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Questions about DVD Recorders

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by SteveK, Jun 28, 2004.

  1. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    I have just started thinking about buying a DVD recorder, and I have several questions, as follows:

    1. Most DVD recorders I have seen use the MPEG-2 standard. However, Buy.com carries the Malata DIVA-2, which uses the WMV (Windows Media) standard. How would the two standards compare? It offers longer recording time, but I would not be interested if this resulted in a substantial loss of quality. I'm also concerned that discs recorded by this unit would not be playable in other DVD players, as they presumably would not recognize the WMV standard.

    2. Do many television programs prevent DVD recording, either through "record never" or "record once" flags? I've never had any problem recording anything with my Dish PVR, but a DVD might be subject to more restrictions.

    3. How "fragile" is a DVD-R? CD-R's seem to be more vulnerable than a regular CD (in terms of more easily being ruined by scratches); is the same true for DVD-R?

    I welcome any comments and recommendations. Thanks in advance.

    Steve K.
     
  2. Jeffrey Taylor

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    1. Can't tell you,
    2. I've never run into any kind of record control on broadcast or cable programs, and
    3. I would handle any CD or DVD with respect, but having done so I've never had one skip due to scratches. Good Luck!
     
  3. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    Thanks, Jeffrey.

    I'm considering the Toshiba RD-XS32, which has an 80-GB hard drive. But given the bad press that Toshiba has received lately for its latest DVD players, I'm somewhat hesitant to consider any Toshiba product. Does anybody know if the Toshiba DVD recorder has the same problems that the latest Toshiba DVD players have?

    Thanks.

    Steve K.
     
  4. Jeffrey Taylor

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    The Toshiba may be fine, but I really like the variable bit rate feature on the Panasonics. If I were you I would look for one with this feature.
     
  5. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

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    SteveK,

    I've been doing a lot of research, too, as I'm getting ready to buy a DVD Recorder.

    I generally trust Toshiba, but have found the Toshiba RD-XS32 appears to have a black level problem which had also occurred with an earlier Panasonic model (since fixed). This thread at AVS Forum is lengthy, but pretty informative about some people's experiences:

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

    Such a shame, as the price point on the model is pretty good. The XS33 should be out this year, but who knows if the problem will be resolved on that model.

    I'm leaning toward getting the Pioneer DVR-520H-S, though I still need to scrutinize the Panasonic models. (I just kind of have a mental block against them for un-user friendly manuals and the RAM format. ) It helped greatly that the Pioneer site has the entire product manuals available for viewing. I took a good look through it yesterday, and the 520 appears to have everything I'm looking for, as well as seeming to be quite user-friendly. (The 420, which is exclusive to Costco online and will be $100 off 7/19-25 is also very similar in features and a possibility for me. )

    I don't plan to do anything very fancy with my recordings (basically record to hard drive, edit "keepers" for burning onto -R discs). Could Jeffrey or anyone else tell me briefly what the advantage is in having a variable bit rate feature?
     
  6. Jeffrey Taylor

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    You will find with DVD Recorders a choice of speeds by which you can chose 1 hour capacity up to typically 4 hours for a disc. Each step involves a lower bit rate and commensurately lower image quality to achieve the greater capacity. My experience is that the one and two hour speeds look cable quality, while there is a minor degradation at 3 hours. Panasonic's variable bit rate is great in that a 90 minute movie can be recorded at a bit rate halfway between the one and two hour settings, and will generally be undistinguishable from the faster setting. With the other machines, you have to take the two hour speed to record a program 61 minutes in length. In case you are curious, you select the "flexible record" tab on the on-screen menu and punch in the exact length of the material you are recording, and the machine does the rest. Similarly, when dubbing from HDD to DVD you can select "Fit to Record" setting and the machine will automatically select the highest possible bit rate such that the program JUST FITS on the disc. Overall great features for optimizing image quality.
     
