Due to a "problem" that may or may not be a problem (see my previous post), I wound up trying out multiple home DVD recorders. Here are my thoughts on them for anyone interested. I'm really picky about my AV gear. These are my opinions only. When I talk about "Video quality" I measured and compared using the 2-hour mode ("SP" on most recorders).
When talking about chapter markings, I'm talking about using normal DVD-R or DVD+R discs, *NOT* DVDRWs or DVD-RAMs (since most people -- at least me -- will use the cheaper use-once DVD-Rs for most of their stuff).
Sharp DVRW-2U (-R unit): The unit I first bought, and am (I guess) keeping. Now as low as $350 at pcmall.com after rebate. Video quality is absolutely outstanding. Lots of features. Chapter marks not manual, but multiple choices for auto-marking (off, 5mins, 10mins, 15mins, etc etc etc). Only annoyance: while you can make the unit will start recording exactly when you want it to, you can't make it STOP recording exactly when you want it to.. only in 30-second blocks, so if you're at 45:16, you must wait another 14 seconds (even if you press stop) until 45:30 for the unit to stop recording. However, if you press PAUSE before STOP, it'll finish out the 30-second block with a black screen. This may turn off some people, but in the end it was the lesser of the evils of the other machines. Recording quality (SP) really good, and can use -RW. Made in Malaysia, but really good quality.
Panasonic E50 (-R unit): Recording quality (SP speed) really good, exactly (to my eyes) as the Sharp. While it writes to the disc in blocks like the Sharp, you CAN stop recording on the Panasonic exactly when you want. BUT your only choice for chapter markings are "automatic about every 5 minutes." The biggest turn-off on this otherwise OK machine is that besides DVD-R, it's DVD-RAM, *NOT* DVD-RW. I'd much rather have RW for compatibility (for instance, if I want to use my PC to make a copy of an RW disc, I can -- but you can't shove a DVD-RAM into a PC. If I record a TV show on a RW (which the Panasonic can't do) it's very easy to use a computer to copy it from the RW to a -R disc. But the Panasonic only does -R and -RAM, and you can't use -RAM with anything but this unit, making it really hard to do stuff with it. Plus -RAMs are $$$. Made in Japan. If Panasonic had gone -R and -RW I would have bought this one, but not having -RW (for me -RAM is useless) is a big drawback.
Samsung (didn't try it out, but the Samsung is basically a Panasonic with the Samsung name slapped on it). Made in Japan.
Sony: (DVD-R unit) the biggest disappointment. Why? They advertise it as being multi-format, but if you look closely, you'll see it will do DVD-R, but *NOT* DVD+R (it will do DVD-RW and DVD+RW, but *NOT* DVD+R). And it costs as much as a Sony Vaio. Chapter markings: choice of "6 mins" or "15 mins" automatic or off. Video quality: excellent. Lots of features, yet lots of stuff missing. WON'T play VideoCDs, SVCDs or some other formats. Has a cooling fan. Made in Japan.
Magnavox (+R) (same as Philips), the unit that's $399 at Target. Think it's the "630". But noticed that it's almost identical to one of the newer Philips models. Has nice feature for chapter markings where you can manually add chapters as recordings is going on -- but VIDEO QUALITY IS TERRIBLE, even in SP mode. Interestingly, unlike the other units, you can "see" what the quality will be like just by using the MONITOR function even before recording. As you pump a video signal through the unit, you see it worsen in quality, and as you change the recording speed (even when not recording), the quality changes accordingly. There's also a "delay" in the video input monitor. So say you're running a VHS tape, and you stop the VHS machine. The video you see through the Magnavox/Philips is a second or two behind, and won't show the unit as stopped until a second or two later. Like all the Magnavox/Philips units, made in Hungary. Manual really cheasy. Absolute WORST video quality of the bunch. Oh, and I tried out two Magnavox/Philips units, so it's not that one was defective. Best way to describe video quality was even on "still" or "freeze framing" the video source, it "bubbles" like old film burning in a projector (though not as bad). Really bad look. And this was at SP speed.
