Buying an entry-level DVD recorder - confused as hell!

Discussion in 'Blu-ray & DVD Players & Recorders' started by hutchingsp, Feb 22, 2004.

  1. hutchingsp

    hutchingsp
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    I'm thinking of buying a standalone DVD recorder and would appreciate some advice on what to buy.

    I have a Digibox connected to a TX28PL1 by RGB Scart, I also have a Philips DVD763SA connected to the passthru on the Digibox, and a regular VCR (which sees little use) connected to Scart2 on the TV.

    I'd be looking to use it for timeshift the usual watch and delete stuff, and also for recording films to keep, not bothered about camcorders and stuff, might from time to time want to output via s-video from my PC and record that.

    Being able to edit out adverts and stuff after the recording is made would be very useful.

    I was thinking of going the PC/Capture card route but frankly it seems like too much hassle versus "press record".

    It just seems to be the usual story.. so many models with no outstanding reason to buy one over the other so you spend ages digging around to uncover differences which in real-life you may never notice..

    At the moment I'm looking at the Sony GX3 as it gets good reviews, looks good (helps), writes to +/- media and seems fairly well priced at approx £330 from empire.

    I'm a little confused how these players handle deletions from discs, i.e say I have a disk with 3 x 1 hour programs on it and I delete the 1st and last one, presumably I can't now record a 2 hour program as there isn't a large enough contiguous chunk of space?

    I'd be really grateful for any advice anyone could offer.

    cheers,
    Paul
     
  2. smallman28

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    I have a GX3 and so far it has proven to be a great machine.
    There are a few things to bear in mind,when you put in a blank disc it will take a few moments to format the disc ready for it to be used.
    If you record 3 1hour programs you can delete just one of those from the disc and re-use the space to record something else as long as it is a RW disc,if it is a R type you can delete the program but you dont recover the space.
    Also if you want to use any of the discs in another DVD player you will have to finalize the disc first,doing this though prevents you from just deleting 1 of your programs like you could before.
    To re-use the disc,if it is a RW one, just put it back in the player and format it again to wipe it clear.
    Does that make sense?
    Any other questions let me know and I will try to help.
     
  3. hornydragon

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    DVD-RAM Offers superior editing but less compatible with other players.
    Panasonic E50,E55 (55 replaces 50 in march/april) are worth looking at.
     
  4. Rasczak

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    :eek: Do a little research before you buy because the differences between the DVD Recorders can be huge. You may know some of this but, in case you don't, I state it all.

    There are FIVE DVDR formats. Each have been implemented in such a way on set-top recorders that they have 'features' associated with them:

    DVD-R
    The closest their will ever be to a standard DVDR format. DVD-R recording is found on ALL DVD-RAM and DVD-RW machines. In short any machine not by Philips, Thompson or minor Chinese brands (such as Mico) have DVD-R recording. DVD-R will play in virtually all existing DVD players but once full cannot be re-used. There is no editting facilities available.

    DVD-RAM
    This format is supported by Panasonic, JVC, Toshiba, Samsung, LG and Hitachi. It has numerous features such as accurate editting, timeslip (watch a programme whilst it's still recording) and flexible record (the ability to maximise quality by altering the bitrate used so a recording fills the disk). The drawback is that DVD-RAM has very limited compatibility with existing DVD players.

    DVD-RW
    This format is supported by Pioneer, Sony, Sharp (and also JVC and Toshiba who put both RAM and -RW on their machines). It has two recording modes: Video and VR. The former is like DVD-R (i.e. high compatibility but no editting), the latter is like DVD-RAM (although not all machines offer Timeslip on DVD-RW).

    DVD+RW/DVD+R
    This format is supported by Philips, Thompson and numerous Chinese producers (such as Mico, Alba, Bush). Sony also has +RW support on their recorders but does not add the full features of the format. DVD+RW has only one mode of recording which will play in many existing DVD players but has little in the way of editting or features (it's top end model does come with an EPG though). DVD+R is the write-once format of DVD+RW.

    HDD/DVDR COMBOS
    These are very popular because they allow you to make EDITTED recordings THAT PLAY ON OTHER DVD PLAYERS, i.e. you can record onto the HDD as though it were a DVD-RAM, edit and the dub to DVD-R. This makes the choice of re-writeable DVDR media abit irrelevant as you will primarily only use write-once media (DVD-R) which can be got very cheapily these days (from 50p). The only drawback is that HDD/DVDR combos are expensive (the cheapest being the Toshiba model).

