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Sony GXD500 - Mini Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray & DVD Players & Recorders' started by Rasczak, Dec 4, 2004.

  1. Rasczak

    Rasczak
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    I don't normally post reviews - and I am not going to break the trend here - but as there is quite alot of interest in the Sony GXD500 (as the first Freeview DVD recorder) I thought I would make a couple of observations.

    Recorded Picture Quality
    Recordings, under 2hrs in length, from the internal (DVB) tuner are very good. Compared to equivalent recordings on the Panasonic E95, Sony RX1000 and Pioneer 720 (all connected to a Sony V800 digibox via QED AV21 Scart fed with an RGB signal) the PQ was noticeably better - the benefit of avoiding the analogue domain is obvious.

    Over 2hrs in length though is a let-down. Even with an all-digital process the recorded picture quality from the GXD500 was nowhere near as good as the analogue recordings on the Panasonic when 3hr mode recordings were compared. Whilst this is hardly a surprise, given the Sony is recording at reduced resolution with modes below SP quality, it was disappointing.

    EPG Recording
    This is a disappointment. The EPG itself is very plain and lacks the programme information box that appears on the Sony V800 Digibox. It also lacks +/- 24hrs scrolling options (not a major point but one that is inconvienant).

    The real problem though is setting Timer recordings via the EPG. The process itself it simple: select the programme, modify your recording mode and set repeat options - it's that quick. What it doesn't allow is for you to set a buffer period before and after the programme. This effectively means that every programme is either missing a few seconds from the start or end. That sort of thing drives me :mad: The only option for programmes you want to archive in their entirety then is to set a manual timer - much like any other DVD recorder!

    General Points
    Generally speaking the performance of the unit itself is equivalent to the Sony GX3 - the model on which it has clearly been based.

    DVD playback: Haven't really got much to say on this. Performance is identical to the GX3, i.e. it is good, but not exceptional. The unit has above average build quality though for a budget unit.

    Editting: As you'd expect DVD-RW VR offers all the editting we have come to expect from DVD recorders. The DVD-RW editting isn't as slick as that on a Panasonic or Toshiba unit - there is an annoying, intrusive pause on the edit point - but is sufficient for most.

    In conclusion then the GXD500 is not for everyone - but for sub-2hr recordings it currently offers the best recording PQ for Freeview. Lets hope the next generation allow more flexibility with timer recordings though!
     
  2. laser

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    Thanks for taking the time to post the review.
     
  3. alarustic

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    The absence of an info box when using the EPG is a real pain in the neck.

    When the EPG is on screen press 'cursor mode.' This will allow the use of yellow/blue buttons to move forward/back 24 hours.
     
  4. Rasczak

    Rasczak
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    Yes - and it won't let you press the I button to get programme info up in a seperate box - you have to select it!?! What is that all about? The implementation on the Sony V800 Digibox was spot on - so why change it?

    Good tip - many thanks.

    Any other GXD500 users want to comment on their experiences be they good or bad with this recorder? It would be useful for potential buyers to have all the major comments in one thread.
     
  5. dartieman

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    Hi Rasczak, have just purchased GXD500 very problem free, out the box, compontent feed into PW6 plasma. very easy set up just follow instructions on screen, choose your owen settings for inputs etc, better then expected picture quality. Did first recording (ever on dvd recorder) onto dvd -r disc no prob what so ever, nearly all recording i do are only 1 hour ish so picture quality will always be to HQ
    a well recomended machine to any body who wants it, all in one box.
    P.S Raz, thanks for your earlier comments i think you put it all in a nut shell for me.
     
  6. Rasczak

    Rasczak
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    Glad you are happy. The GXD500 is a great DVD recorder - it has set the standard very high for the other producers.
     
  7. the_sanguine

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    Is there any benefit of having the freeview tuner if you have Sky anyway?
     
  8. Rasczak

    Rasczak
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    Picture quality on the BBC channels is better (by a reasonable margin). Otherwise the answer is no although there are little things (depending on digibox used) such as a nicer EPG and faster text services. If you record mainly from Sky though the GXD500 is not the recorder for you.
     