Apex (+R) machine: surprisingly, the video quality was as good as the -R Sharp, Sony, and Panasonic units -- absolutely excellent. Only one problem: I don't know if the unit was defective or not, but I could only record using a DVD player as source. When I hooked up a VCR, the signal went crazy. This is *NOT* Macrovision (I know a Macrovision signal). This was using home video tapes, and stuff taped off TV, NOT commercial macrovision-encoded stuff. And it was the ONLY player that had this problem. When the VCR was stopped (ie, blue screen with a timer-counter) it was fine, but as soon as I pressed PLAY on the VCR, the Apex couldn't handle any video (whether it be EP or SP speed, home video, or shows taped off network TV). This takes away a major reason for anyone wanting to buy the unit (ie, putting VHS tapes to DVD). Unless the unit was broken, but I don't think so, as it said "stable video source detected", and when the VCR was on STOP, it worked ok. Made in China.
Polariod (from Best Buy, $399 in ad, but $374 in store). Absolute junk. When you want to record, it takes about 10 seconds to start, but unlike the Sharp or other units, you can't "rec-pause" until it's ready to go.. it just starts when it feels like it. And get this -- you can't even PAUSE during recording. It's a feature not allowed on the unit. 'Nuff said. Made in China.
Interestingly, in the end it seems that the DVD-Rs had the best video quality (though it has nothing to do with the format, it's just that Philips is the main one behind the +, and the video quality was terrible). The only + machine with good video quality was the Apex, but it can't handle home VHS tapes!
I'm sure there are other makes and models coming.
I hope this helps some of you out there.
Again, please don't flame. These are my personal observations only. I have no interest in what unit any of you out there decide to get. Just thought some of you could find this helpful.
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Thanks for taking the time to post - interesting stuff ...
Thanks for the test.
Yes, there must be something wrong around these Philips standalone recorders.
I've heard lots of complaints.
They also made the plus format compatibility look bad in cdrinfo's test.
Apex released a firmware upgrade to fix the VHS source problem. Glad to know the Apex recording quality is good.
Thanks for the info. I'm interested in getting one... though unable to afford it yet. And to think I almost considered the Magnavox.
Did you try any of the longer play modes on any of the machines? If I get one, I'll want 3-6 hours on one disc.
mrlar - great review.
My only comment is that I would not discount the capabilities of DVD-Ram. The format offers twice the bandwidth of Dvd-+R and Rw. This is what allows the Timeslip feature on the Panasonic recorders without the need for a hard drive. Meaning with DVD-Ram you can rewind and forward a recording while the recording is taking place - with no harm to the recording. This is a great tivo like feature on Panasonic recoders such as the e-50. This feature is not possible with the Dvd -+ R and Rw format. A nice plus.
Also you can import your Dvd-Ram recordings to a PC using a low cost Dvd-Rom drive that is capable of reading Dvd-Ram discs ($30.00 - $50.00). This allows you to edit recordings and author on a PC.
Nice review, very informative.
I agree with next about the DVD-Ram format, once you start using the time slip feature it's hard to record without it. Also I always copy the video to my compter using a cheap dvd-ram reader/writer and create menus using Ulead's DVD Workshop.
This process is a snap and works great. I do have one concern when it comes to cutting dvd-ram video; Which program to use when attempting to split mpeg2 video and maintain the ac3 audio.?
Thanks for the comments on my reviews.
RE: testing with rec speeds other than the 2-hr one... didn't really try it because for me, probably 95% of my recordings would use this speed, so for me it was the most important.
RE: DVD-RAM. Thanks for pointing out the features. But I can't just shove a DVD-RAM cartridge into my stock DVD-ROM drive on my computer, can I? Isn't it a cartridge? At any rate, it's a personal choice, and as I mentioned, the Panasonic was a good machine, but for me, RW is much more universal and easier to port back and forth, and I don't really use the DVD player as a daily recording "VCR", but rather more for recording once-only archival stuff to DVD.