    If you just want to make editted recordings that DON'T play on normal DVD players then either a DVD-RAM or DVD-RW machine will do. In your case hutchingsp as you don't want iLink etc then a Panasonic E50 (or it's upcoming replacement the E55) would probably be ideal - this records to DVD-RAM and DVD-R.
     
  5. Rasczak

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    Depends on what media you use. If you use DVD-RAM then anything you delete frees up space, i.e. if you record a 1 hour TV programme onto a DVD-RAM in SP mode (2hrs per disk) and 'edit' out 15 minutes of adverts you'll then have 1 hour 15mins free space.

    If you have a DVD-R/+R though and delete a programme then that space is lost and cannot be recovered. Likewise with DVD-RW (Video Mode) until you empty the disk.
     
  6. Zacabeb

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    What causes this, is it that DVD-RAM is simply not designed for compatiblity with standard DVD Video players but with maximum flexibility, whereas DVD±R/RW are recorded to maximize compatibility at the cost of flexibility?

    I have a followup question to this; if the first and last of three consecutive recordings on a DVD-RAM are deleted, and the one recording left is large, would it be possible to record a program across the empty sections without interruption? Do the recorders have large enough cache to make up for large non-consecutive disc access?
     
  7. Rasczak

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    Basically yes. DVD-RAM is not part of the DVD-ROM specification whereas DVD-RW is and DVD+RW mimicks what is required by the DVD-ROM standard. The situation is further compounded in set-tops in that to enable the features such as editting the DVD-Video structure cannot be used. This a VR recording mode is used which basically consists of one MPEG file and numerus buffer files in a container as opposed to 1GB VOBs. This obviously requires 'software' support for set-tops to read and play the content.

    Yes. An example would be if you recorded three one hour episodes to a DVD-RAM - you use the Flexible Record option to completely fill the disk. You delete the first and last freeing up 2hrs of space on the disk. You can now record (for example) a film on the disk despite the fact that a recording was made before and after the un-deleted programme. The same applies if you edit - any edits you make (even if they are the middle of the programme) add to the 'free space' available for new recordings on the disk.

    This, coupled with the option of Flexible Record (FR) enables you to maximise quality on programmes you want to archive. For example you want to record three 1 hour programmes to a DVD-RAM (42 minutes programme + 15 mins adverts). You record the first episode using Flexible Record set to 126 mins (3 x 42mins). You delete the adverts. You then record the second episode with a FR setting of 84 mins. You delete the adverts. You now use a FR set to 1hr - and delete the adverts. Wasted space on the disk 15mins. Try doing that on a +RW machine and you need to use the 3hr mode throughout which would mean a lower bitrate and lower resolution.
     
  8. bobbles

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    RAM works in a similar way to a floppy disc for a pc. In you example if you deleted the first and third recording the secord would shift up to be the first on the list.

    Also you could record more than 2 hours on the space that is left by using a lower bit rate when recording onto the remaining space.

    RAM is really only used for timeshifting recordings it is really too expensive to archive on to.

    The media to archive onto is -r/+r problem is the only editing possible on these needs to be done manually whilst recording (like vhs).

    To edit out edits you need a hard disc solution either through a PC or a DVDR with an onboard HDD.

    If you are considering spending 330 on a non-HDD machine I would seriously consider spending a little bit extra to get a HDD version.

    The Tosh XS30 is currently the cheapest at around 460. However, if your digibox does not output S-video you may be better off with a HS2.

    Alternatively you may want to buy a RAM compatable dvd writer for your PC. This would work out slightly cheaper and allow you to back up dvds. However, this does require more faffing about.
     
  9. bobbles

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    sorry Rasczak you replied whilst I was typing
     
  10. Rasczak

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    You make a good point Bobbles - the floppy disk example is a good comparison. And I fully agree if you can afford a HDD/DVDR combo buy one as you won't regret it.
     
  11. hutchingsp

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    RGB is a must really as there seems little point recording from a digibox and not getting the best possible signal out of it?

    HS2 is £470 from PRC direct.

    So, the hard drive recorders, can you do stuff like upgrade the hard drive, and say you record something to dvd-ram, can you then edit it, stream it back onto the hard drive and then copy it to DVD-R to, say, give to a friend?