  9. bdwall007

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    hi,

    i've certainly learnt alot from these forums on functions/features of various dvd recorders, however i have one question (to start with!)...

    i have a fairly new sony tv with freeview built in (and a sony dvd player, sony vcr & sony dd/dts receiver - all roughly 5-6 years old), is there any point in getting this particular dvd recorder over the GX700 or GX300? Reason being at present i can't watch anything else if i'm recording a digital channel onto video. would this problem be solved anyway if i get a dvd recorder regardless of whether it has freview built in, or do i need the GXD500 to solve this problem?
    also any other comparison notes between these 3 machines would be useful given they are all similarly priced. I don't use a digital camcorder, but it would be useful to know if any dvd's recorded on whichever new machine i chose would play on my ancient sony dvd player - it does seem to pay some copies from other people but not all.

    thanks
     
  10. Rasczak

    Rasczak
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    You basically need another Digital Tuner to be able to watch a Freeview channel whilst recording another. It's effectively the same as the analogue days: originally you had one analogue tuner in your TV and one in your VCR enabling you to record one channel and watch another. Now we have moved to digital you again need two (digital) tuners to do this - the trouble is most DVD recorders are still stuck with old analogue ones :(

    Thus you have two choices: get the GXD500 with it's inbuilt tuner, or you could get another DVD recorder and a seperate freeview set-top box. I would favour the former as, despite it's problems, the GXD500 is a top piece of kit!

    For general DVD Recorder FAQs see the 'Which DVD Recorder?' link in my signature!
     
  11. bdwall007

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    thanks rasczak,

    you must spend every waking hour helping people on here! I spent several hours reading through further threads last night and reviews etc. Bit of a minefield, shame there is no recorder with HDD and friewview tuner built in as yet. As i think it seems to be worthwhile to have the HDD as well (cant justify the cost of the sony model with HDD built in even though i do like sony products).

    I'll look through your signature link, didn't notice that before thanks :)

    -What are the associated problems you speak of with the 500?
    -If i bought a recorder without freeview do you think its any easier to record from the built in digi-tuner in my tv than it is at present on to vcr (despite both being sony - and can't get smartlink to work either) its very hit and miss whether it even works sometimes and quality is poor.
     
  12. Rasczak

    Rasczak
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    The general issues I raised in the mini-review at the top of this thread:
    - EPG Recording: no ability to set a buffer/modify recording times hence you miss a few seconds here and there
    - EPG: no programme info readily available - you have to set the timer to get info on a programme
    - Editing: ability to edit to very weak compared to Panasonic/Toshiba products
    - Recording: only 2hrs recording at full resolution
    - DVD-RW: limited timeslip options, can be unresponsive and unreliable

    Don't get me wrong the GXD500 is a very good DVD recorder - I am making good use of mine - but it's does have these annoying 'quirks'.
     
  13. bdwall007

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    Sorry, yes i did pick up most of these points in your review

    -presumably editing abilities is not too much of an issue if you aren't using a camcorder and aren't too bothered about removing ad breaks etc?
    -Given i curently have all sony set up, would i loose any benefit (apart from the built in digituner with this model of course) in buying a non-sony recorder? i.e. communicating with the built in digituner in my sony tv?
    -I take point from the other excellent FAQ site on the inability to set exact time of a recording to get optimal usage of the disk on sony models i.e. 1 min over the 2 hours and you get the next best quality with the sony. On say the 3 hour setting, presumably quality even on this setting is a significant improvement over VHS?
     
  14. Rasczak

    Rasczak
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    No - if you aren't worried about editing it doesn't matter how bad the features are. Personally I get round it by using my Panasonic E95: I dub DVD-RW VR mode to HDD, edit and then dub to DVD-RAM to import onto my PC.

    I don't comment on Q-Link/automatic recordings etc as I don't test this myself. So I'm afraid you'll have to ask others on this.

