Looking to buy a DVD recorder, but which one?

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Inspector Hammer!, Jan 10, 2005.

  1. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Tax time is here (love tax time!) and I decided to use part of my return this year to get a dvd recorder. I'll have 500 to spend on it and would like one with a hard drive in it to store video without a disc.

    What are some dependable models? I'd prefer a Sony, but am open to other suggestions (besides Phillips, bad experience).

    Thanks folks. [​IMG]
     
  2. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

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    Hi John,

    I personally like the Pioneers. I have the 420, and helped my sister pick up the 520. (Both are nearly identical except the 520 has a DV input.) I also own the Toshiba XS-32, but because some people experience a black level problem with it (and the subsequent XS-52), it's a YMMV type of situation. I find that the tuner on the Toshiba seems better than the Pioneer with certain stations, but overall, the Pioneer is more user-friendly. Perhaps I have a mental block, [​IMG] but I still have a bit of confusion when I edit on the Toshiba, whereas the Pioneer is a breeze. The Toshiba is quite full-featured and lets you tweak a lot more things, however.

    In April, Pioneer is coming out with a couple of new models which sound very promising. The 520 has an 80 GB hard drive, and the upcoming 533 does also, but has added an Electronic Program Guide; the 633 will have a 160 GB hard drive and EPG, MSRPs are $500 and $600, respectively. If the EPG is not important to you, I'm sure you'll see a nice price drop on the 520 soon.

    While many people love the picture quality of the Sony, they seem a little behind-the-curve to me. Their 1st hard drive recorder was only released last year, compared to Panasonic being on their how many-th generation. The Sony does not seem too flexible in setting the bit rate for your programming, and it does not feature a "divide" function on the hard drive, something which could cause inconvenience.

    The next Panasonic models coming out in April and May have finally incorporated DVD-RW recording capability. I didn't look into Pannys before buying mine, as I didn't like the RAM limitations, but this is a nice move.

    Good luck with your purchase!
     
  3. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Thanks, Elizabeth. [​IMG]

    Let me ask you this though, do either the 420 or 520 that are out now have a hard drive in them? If so, the 520 sounds pretty good to me, I really want one with a hard drive though.

    And also, based on your post, I have revised and refined my requirements, I would like one with a hard drive that can be divided and one that can hold alot of content for the money.

    I am igorant when it comes to DVD recorders regarding talks of "GB" et all. What are the differencs, and how many hours do they translate into?

    One last thing, are these machines dependable? After the experience with the Phillips (BOTH of them) I don't want something that will lock up on me or refuse to finalize a disc or worse, completely wipe out a disc rendering it useless. The Phillips was guilty of all of these! [​IMG]
     
  4. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

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    Yes, the Pioneer 420 and 520 are both 80 GB hard drive models. Depending on the bitrate you use, the hard drive can hold somewhere between approximately 20 hours (FINE) and 102 hours (EP). When burning onto a DVD, the FINE setting will fit only 1 hour on a disc. You can choose FINE, SP, LP OR EP, or any increment in between using the Manual rate. I usually record at 19, which is at the lower end of the SP level. After cutting out the commercials, 3 hour-long programs will fit nicely on a DVD (about 2:15 of programming). But depending on your TV feed and what looks good to YOUR eye, you might like to use a higher setting.

    The "divide" function which the Sony lacks is the ability to divide a single recording on the hard drive. For example, say you record a 3-1/2 hour football game. With the divide function, you could record it at a higher rate with the intention of dividing it into 2 parts at a well-chosen point to burn onto 2 discs. Without the "divide" program feature, you'd either have to record at a lower rate which fits onto one DVD, or program the game as 2 separate recordings (knowing the pause between the first timer recording ending and the next one beginning might make you miss some valuable seconds). Perhaps some workaround is possible, but why complicate matters? Such a basic feature Sony left out. I first thought that surely you could create a "copy list" with just the first half you want (by inserting a chapter break), then do it again with the last half, but it does not appear to be possible.

    So far, both my Toshiba and Pioneer have been fine -- have only had them about 4 months and 6 months respectively, though. I know what you mean about Philips -- I have their DVD player, and the darned thing is VERY quirky! BUT, it is all-region hackable and does the PAL to NTSC conversion so it's worthwhile! I've heard their recorders seem very problemic as well.

    The AVS forum is a very helpful forum regarding recorders and people's experiences with them:

    http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forum...0&pagenumber=1

    You'll see a lot of people love the Panasonics, yet there seem to be many issues with them. I think that just comes with having the largest market share, though.

    Your head may spin a bit at all the info and conflicting opinions, but it's informative! [​IMG]

    P.S. The Pioneer 420 was exclusive to Costco, but recently, I have not seen it on their website. The 520 is widely available.
     