    Dunno how to put this but money isn't so much an object as I don't want to spend a small fortune on something that'll cost £200 in six months time :)

    Paul
     
  12. dgp

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    Sorry to butt in, but I am thinking if the same. As I see it the main advantage as far as I'm concerned of DVD-RAM and therefore the Panasonic is that you can record longer programmes at the best quality. But I prefer the Sony for everything else (it has a SECAM tuner (don't ask me why I want it!!!!), it'll record DVD+/- and the connectivity is good). They are both around £300.

    What sort of quality reduction do you get if you extend the recording time on DVDs??? And what sort of length can you achieve??. I will use RGB from satellite (except for SECAM when I'll use composite) and S-Video from Freeview box.

    Thanks
     
  13. Rasczak

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    I would agree with that - some people wouldn't.

    No. All the comanies making HDD/DVDR combos see there future profits in this sector coming from selling you a new machine with a larger HDD!
    As such these machines have been fairly well 'protected' from DIY upgrades. :thumbsdow

    Yes. You'll find you won't normally do this as you will just record directly on the HDD. However you may find you record a programme, are unsure if you want to archive it and thus dub it to RAM. At anytime you can dub it back to the HDD and then burn to DVD-R.

    I don't think the price of HDD/DVDR combos will fall that quickly. There will be an ongoing downward trend in price but so far companies seem more willing to release a new model with bigger HDD than lower the price dramatically.
     
  14. hutchingsp

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    Just been looking on the avland pages.. seems there's a lot of new models out soon all with prices TBC - anyone happen to know if there's anything "special" on its way in the sub-£500 bracket?

    Paul
     
  15. Rasczak

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    Most of the models are the similar to their current ones: for example the Panasonic E55 is just an E50 but with progressive scan and a new case. Nothing revolutionary but might be worth waiting for if you see that being of benefit to you.
     
  16. hutchingsp

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    Being cynical that was kinda my take on some of them.. lick of paint and a new model number and it's the "all new" 2004 version.. but then i figured DVD recorders are probably evolving faster than players..

    It's a nightmare.. I work in IT and have an interest in home cinema and in both fields you've usually brought an old model by the time its bloody delivered :)

    Paul
     
  17. Klippie

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    hutchingsp,

    I too could not make my mind up what to buy as there are so many formats to choose from, some if you want to edit your recordings and others if you just want to record programs or the odd film.

    I will get shot down in flames for this but I settled for a Philips DVDR75. I wanted a machine to record from Sky and TiVo that I could put a RW disk in press record then play that disk back in my Philips 963SA which is connected to my projector, it all works a treat.

    Pro's.
    RGB in/out
    Very easy to use
    Cheap RW disks
    The bloody thing even has a seemless layer change...

    Con's.
    None so far.

    Costs.
    Philips DVDR75 (multi region), £240 from RicherSounds.

    DVD+RW disks, £1 each from most computer shops.

    Not bad for the money wouldn't you say.

    Klippie.
     
  18. Rasczak

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    No you won't. You obviously picked the best model for you given a limited budget.

    There seems to be a general opinion that I am 'hostile' to DVD+ owners - I am not in the slightest! In fact I get more e-mails, request for help/info from DVD+ users than DVD-RAM ones. There are occasions when I have even recommended DVD+ machines to users (always those who can't afford a Sony model it has to be said).

    What does irrate me is the marketing of the DVD+ format which is biased in part upon misleading information as well as the fact that a handful of companies decide to divide the DVDR market simply because they were 'snubbed' over the DVD-ROM specifications.
     
  19. hutchingsp

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    One thing I haven't seen on any of these decks and i'm not sure why is the ability to connect it to a PC via say USB or Firewire and control the editing from there?

    I haven't used much in the way of editing software but it doesn't seem a giant step to be able to control the deck in the same way I believe you can edit from a camcorder via firewire?

    I'm now looking at the Panasonic HS2 which then got me looking at the E100.. and to think this started off as a cheap exercise :)
     
  20. Frenchie

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  21. Rasczak

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    LOL! Based on what? What if he doesn't have a camcorder? What if he wants to edit? What if he wants to archive (the DVDR75 has no FR)? etc. A HDD/DVDR solution is by far the best machine IMHO but there are dozens and dozens of better options than a Philips DVDR75. The only concievable reason why you would need such as machine is if you wanted to write to rewriteable DVDR media and were unable to afford the Sony GX3 - an all round superior machine!

