticed - again - from another thread . ---- I'm curious to know if you guys who just upgraded from the E80 to the E85 are seeing the same horrible interface problems that I've been seeing - or is it just me?! Biggest issue for me is arbitrary timer events not firing and programs not recorded. I have yet to determine anything about this other than it DOES happen, but when/how I don't know. But also, things like, in the navigator, you preview a program you have recorded but it doesn't allow skipping forward/backward like the E80. Also, if you press ENTER on an item it restarts from the beginning even when you were in the middle previewing that same item! And STOP used to take you out of the nav also. And how about that scrolling crap? How retarded is THAT?! Or the size of the tumbnail in listing mode of the navigator, it's so small, even on my 53" tv I can't see it! What about creating timed recordings? Painful or what? And no Sun-Sat (or every day including weekends) option. Has anyone else noticed these or aren't they as big a deal to you guys? These were all things that the E80 did properly, so it was a huge disappointment for me as I've been doing a ton with the E80 (and HS2 before that). Personally I'm dumping my E85 and going back to the E80 until I can find another brand. I think Pana really screwed the pooch on this one.

#8 of 41 OFFLINE   DavidAnthrope

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Posted July 24 2004 - 08:22 AM

Peter - If I haven't bashed Panasonic enough already I have one more comment to add - as I found out my E80 was covered under warranty, I took it in for repair. It's been there 2 days, and the word from the repair center was that they are waiting for "permission" from Panasonic to replace not only the hard drive, which I suspected, but also the main logic board. Permission? That's right. They are a Panasonic authorized warranty repair center, but they need permission to fix this busted unit which lasted 4 whole months. But here's the killer - the tech told me Panasonic was notoriously slow and that it would be several more days just to get permission, and several more to get the part. It's not enough that they're making products that don't last very long before breaking but then they're gonna make it painful when you try to get it repaired. Nice aye? Can you guess what my recommendation to you might be?

#9 of 41 OFFLINE   Peter Jessee

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Posted July 24 2004 - 12:22 PM

Well, I decided to go ahead with the Pioneer 420 at Costco.com. My confirmation e-mail said to expect shipment in 8-12 weeks !?! OK, I guess I'm still shopping. If I find a better deal or pick something else up before October, I'll cancel the order. Keep those cards and letters coming, folks. Anyone have experience with the Pioneer 510 or 520? More input about the Toshiba's alledged black level/contrast problems? David, after your experiences, I'm a bit reluctant to consider a Panasonic. My last Panasonic VCR, an S-VHS model, lasted a year, and a salesman at my local Video Only store said they've gotten back a few E80's, and that the Toshiba outsells the Panasonics 5 to 1, with no failure reports (yet). Thanks everyone. I'll post a report on the 420 when it gets here. Peter

#10 of 41 OFFLINE   Elizabeth S

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Posted July 24 2004 - 02:37 PM

Peter, I received my Pioneer 420 yesterday. (I ordered on 7/20, at which time the expected shipping time frame was 7 - 10 days, not the 8 weeks listed now. I'm in Hawaii, so I had to pay for the UPS 2nd Day Air. ) Anyway, I've been playing around with it since yesterday afternoon, trying to get a hang of all of the features. I'm doing some VHS transfers to the hard drive, and still working on editing my copylist before burning my first -R. So far, so good. When it's absolutely quiet in my room, I can hear a faint "scraping" sound as the hard drive records something, but I don't know if that's normal or not. Have timer-recorded a few things which recorded fine. One thing I noticed on the timer recording is that it can only remember up to 1 month. For example, every Monday means every Monday for a month and expires -- I'll have to remember to keep "renewing" the programming. It's not like my VCR which will do every Monday forever until I tell it differently. When people mention the TBC problem with the Pioneer causing blackouts from VHS recordings, is that through a composite connection? Thus far, my composite recorded VHS shows have made it to my hard drive without any of those problems.

#11 of 41 OFFLINE   DavidAnthrope

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Posted July 24 2004 - 11:31 PM

> Have timer-recorded a few things which recorded fine. One thing I noticed on the timer recording is that it can only remember up to 1 month. For example, every Monday means every Monday for a month and expires -- I'll have to remember to keep "renewing" the programming. It's not like my VCR which will do every Monday forever until I tell it differently. WOW - I'm always so amazed at stupid things like this. Can't these huge companies afford to hire just -1- actual USER like one of us to tell them how moronic something like this is?! I swear nobody working there actually USES their products. Definitely true for the E85 too! But I gotta say expiring a timer event just makes absolutely no sense. I think I might just hold onto my E80 until something less-stoopidly-designed comes out! (Well if I can ever get it repaired that is)

#12 of 41 OFFLINE   Elizabeth S

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Posted July 25 2004 - 09:56 AM

I still can't believe that timer expiration thing. . .the booklet is a bit vague on that point, but when you look at the layout of all the programmed recordings, the weekly programs all have an "until" date (one I inputted today has a 8/24 until date). Unless I'm misinterpreting what it means. . .I'll have to keep an eye on them and see what happens when the first "until" date rolls around. Burned 2 DVD-Rs last night from transferred VHS recordings onto the 4x Fujis that came with the player and both appear to have turned out fine.

