We had a Panasonic machine for a year and changed to Sony HXD890. Panny was nice and FR recording was very good but a few things overall imo the Sony does better. I'm loving the 890, we recorded F1 last season, set to best quality with a 160gb hard drive no problem getting the entire show.
Easiest way to set to record is to use the EPG, which the BBC are pretty good at updating compared to ITV (now F1 has switched). You find the show in the guide, tell the machine you want to record it and leave it to it. You don't set record for 2 hours as such, rather to record a show.