    Frenchie - that machine isn't coming for quite a while. Several months at the least. And the HDD is unlikely to be 250GB - it will more likely be 160GB same as the upcoming Panasonic, JVC, LG and Pioneer models. Whatever there are some excellent deals on HDD/DVDR combos at the moment, such as the Panasonic HS2 and Toshiba RX3, which have the same core functionality as the Sony RX10 (which will be priced around £800-£1000).

    Only the Pioneer 3100/5100 can do this (but both machines lack RGB in). To be honest once you've burnt the data to disk be it DVD-RAM, DVD-RW or DVD-R (or DVD+RW/+R) you can then use a variety of applications.

    The Panasonic HS2 is an excellent machine - especially as it can be got for under £500 now and has full RGB in/out, PC card slot, iLink etc.
     
  22. datsunman

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    I did exactly the same, started looking at the HS2 and then went on to the E100, however I didn't really think that the E100 was worth two hundred and fifty pounds more for what is essentially only a 40gb increase.

    Although 40gb *could* be limiting I believe that it will be ok for now. Short of going on a two week holiday I think it'll be ample as a temporary store before burning to DVD.
     
  23. Rasczak

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    Exactly. On a HDD/DVDR combo the HDD is just a temporary storage that is larger than the DVDR allowing you to record the source in best quality, edit and burn to DVD-R. The actual size of the HDD isn't that important other than you have to empty the disk less often. The ability to use DVD-RAMs or DVD-RWs (depending on which machines you get) provides as much long term storage as you could ever want - but if you speak to most HS2 users (the combo with the smallest HDD) you'll find they rarely use DVD-RAM as 40GB is more than enough space.

    No doubt that a bigger HDD is nice - but not essential by any means.
     
  24. nwgarratt

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    I was worried that a 40GB woudn't be enough. I have had a HS 2 for a week now and still have 11 hours at SP quality. I record a lot of shows like Star Trek, CSI, Friends and a couple of others. I also did Total Recall tonight at XP for FR onto RAM.

    I am planning to wait until I have four Treks, CSI etc to go to RAM, Once that has been done the episodes will be deleted.

    Sure, I would like 80GB but so far 40GB is enough at the moment. Although, with 160GB+, it would be possible to have entire seasons of shows on it.

    I also prefer the look of the HS2 to the E100. BTW, can the hard disk get fragmented? Is it worth doing a format after I have deleted all programmes?
     
  25. Rasczak

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    Yes. You should format the HDD occasionally.
     
  26. hutchingsp

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    OK.. i think i'm down to the HS2 or E100. Looking on the panasonic website the HD is obviously larger but there doesn't seem to be a great deal to warrant the higher price.

    I'm tempted to wait until mid-march when the new models come out (the E85) to see if prices drop any.. can't see the point waiting until april/may because then you'll be waiting september for something new etc..

    Paul
     
  27. nwgarratt

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    The E100 is basically the E60 with a hard disc. I found out that the HS2 came out before the E50 so it doesn't have MP3 or the 1.3x speed. I don't use those features anyway.

    The E100 has those two features plus the seperate SD card slot from the E60. That and the extra 40GB is I think it has extra over the HS2.
     
  28. Rasczak

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    nwgarratt is quite right to say the E100 is basically the HS2 with a 80GB (as opposed to 40GB HDD) and the ability to play MP3s (and WMA). There are a few unmentioned extras though which are worth stating so you can consider whether they are worth the £200 difference to you though:

    Firstly there is the ability to play DVD-Audio disks (two channel only). If you see yourself starting a collection of DVD-Audio disks then maybe this is of benefit.

    Secondly there is MPEG4 recording - useful if you own one of the handheld SD players from Panasonic/Samsung or if you see yourself getting such a gadget then this might be a benefit. MPEG4 recording will come of age in the next few years as more and more devices (cameras, mobile phones, DVD players etc) add support for it. At the moment though it probably isn't of benefit to most.

    Thirdly there is 'High Speed' dubbing to DVD-R (provided you are not re-encoding). If you plan to use the DVD recorder as your main source for TV (i.e. you intend to Timeslip everything) then maybe this is of benefit to reduce 'downtime' whilst the machine dubs to DVD-R. Personally I just get it going overnight.