  5. Stacey

    Stacey Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi John,

    I have the Toshiba XS-32 myself and am loving it. I've not noticed any of the black level problems that others seem to mention. In fact upon closer reading the manual actually mention the machine has a setting where the black level can be adjusted (of course I've never bothered to try it and see what happens [​IMG] )

    It's got the ability to record on DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-ROM (a ROM disk came with my box). It's got preset adjustments for recording times (SP,LP,EP) but has a wide range of adjustment you can choose instead to make the most of your disk space versus quality of recording.

    I haven't seen a dedicated "devide" option (no real need thus far to look for this myself) but I do know you could edit the show into two chapters then copy each back to the hard drive as two programs.

    p.s.

    Elizabeth, concerning your mention of:



    Could you describe confusion your having?, I might be able to help.
     
  6. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

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    Stacey,

    I'm away from the recorder now so can't refresh my memory, but I sometimes confuse myself when I'm editing a playlist. In trying to see the chapters of a playlist and previewing the segments so I can double check it's a commercial segment before deleting it. Sorry, can't accurately describe it right now without access to the menu screen! But I do eventually accomplish what I'm trying to do and burn to disc. It just seems to offer various ways to do things -- to select which portions you want to dub, or to select which sections to delete, to do a dub and finalize later, or do the one-step video creation.

    There are some things that I've copied to the hard drive from an external source -- I just crop the beginning and end and those are a cinch to burn.
     
  7. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the help, you've both been very informative. [​IMG]

    I think you may have sold me on the Pioneer 520, Elizabeth. [​IMG] However I have just one more question, I assume it's performance as a DVD player is up to par as well as it will do double duty as my HT player. It's probably progressive scan, yes?

    There's also not by chance a Faroudja DCDi chip in it? That's not a deal breaker, but it would be nice to have. [​IMG]
     
  8. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

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    Yes, it's Progressive Scan. I don't know anything about the chip, though.

    It seems to be the consensus that none of the DVD recorders reach quite the DVD performance quality of the better standalones. It looks fine to me, though I mainly use it to watch programs off the hard drive and burn DVDs. I have 2 other standalone players which I prefer for watching DVDs to "even out" usage. [​IMG]

    Will you be using the recorder to transfer many VHS tapes to DVD? The one issue with this machine is its sensitivity in recording videotapes in very poor condition -- if the tape is warbly or loses proper tracking, you may get a black screen. I have not transferred many VHS material but did NOT have this problem with the ones I tried.

    Let us know what you decide and your experiences! (If you do go with Pioneer, make sure you get it at an authorized dealer.)
     
  9. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Elizabeth, if you don't mind, how much did you pay for it? I looked around and noticed that it's MSRP is $799. That's a tad out of my price range, but I would imagine some places had it for less than that?
     
  10. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

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    My sister picked up her 520 in November at a local electronics shop for about $580. When the 420 was available at Costco online, they had a sale and it was about $470 with shipping.

    I just did a quick price search through epinions. Most of the online stores, like Vann's and Crutchfield seem to be hovering around the $580 to $600 price; however, a couple places have it for $479. (I'm not too comfortable personally with ordering online from a "lesser known" store. Crutchfield has a great rep, though -- and free shipping at this price range.) I think the $479 is indicative of an across-the-board price drop to come when the replacement 533 model is about to be released (supposedly in April). Of course, considering the 533 has a $500 list price (and the 633 with 160 GB has a $600 list price), you could get more for your money in several months. (Assuming Pioneer doesn't screw up with their Electronic Program Guide.) [​IMG]
     
  11. Marvin

    Marvin Screenwriter

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    I just ordered (but haven't yet received) one from Vanns for $549. I called J&R and they're selling it for the same price but they would have charged me tax, being in NY. I think B&H Photo would be the same.

    Onecall.com was offering it for $540 but they were out of stock, last I checked. All of these places are authorized.

    Pricegrabber shows some places selling it for less but I don't think any of them are officially authorized.
     
  12. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Yep, i'm going with the Pioneer 520, it's got everything I need and I think paying just a little extra is worth it in this case.

    I've also decided not to use it as my main player, based on Elizabeth's statement. I also figure it'll be less wear and tear on the hardware as well.

    Thanks everybody. [​IMG]

    It really pays to be a member here. [​IMG]
     
  13. Marvin

    Marvin Screenwriter

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    I see Crutchfield is now selling this model for $529. Wish I'd waited another week before I ordered.
     
  14. Stacey

    Stacey Stunt Coordinator

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    Elizabeth,

    I know what you mean by more than one way to do things on the Toshiba. I tend to make alot of my DVD's from Video Tape media and use the same process every time to lessen the confusion.

    Here's what I do:

    1) Make your transfer to the Hard Drive
    2) Use the Chapter function to place a chapter at the beginning and end of all cuts you want to make. Because I'm doing TV shows every "odd" chapter block is an ad. (i.e chapter 1 , 3 , 5, etc.)
    3) I save my results then use the Edit function to make a Playlist of all the chapters I want to keep. Again for TV shows this ends up being Chapters 2, 4, 6, 8, etc
    4) I then use the Copy function to take the playlist and copy it back (high speed) to the drive as a new master.
    5) I can now delete the origional transfer and playlist and burn the edited show to disk.