  7. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    Elizabeth - Thanks for your comments. I've read about the black level problem on Amazon. Several of the user reviews indicated it was a serious problem, whereas several others said it wasn't a problem at all. I would expect to use any discs I record only on this machine (thus black level would not present a problem), but of course there is always the likelihood of upgrading at some point in the future.

    Based on my research and price comparisons, this Toshiba unit seems to have about the best price for an HDD recorder. DVD recorders without hard drives are obviously much cheaper, but I would prefer to be able to eliminate commercials, etc before I dub (not to mention that high speed dubbing would not be possible on a unit without a hard drive). Decisions, decisions!

    Of course, the best decision may be to wait a year or so until prices come down and technical glitches are fixed. But I don't know if I want to wait that long.

    Steve K.
     
  8. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

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    Jeffrey,

    Thank you for the explanation on variable bit rates! (As I understand it, the Pioneer has the ability to "fine tune" to 32 speed increments, so I think it can be adjusted accordingly for best quality, too. )

    Steve,

    I'm kind of a "designated recorder" right now on VHS for friends who are unable to record their TV show that week for whatever reason. So I'm afraid this possible black level problem might make the discs unwatchable for them. Maybe I should try it out. . .or of course, I can still do theirs on VHS. [​IMG]

    My head is ready to explode with all the pros/cons of various models! I'm also very concerned with the ease of getting the machine serviced should the need arise. I know Panasonic has a local service center, which is a big plus. Possibly Toshiba, too. If I went with the Pioneer, it would probably involve shipping to the mainland. . . All very confusing. . .!


    Always the conundrum with electronics! [​IMG] I actually bought a Sony BETA VCR when it cost $1200, so I've been pretty patient with the DVD recorder! [​IMG] I would love to have it in time for the new Fall season. . .! Sigh. . .

    Good luck on your decision, Steve!
     
  9. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    Thanks, Elizabeth. At this point, I'm inclined to give the Toshiba a try by recording something from Turner Classic Movies (which will probably be the channel I would record most) onto a DVD-R, then playing the DVD-R on my Panasonic and see how it looks. I really don't anticipate "sharing" recorded material very often, so as long as the Toshiba displays both commercial DVDs and DVDs recorded on this unit properly, I'd probably be happy with it and not worry about whether or not there is a black level bug. There were certainly some enthusiastic comments about it on the AVS Forum thread you linked (aside from the black level issue, of course).

    I can certainly identify with the perils of being an early adopter. I've paid good sums of money for VHS and DVD players, not to mention Mini-disc. Needless to say, the price on both VHS and DVD dropped tremendously, while minidisc was a non-starter. The future of DVD recorders has yet to be determined.

    Steve K.
     
  10. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

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    Steve,

    Please let us know your experiences after you get the Toshiba. I just received the manual for the XS-32 by pdf e-mail from Toshiba this morning so I could look it over. They weren't able to give me the release date of the XS-33, though I've heard October.

    I went with mini-disc as well, with a player in my car and a CD/mini-disc player at home. I love those little discs and the editing capabilities and am upset it never caught on.
     
  11. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    Elizabeth - I'll certainly do that, if/when I finally buy one. Right now, I'm debating between taking my chances on the XS-32 or waiting to see if the XS-33 incorporates additional features such as DVD-Audio. Toshiba now features DVD-A and SACD on many of their DVD players; surely it couldn't be difficuilt to also incorporate it on their DVD recorders, which are obviously quite a bit more expensive than regular DVD players.

    Meanwhile, please check your e-mail.

    Speaking of mini-discs, Sony is introducing a line of "Hi-MD" discs and players later this month. The Hi-MD discs will be 1GB, or up to about 35 hours in long play mode. You can check out http://www.minidisc.org for additional details. I'm trying to decide if I want to spend additional dollars on the seemingly doomed MD format.

    Steve K.
     