RE: Apex releasing a new firmware to allow importing VHS video. That's good to hear, though it makes me wonder what kind of unit it is from a company that would release a product like this in the first place with this disabled or not working. The Apex looked cheaply put together and quite truthfully, considering that both the fine Sharp and Pansasonic units are about the same price if you know where to shop, I don't know if I'd be persuaded to buy the Apex. Still, as I said in my review, from just recording a sample off a DVD disc, the video quality WAS excellent. Just wonder how long the player will last. By the way, do you know the URL for the new firmware, or where to get it? Last time I checked (about 2-3 days ago), the apexdigital webpage didn't even return one result when I typed the model (or word dvd recorder) into the search engine.
MORAL OF THE STORY:
What's funny is that on each of the tested units, they all had at least a few strong points,but all had different problems/weak points. If only someone could just mix them all together and make a machine leaving out the bad points and keeping in the good.
Don't expect miracles from standalones DVD recorders! It is a great suprise for me that they suceed good results with 2 Hours per disc!
If you want 3 or 4 hours per disc, you definatelly need a PC DVD recorder and advance encoding technics (let say VBR 1/2 D1 CCIR).
For PAL users, there is also a 6 - 8 hours alternative, using 1/4 D1 CCIR framesize and VBR, but that way looks like VHS - fair enough for most people... NTSC are not lucky with this, I mean, it is possible but the picture quality is horrible!
Originally Posted by mrlar
Originally Posted by ejai
With Dvd-Ram on a PC the disc is viewed as a HD. DVD-+RW in its native form is not.
Actually on the e-50 the Dvd-Ram disc is viewed as a HD as well. That is why the Timeslip feature is possible. The format allows for this.
Originally Posted by mrlar
Any DVD-ROM today will read your DVD-R, so if you really want just a copy of your once-only archival stuff, the DVD-R you create will be just fine. And RW is a *much* less standard format than DVDR (for example, many standalone players will not play back RW, whereas they nearly always play DVDR).
I don't bother with RAM myself, but I think the Panny is a superior unit in so many ways -- for one thing, it's built-in TBC is without equal (and one reason the picture quality is so good)."Like a knife, he cuts through life, like every day's his last" -- Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Again, I'm not slamming the Panasonic, I rated it as second best for my needs (everyone has different needs). I thought the Sharp and Panasonic were exactly equal in terms of picture (both great), but RW/RAM aside, the Sharp had more features and options than the Panasonic. The Sharp's only drawback is the stop-rec feature, but I can live with it. Both are good units. As for the RW/RAM thing, 95% of my recordings are archive (ie, right to DVD-R), but there have been times where I wanted to try experiments. In that case, I'll use an RW (so as not to waste use-once-only discs) and when I get it right, then I pop the RW into my PC and copy it to -R. That's only if I want to spend the time. But as far as I know (I could be mistaken) but I can't pop a DVD-RAM into my Sony DVD-ROM drive on my PC. I also like (personal taste) the multiple chapter options of the Sharp (off, 5min, 10min, 15min, 30min, etc) and the Panasonic has only unchangable every-5-min-only chapters. Of course as I said before, every machine has its pluses and minuses (no pun intended), and the only unit I even thought about getting other than the Sharp was the Panasonic. In the end, I decided on the Sharp and am totally happy. In a few years when new models come out, I might get a Panasonic.
My comparison was "for those interested", and was based on my own personal needs and features I'm looking for in a player.. still I hope others found it useful.
Heck, both Matsushita (Pana) and Sharp are Osaka companies. The CEOs probably throw water balloons at each other's offices...
Thanks for the info next, I will try this software.