    Complicated sounding I know but I end up with almost Studio quality shows on DVD.
     
  15. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

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    The Pioneer 420 has now come back into stock at Costco.com after several months, with a GREAT price of $249.99:

    http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product...pnav=&cat=&s=1


    Stacy,

    Thanks for the tip -- I didn't consider making a new "master" of the playlist before burning.
     
  16. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    I've had my Toshiba XS-32 about 7 months now, and I use it far more than I ever thought I would. I have recorded many movies from Turner Classic Movies and IFC, and have even (temporarily) added the Showtime and Starz channels to my DishNetwork subscription. Although both services primarily show the P&S versions of the films they show, both of them also show some widescreen films (although it seems Showtime shows more widescreen than Starz).

    I'm quite pleased with the Toshiba, and have not noticed a black level problem. I've played the discs I recorded on the Toshiba on several other DVD players and have not noticed any sign of a black level problem. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but I've seen no problems with my machine.

    I find the 80GB hard drive adequate, as I try to dub my recordings to DVD as soon as possible rather than letting them accumulate on the hard drive. A larger capacity would be nice, but 80GB is usually more than adequate. If you do a lot of recording or rarely have time to create DVDs from your recordings, then you may need one of the newer models with a larger hard drive.

    As suggested above, I've thought about using my old DVD player to play movies and use my Toshiba only to record them, but so far I haven't done so. It's not a bad idea, as it might extend the life of the Toshiba.

    I'm very pleased so far with the functionality provided by the Toshiba, and certainly recommend it to anybody looking for a DVD recorder.

    Elizabeth - nice to see you again, and it sounds like you're getting a lot of use out of your DVD recorders. Take care!

    Steve K.
     
  17. edJohn

    edJohn Auditioning

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    John, I am a sony fan myself. At the time I set up my home theater I decided to go with the Pioneer 57H. It had a 120GB hard drive the capability to burn Hard Drive material to DVD-R and DVD-RW. It also came with Tivo basic service installed. Not really a necessity but a nice toy. I have had it a little over a year not one problem or lockup. The IR blasters have never failed to change the channels on the cable box. The only down side is it does not record HD in HD. If you record HD material you get a 16:9 Format picture in a 4:3 screen. I can say though that if you Zoom Wide on your display it is still better tan if you did the same with a SD recording. Best thing to do is you see a model you are interested in go on the manufactures web site and down load the manual. This will give all the info you need and is alot more accurate than the salesman.
    Good luck
     
  18. Shahryar

    Shahryar Auditioning

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    SteveK - You speak highly of the Toshiba X-32. You mention that you're a dish Network subscriber and I am too. I was thinking of getting the DVR 921 at first because I wanted the ability to (1) have a satellite tuner (2)watch and record in hi-def, and (3) control 2 tuners from one receiver. However, since a dvd recorder isn't a feature of the DVR 921, I'm going to have to get a separate DVD recorder, killing my dreams for an EVERYTHING in one.

    So, since I have to get a DVD recorder anyways, and since I can't record to DVD in hi-def period right now with any DVR system, I'm wondering if I should just get (1) a NON-DVR 921 hi-def Satellite receiver (without DVR capabilities) and (2) a DVR/DVD Burner - most prob the Toshiba X-32.

    I was wondering since you're a Dish Network subscriber yourself, what your recommmendation would be?
     
  19. CraigL

    CraigL Screenwriter

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    Question: with a new HD format right around the corner, what's the point of dealing with these when we'll be able to record on a better format?

    I, too, have several recorders but I'm wondering how much longer they'll matter.
     
  20. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    Shahryar - Sorry for the delay in responding; it's been a while since I checked in on this topic.

    Before trying to answer your question, let me state that I don't currently have any high definition capability, and don't have any plans to get HD until the price drops substantially. Thus, I can't really comment on the HD aspect of your question.

    Keeping in mind that the Toshiba will only record in standard definition, I think I'd be inclined to get the non-PVR Dish HD receiver and record desired programming on the Toshiba unit. You can use the hard drive for programming you wish to watch once and delete, or transfer to DVD for the programs you wish to retain. Having the PVR feature will allow you to easily edit out commercials, etc from the programs you choose to keep.

    If HD is important, then it may be worthwhile to have a Dish HD PVR. You will pay a $4.99 monthly fee for the Dish PVR, so this is a factor to consider as well. I have an older Dish PVR (that I bought than leased), so I don't have the monthly surcharge. I probably would have been better off leasing a unit and paying the charge, but that wasn't offered when I bought mine.

    In summary, I continue to highly recommend the Toshiba, as it does a very good job of recording. If watching recorded programming in HD is critical to you, then you'd probably want an HD DVR as well.

    Good luck!
    Steve K.
     

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