    Apart from that the E100 has just had numerous 'tweaks' over the HS2. It uses the MPEG chip found in the Panasnic S75 (and E50/60) which provides much better DVD playback than the HS2 (although the HS2 is far from bad!). It obviously has a larger HDD (giving 18hrs at best possible quality). And it has MP3 and WMA playback. If your after the all-singing-all-dancing model it has to be the E100. If your after a bargain it has to be the HS2. Currently I have the HS2 and saw no reason to upgrade to the E100 given there were no revolutionary advances over the HS2.
     
  29. bobbles

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    Looking back at your first post it appears you have a 28" CRT i'm not sure mind you. Very important question, does your digibox out s-video?

    Rasczak could probably write down what I am going to type for me ....

    ok

    please don't be blinded with the rgb input is a must issue. I have a crt so can not comment how it is affected on plasmas; but with a crt unless you intend recording everything at XP rate 1hr per disc it makes NO!!!! difference.

    I have a Panasonic E30 (the HS2 is the E30 with a 40Gb HDD) and a tosh XS30. at 2hr rate the tosh produces better PQ than the E30 ! at 6hr rate the difference is considerable.

    If your digibox outputs an s-video signal to buy a HS2 over a Tosh IMO is complete insanity. I did a thread which compared the pros and cons of HS2 vs Tosh I advise you take a look. The Tosh is a generation beyond the HS2.

    Do your research, this forum is heavily biased towards Panasonic . Check out the digitalspy forums for more in depth comments about all the possible dvdr.

    Also have you considered sky+ I think this is far more important than a dvdr.

    Also you can fit over 80hrs onto the Tosh 40Gb HD. That is at EP rate which really isn't that far off sky's average broadcast signal. Admitedly I don't use it unless it is something that is going to stay on the HD for a long time. I would love a 250Gb HD but only really for the sake of it.

    With regards RAM. If you are now set on a HDD solution it really doesn't make a blind bit of difference whether you get a RAM or RW version. You will hardly ever use it. The Tosh and Pannys use RAM. The Poineer uses RW. I personally would rather have RW for the simple reason I could lend out the discs have them back wipe them. You can of course just give them a -r but 50p is 50p :)

    As for the E100 it does look a good machine, it is around £300 more than the Tosh and I would rather have my Tosh.

    Finally, there will always be a bigger, better piece of kit around the corner. If you want one, get one now otherwise you will always be waiting for the next big thing.
     
  30. Rasczak

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    Sorry Bobbles but I can't agree with that. Whether recording in XP or EP mode the RGB picture is a brighter more vibrant image compared to it's S-Video equivalent. Without a doubt the Toshiba RX3 does give a very good S-Video picture - but it was a generation later than the E30. Comparing the Toshiba DR1 and Panasonic E60 for example the latter wins hands down on both Digibox and Freeview recordings.

    None of the decent Home Cinema magazines (HCC or WVWE) who put the Toshiba RX3 through it's paces in test labs rated the machine above the Panasonic HS2. Why? Largely because the lack of RGB in - the quality could not match recordings from the RGB sources. Certainly the Tosh RX3 60GB HDD is nice and it has one or two good features the HS2 doesn't. But it also lacks the 'simplicity' of the HS2, the smooth logical meus and (crucially) the RGB in. It's all relative of course - the Tosh is a very good machine (and a bargain at sub-£500) but the HS2 is a better bet IMHO.

    That's not true. Up to recently Panasonic or Philips DVDRs have been the only real choice - and between the two it's abit of a non-brainer unless you are prepared to sacrifice all features for compatibility hence being 'pro' Panasonic. Now more choice is available - Sony, JVC, Toshiba etc and that is reflected in many of the discussions here. Yet even at the moment Panasonic has retained the 'technical' edge they have the best all round HDD/DVDR in the E100 and the best budget model (the E50). By the end of this year things may be different - Panasonic look like having an unspectacular year and the Sony RX10 could take centre-stage as the best HDD/DVDR combo and JVC could displace Panasonic for best budget model with the DR-M5. As and when that happens I have no doubt it will be reflected in the posts here.

    I have only stopped by a few times but the Digital Spy forums tend to be populated by people who have reasonably low-end kit. And there chief technical adviser seems to be Phelings! IMHO even if you have a low end system you should look towards the bigger and better so when you upgrade you existing kit still stands you in good stead.
     

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