#13 of 41 OFFLINE   Peter Jessee

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Posted July 26 2004 - 06:11 PM

I'm assuming they were composite feeds. I wonder if it's a problem with specific VCRs? I'll let you know if I have any problems with mine. Peter

#14 of 41 OFFLINE   Elizabeth S

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Posted July 27 2004 - 05:56 AM

Good thing you didn't get discouraged by the listed shipping estimate, Peter! Posted Image

If you're a Costco member, the Passbook has a coupon for Buy 1, Get 1 Free on the TDK 4X 25 pack DVD-Rs (good until 7/31 or 8/1, I think). I picked up some yesterday, and tested out the discs on the Pioneer last night -- appears to work fine on the Pioneer.

#15 of 41 OFFLINE   joe buscema

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Posted July 31 2004 - 12:41 AM

the so called "black level bug" dosen't even exsist on my unit and, from what i've read elsewhere, dosen't exsist on most unit's. personally, i think it's all just one big fabrication that so many people ran with. if there's a better machine out there than the rd-xs32, i've yet to see it.

#16 of 41 OFFLINE   Marvin

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Posted July 31 2004 - 07:12 AM

I'm considering these same 3 models, so I'd be interested in hearing comments, good or bad, on any of them, especially if someone's compared them to each other. Right now I'm leaning towards the Panasonic due to the larger hard drive, but it's been mentioned that Toshiba will come out with a new one with an even larger one.

#17 of 41 OFFLINE   Phil Tomaskovic

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Posted July 31 2004 - 07:04 PM

I downloaded the E85 manual and yes the UI is really different. On my E80 when I go to the Program Check page, it indicated whether or not the program would fit (that is whether there is enough disc space left by the time you got to it). Really useful when your HD space is tight. Does this not exist any more? Elizabeth, I see you mention an "until date" but I don't see that in any manual page. I remember seeing some date on my weekly events on my e80 just to show when the next time it would record (I think). Also if you don't use the tv guide, there's no way to enter a program name? Especially if it's a weekly event that I don't want to keep re-entering a name via properties after it's recorded?

#18 of 41 OFFLINE   Elizabeth S

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Posted July 31 2004 - 09:39 PM

Phil, For the "until date", I was referring to the Pioneer 420. But glad you mentioned it, as I think I figured it out now -- it seems it will NOT "forget" your programming after a month but seems to list the last date within a one-month time-frame when it will record. If I'm not mistaken, in the week since I entered some weekly programs, the "until" date has changed to a further date.

#19 of 41 OFFLINE   DavidAnthrope

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Posted July 31 2004 - 10:59 PM

Uh - WOW - that's a rather insulting comment I gotta say. In the immortal words of Jar-Jar, "How wuuuude!!!" To the original poster - I can't speak about the Toshiba but as I mentioned I have plenty of experience with various Panasonic models - and whether Joe believes me or not, that black-level bug exists (or rather existED) and is/was a real issue. Just do some research here and see all the volumes of posts about it. We can't ALL be "fabricating" for the helluva it (can we?). That being said - the current Panasonic models do have a setting you can tweak to adjust the black level. So maybe the Toshibas do as well - I can't say. What I can say is, don't listen to Joe and just assume it doesn't exist. I'd make sure it doesn't if I were you.

#20 of 41 OFFLINE   DavidAnthrope

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Posted July 31 2004 - 11:03 PM

Marvin - Just something to consider - but a bigger hard drive that only lasts 3 months isn't such a great deal is it? Not to mention, with a horribly busted interface, you'll have no fun trying to make use of all that space! My E85 has been OVER a week in the shop after 3 months of use. The short story goes like this - the repair shop looks at the unit in < 24hrs - and tells me, "Panasonic requires us to get authorization to replace the main board, we have requested this authorization and have to wait to hear back." ONE WEEK later I called - they had JUST THAT MORNING received it. That's right, ONE WEEK. And now it waits another 7-10 days to get the part from Panasonic because, oh yeah, they're not allowed to stock the part. Nice huh? Consider everything before you buy. Bigger hard drive doesn't equate to a better unit. And this is one DVD-recorder user who's switching from Panasonic to another manufacturer. [NOTE: Oops - it's my E80 that's in for repair not the E85, the E85 has a horribly busted interface, the E80 only lasted 3 months, sorry for the confusion on my part]




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