Originally Posted by ejai
1. DVD-Recorder with DVD-Ram capabilities. This includes the discounted Panasonic models without a hard drive because the DVD-Ram format is like having a removable hard disk. A more expensive model if you want the integraded hard drive, but Dvd-ram capabilities at a minimum.
2. A Dvd-Rom drive on your PC that can read Dvd-Ram ($30-$50 - Panasonic. Hitachi, Lg etc.). Or even better a Multi format burner that can read and burn Dvd-Ram/Dvd-R. The Panasonic 9571 is now down to $128. Here: http://avlogic.com/
Or even better the new LG burner that can burn all fotmats. LG GMA-4040B. Look on this site under DVDWriters.
3. Editing software. Mpeg2Vcr. Down to $119 from $249. It will handle AC3 and VRO files. http://www.womble.com/index.shtml
4. The authoring program of your choice.
It can add up to a few dollars but I'm sure there have been dollars spent in the past that have been a waste. Spend them wisely.
Just my opinion
I know nothing about these DVD recorders so I have a few questions.
1) Does the Sharp DVRW-2U have a hard drive?
2) If recording from VHS is the recorded picture quality better than capturing to a computer?
3) Will these recorders remove/ignore macrovision from a VHS tape?
4) Does the Sharp recorder play mp3's recorded on DVD-R?
4) Finally will the Sharp DVRW-2U playback DVD+R?
Originally Posted by Bob W
Recording quality: haven't tried capturing it to the computer, but on my pricey Sony Vaio (upper model) it only lets me have 90mins instead of 120 at the "normal" speed. And from what I've heard from others (could be wrong), it's a bit better than going through the computer. Though in the end it depends on your computer and video card, etc. I tried it once on a computer (Frys brand) and it looked like crap, so the short answer is "yes, quite possibly, but if you have the best video cards and software, maybe the computer can match it".
Yes, it will play DVD+Rs (but won't record on +).
As for MP3s, I'm not sure about "MP3s on DVD-R", but it does talk about playing MP3s in general (allowed).
Hope this helps
mrlar thanks. I may just buy a recorder as I have several hundred VHS tapes with many that are not yet on DVD (and may never be). I have been getting good results with my AVerDVD capture card however it's becoming a bore that's eats up way too much of my time.
I JUST HAVE TO POST THIS!
The best reason for getting a standalone recorder: my day today.
My Sharp (or if you get a Panasonic or Sony, or whatever) makes a perfect-looking copy in "real time" (ie, and hour show will copy in an hour).
But my nice new high-end Sony Vaio has inputs and everything built-in to make burning DVDs "easy". So after burning about 150 DVDs using my Sharp, I decided to do my batch of 3 using the computer just to see how it would work.
EACH of the 3 different 60-minute videos took OVER 3 HOURS *AFTER* the initial hour of video capturing to decode! I started at 9:00am today, and finished at around 9pm tonight, leaving the computer working by itself most of the day. This is a new high-end Vaio that's fast and made for this, and (at least using their built in GigaPocket and ClickToDVD software) took FOREVER. From 9am-12 noon I made the "captures" of the 3 programs. If I had used my Sharp I would have been finished by now. Instead, from noon on, it took about 3 hours to decode/separate/record and finalize each show, finally finishing around 9pm. Luckily I was doing other stuff around the house, but it tied up the computer that long. And the only extra control I really had over a stand-alone unit was being able to set chapter markings EXACTLY where I wanted them (in R mode, not RW, where you can do it on a standalone as well). Is that worth 3 extra hours? I don't think so...
I'll be going back to my Sharp tomorrow..
but if all you want to do with a stand a lone is make one time copies then the sharp may be a better buy, but if like me, thrown out all VHS tapes(they suck anyway) I do all my time shifting on either my 2 Panasonics using Ram discs with no cartridges and using a ram disc for everyday recording with the record and playback feature at the same time I would not buy anything else and they also playback DVD+R's also.