    Yes - without a doubt - however there are some machines that do a significantly better job at the 3hr mark (namely the Panasonic range).
     
  15. bdwall007

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    great, thanks for all your help!
     
  16. HMHB

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    Sounds like a promising first try for an integrated freeview receiver.
    That would make it unusable for me I'm afraid :(
     
  17. Rasczak

    Rasczak
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    Yes - likewise. I use the manual Timer which, it has to said, is easy to programme. However there really is no excuse for not offering buffering - or at least the ability to modify the timer start/end times.
     
  18. ceal

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    Which DVD recorder would you buy to record from Sky?
     
  19. Rasczak

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    It depends - I put that comment in the review because you're paying a premium for the inbuilt Freeview tuner and when, looking at it's performance on analogue encoding in all modes, it can't quite match Panasonic or Toshiba models.

    The best recorder for Sky is Sky+! Have a look at the 'Which DVD Recorder?' link in my signature for general advice/guidance.
     
  20. ash

    ash
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    Rasczak, have you got any views on the Pioneer 530, comparing them to the HDD Panny and Toshiba, if you could give me a brief summary wit differences or anything like that, would be great.
     
  21. Rasczak

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    The Pioneer models are great machines available at bargain prices - and I am not about to upset the dozens of new 530 owners - but there are a number of issues:

    Recorded Picture Quality
    The new, improved, MPEG encoders of the Pioneers are a vast improvement over the weak encoders found in the x30 generation. But they still aren't particular strong. Comparing the all-important SP (2hrs per DVD) modes on the current Sony (510), Panasonic (EH50), Pioneer (630) and Toshiba (RDXS34) puts the Pioneer in forth place. The difference is not huge but it is there: in my comparisons between them I paid particular attention to fade ins/outs, display of mist/smoke, scenes with rain and scenes which involve alot of screen motion. Artifacts - specifically blocking - is most noticeable on the Pioneer. The Toshiba and Sony are roughly equal (each seem slightly better at certain types of scenes) and the Panasonic is the clearest.

    Single Format
    This is the biggest disadvantage of the Pioneer IMHO. Whilst DVD-RAM, DVD+RW, DVD+R and DVD+R DL playback are all supported, the Pioneer only records to most of the 'minus' formats: DVD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-R DL. Now there is nothing particularly wrong with that - the functionality and compatibility is there - but Pioneer doesn't generally issue firmware updates for it's machines. This means when their is a specification change in any of those formats, i.e. when the next speed discs start appearing, your machine becomes incompatible. Pioneer 3100/5100 owners are already effectively stuck with obsolete machines as these do not support 4x DVD-RW media (including 1-4x media). As and when 8x DVD-RW media starts to become standard (expected early next year) you can expect the same from the current batch. Not a big deal if you stock up with media (Sony models suffer the same). Likewise with DVD-R DL (the problem doesn't really affect DVD-R as that is already at it's fastest speed). This new format, whilst great to have dual layer recording, also has it's drawbacks. Early indications are that DVD-R DL isn't very compatible - significantly less so than DVD+R DL with ROM bitsetting. So if you want it for compatible recordings look to the Sony rather than the Pioneer.

    Guideplus
    Sony and Panasonic (who both support Guideplus worldwide) opted not to support it in the UK for a number of reasons - one of which is the (relative) lack of bandwidth it has, i.e. it doesn't respond to last minute programme changes. And there are also questions as to it's long term survival (especially as it relies on the analogue transmissions!). This, coupled with the fact that many users have difficulty getting Guideplus up and running, means it is hard to recommend over - for example the excellent EPGs found on the Sony or Panasonic Freeview recorders.


    All said and done though there are some great things to recommend the Pioneers: connectivity is as good as the other brands, if it has to be single format at least it supports minus media, it has satellite box control (530/630 models only) and they don't look bad either! Personally I wouldn't buy one as my first choice - but at the price they are available I don't blame somepeople for doing so!
     
  22. ash

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    Thanks for this! Very welcome.
     

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