  12. David Massey

    David Massey Agent

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    Jeffrey Taylor's flexible recording on the Panasonic is not how the machine works, it picks the best speed it can for as long as it can then switches speeds when it has to, so on a 90 minute movie it will record in XP for as long as it can then it will switch to SP when it has to, it doesn't have in between speed bit rates. I don't know why anyone would knock RAM besides the fact that it isn't compatible with DVD players and the discs cost more it is by far the best format. Discs can be edited from any point to any point and then the edited parts can be seamlessly recorded over, no other format can do that, also discs do not have to be finalized to be played or unfinalized to use again. If you want the best picture I think the JVC is a little better than the Panasonic, it can also record to RWs, the Panasonic can't.
     
  13. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    I've made a lot of recordings at the FR setting, and this is definitely not how it works.

    M.
     
  14. David Massey

    David Massey Agent

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    It definitly is, on something under 2 hours it is not noticable but try something 3 or so hours, I can see right where it switches from SP to LP. I've quit putting anything over 2 hours on 1 disc because the last part, the part it records in LP, looks so lousy. I put the end on another disc for that reason.
     
  15. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    I have. A recent recording clocked in at 2:57. At the beginning, the bitrate averaged between 1.8 and 3.5Mbps, with occasional dips below (e.g., during credits) and occasional swings above (in scenes with a lot of motion). The same range prevails throughout the recording, including at the very end.

    You didn't mention which Panasonic models you've used. Maybe different generations used different encoding schemes to implement Flexible Recording. But my E80 behaves exactly as Jeffrey Taylor described, on both shorter and longer recordings.

    M.
     
  16. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    Well, I went through my normal process of trying to talk myself out of buying one, but I kept thinking how nice it would be to make DVDs of some of the movies on TCM, IFC etc. So I finally ordered one today from Amazon. I could have paid a slightly lower price at onecall, but I didn't want to risk a 15% restocking fee if I decided not to keep it. I took advantage of the free shipping, so I probably won't receive it for at least a week or so, but I'm not in any particular hurry for it (other than being anxious to test it). So my total price was just under $470. I'm looking forward to putting it through its paces.

    Although I expect to use the hard drive and DVD recording features, I obviously will use it more as a DVD player than a DVD recorder. I certainly hope that the Toshiba proves to be as reliable as my Panasonic A-120 which I've had since 1999, as it continues to run flawlessly.

    I'll report back as to whether or not I notice any issues with the black level problem mentioned above. Hopefully that won't be a problem. We shall see.

    Thanks for the replies to my original post.

    Steve K.
     
  17. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    I'm looking at this one, as well. Does anyone here have any experience with this model? Thanks.

    ~Edwin
     
  18. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    I thought I'd update my early experiences with the Toshiba, particularly on the black level issue. Today, I finally recorded something onto DVD, then played that DVD on my relatively new Panasonic DVD-F65. I could see no evidence of looking washed out. It didn't look quite as good as on my main system, but the TV in my computer room has not been calibrated and is connected to the DVD player by an S-Video cable rather than by component cables, so I wouldn't expect the picture to be identical. The show I recorded onto DVD was the AFI 100 Years, 100 Songs recently aired on CBS. Both the color and b/w movie clips looked quite good, at least to my eyes. I'm not going to say that the black level issue is imaginary, but I saw no evidence of it.

    I still haven't used (and may never use) many of the features, but it is quite easy to use. Setting a programmed recording is easy and straightforward, and I was able to have the Toshiba control my Dishnetwork box, at least to the extent of being able to change channels for timed recordings.

    One thing I haven't done yet, strangely, is play a regular DVD, but I can't imagine that would be a problem. Hopefully I'll be able to do that before the weekend ends.

    So my impressions continue to be favorable, and I saw no evidence of any black level problem on the one recording I've done on DVD.

    So far, so good.

    Steve K.
     
  19. John KB

    John KB Second Unit

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    Any other reviews or opinions on the Toshiba XS32? I am considering this machine, and would love to hear more.
    How does anyone know about an XS33? Is there a link, or is this simply an assumption?
     

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