I have no idea if the sharp can do it but the panasonics TBC and filters can be used as pass through, did it today ran a VHS tape that had a crapping time base code so it broke up while capturing, instead ran it through my E20 and the VHS captured perfect once the E20 gave it a new Time Base code. yes VHS or SVHS tapes do look as good or sometimes slighlty better when recorded on my E20, providing you use the 1 or 2 hour mode and I also like the FR mode on the panasonic which works great when you have a 90 minute program, why waste 30 minutes in the 2 hour mode when you can use the FR speed and fit it perfect on a DVD-R in 90 minutes and at a higher bitrate.
RE: DVD-RAM. Thanks for pointing out the features. But I can't just shove a DVD-RAM cartridge into my stock DVD-ROM drive on my computer, can I? Isn't it a cartridge?
The TYPE II DVD-RAM disc an be removed from the cartridge
and placed in a drive other than your SONY DVD-ROM on the computer and read sucessfully
SDomone posted models that do this
also some media manufacturers are cheating and selling NAKED RAM discs ( type 2 without the cartridge)
They are too expensive though..but since they're rewritable, its just an initial cost as they're rewriable many more times than a RW
Your such interesting article prompted me to register.
How many people had the chance to test DVD recorders before buying?
DVD recorders here in Canada are very rare. Panasonic for example only has the ones at the low end. Don't even think about buying the HS2. It is not on the market for the reason that it would be unaffordable.
Multiply by 3 the US price and you have an idea. In fact, it is more than the exchange rate. So, how unaffordable will the Panasonic E-100 series with 120 and 160 Hard disks?
With the custom duties and the fee of custom brokers adding to the cost, buying from the US is no better.
So, following your advice, I decided that I will buy the Sharp DVD recorder, specially because it has the Firewire input.
Alas, Sharp has no DVD recorders for sale in Canada.
I think that I will have to be patient longer than I presumed.
DVD recorders here in Canada are very rare. Panasonic for example only has the ones at the low end.
This company is headquartered in Canada and sells 4 different Panasonic models, including the new e80 and e100. Prices seem to be in US$ and shipping may come from US though.
Originally Posted by Yvon
Many thanks, KC 33.
I tried but could not find the canadian price for the Panasonic DMR-E60S
(I want the Firewire input), which is absent in the DMR-80.
Whatever I did, it always showed the price for the latter.
Originally Posted by dcsos
Your insights are accurate. I agree that without the cartridge it may seem like things are not what they were but I would prefer a stack of DVD-Ram discs as opposed to having to pay for the cartridge that is proving to be less that useful.
It's a great format. The error correction is superior.
But I think it may be hobbled in the minds of the consumer because it was the first offered and chose to use the caddy.
It is not necessary.
But with any optical disc you must always protect the optical side of the disc.
edit - I always have a few "caddys" laying around to protect the disc. For the heavy use discs I use the caddys which are great and serve a purpose.
Originally Posted by PhilipL
I've always thought that DVD-RW (and DVD+RW) records data sequentially so they could never achieve the time slip feature. My guess is that the Pioneer models are recording to DVD-RW in DVD-VR mode in order to achieve this.
Thanks for the reviews. I just bought the Panasonic E60 and started copying my VHS tapes today. It worked like a charm. I did not want to spend a lot of time. I just wanted to get the home movies off the tapes before they degraded anymore. Then when they come out with the newest and greatest in a couple of years I will have a digital copy to work from. I have some tapes that have 2 home movies on them. I liked that I was able to tell the recorder that I wanted to record for 1hr 12min and it calculated the best quality for that length. I started the recording and walked away. When I came back I finalized the DVD-R and had a full disk with only the amount of time I wanted. I also had a movie that was 3hrs and split that into 2 DVDs. Remember that the quality is only as good as the original. But I did not want to further degrade the picture and at less than $2 a disc was worth it. I am also going to burn it on one DVD to see if there is a difference.