Any Sony HDD/DVD recorders as good as RDR-HX900? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 08-20-2009, 09:27 PM - Thread Starter
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I currently have an old Sony VCR in my living room, and another Sony VCR plus a Sony RDR-HX900 HDD/DVD recorder in my home office. The VCR in the living room is going out, so I'm thinking of buying a used RDR-HX900 to replace it. I could just move the one I have, but it might be nice to have two. I have both cable and DirecTV, so a nondenominational DVR suits me just fine; I don't want one that's designed just for Comcast or DirecTV.

I just checked eBay and saw one HX900 for sale for $350. There are also a couple of HX715s that have been bid up to about $200. From looking at the specs, the HX715 sounds very similar to the HX900, but I haven't been able to find a direct comparison anywhere. Does anyone here have experience with both machines? If so, I'd appreciate your thoughts on whether I'd be happy with the HX715. Or if you know of other similar models, I'd appreciate comments on those, too.

BTW, it appears that Sony still makes the HX900, but in a business version that lists for $1200! Uh, no thanks..... :-)


Thanks!
Patty

p.s. Yeah, I know that Magnavox makes an HDD/DVD system, but I'm a pretty strong Sony loyalist; I really like their user interfaces.
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post #2 of 15 Old 08-21-2009, 07:17 AM
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The Sony DVD/HDD model numbers ending in "5" were almost all European PAL models. Perhaps if you tracked down a "multiregion" version that could play/record in NTSC that would work for you: they have an interface somewhat similar to the older 900. The "x15" and "x25" series are well regarded by the European electronics press, but note a lot of the praise centers around their tuners (which apparently set the standard in Europe). The recorders themselves are considered somewhat better than average but not world beaters. Of course this would be under the PAL video system, no way of knowing how these evaluations would change if the same machine was operating in NTSC (if thats even possible).

The x15/x25 series was discontinued last year, replaced by the x80/x90 series. These again are European PAL models, except for a lone RDR-HX780 that was released to Canada and immediately flopped as a trouble-prone unit. (They fare better in Europe, those versions are more expensive, better made and have more features). Beginning with the x80/x90 series, Sony expanded on its earlier recorder collaboration with Pioneer: for all practical purposes the x80/x90 Sonys are rebranded Pioneer 560 recorders with minor changes involving tuner, HDD and interactivity with Sony televisions. The operating system/user interface of the current Sony x80/x90 models is identical to Pioneers and nothing like the older Sonys. (While this might be annoying to a long time Sony user, the Pioneer interface is actually far better, especially the editing modes.) Now that Pioneer has exited the recorder business worldwide, it is unclear how Sony will proceed with its versions: I suspect both the Sonys and Pioneers were rolling off Sonys assembly lines, if thats the case nothing should change. If Pioneer was making them for Sony, on the other hand, there may be some hiccups in the next Sony lineup for 2010.

Per your current needs, if you cannot acquire a Sony x15 or x25 with NTSC mode, you may have to settle for an imported "multiregion" Pioneer DVR-560 or 660, or Panasonic EH-57 or EH-67. Any of these are superb recorders and work well in North America when connected to cable/satellite (they would need one of those ATSC converter boxes for off-air use). These machines run about $450 from reputable online dealers like B&H Photo, J&R Electronics, and World Import.
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post #3 of 15 Old 08-21-2009, 09:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you very much for the information, CitiBear.

That's interesting that the "5" models are PAL. The two HX715s that are currently for sale on eBay both say, "Region 1: US, Canada," so I thought they were made for sale here and would have native NTSC output. (There's also a multiregion HX770 for sale that has a PAL tuner, so I was already skipping that one, even though it can convert the output to NTSC. I have a multiregion DVD player in my living room that can convert from PAL to NTSC output on the fly for viewing on my TV, but I'd prefer to have a native NTSC unit if I get another HDD/DVD recorder.) As you say, the NTSC tuner is outmoded now, but that's okay, since I have external devices that can provide the unit with a compatible signal.

Ah, I just found the user manual for the HX715 on Sony's U.S. website, and the specs say it's NTSC. So apparently they also made an NTSC version of this one. I guess in purchasing one on eBay, it would be a matter of asking the seller where they got the unit and hoping they're truthful.


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post #4 of 15 Old 08-21-2009, 09:16 AM
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Yes, I did think perhaps a few of the x15 or x25 DVD/HDD models were sold in Canada as NTSC versions, but didn't want to send you on a wild goose chase looking for one if they were very rare or nonexistent. I have never seen any posts here or elsewhere regarding "North American" x15 or x25 Sony DVD/HDD recorders: they were not sold in the USA at all and apparently few Canadians have seen fit to report on them. If your eBay sources have good seller ratings and seem knowledgeable you should be OK, especially if paying via PayPal. Unless these are brand new in box, however, I would not bid higher than $300: beyond that, you're better off with a new, US-store-warrantied import Pioneer or Panasonic. The Sony x15/x25 do not compare to your beloved 900: once you hit the $450 range, the Panasonic and Pioneer are much better choices.
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post #5 of 15 Old 08-21-2009, 12:13 PM
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A short (now historic) review video of the HX715 can be found here:http://cnettv.cnet.com/sony-rdr-hx71..._53-20091.html

It was very close in picture and build quality to the workhorse 900, however I never did hear if the built-in TVGOS was a blessing or a nightmare (a la Pioneer).
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post #6 of 15 Old 08-21-2009, 11:18 PM
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The HX715 was indeed sold in the US, and it had an NTSC tuner and TVGOS. It immediately followed the HX900 (I remember it very well from my Crutchfield catalogs at the time).

It's the next best thing to the HX900, although I don't believe it's quite as solidly built. I'm not sure, but I don't think they started with the over-sensitive copy protection until right after that model. I could be wrong, though.

(edit: I just searched here, and there are plenty of people posting from in the US who have it, so you might want to do a search and talk to some of those people.)
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post #7 of 15 Old 08-22-2009, 06:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffWld View Post

A short (now historic) review video of the HX715 can be found here:http://cnettv.cnet.com/sony-rdr-hx71..._53-20091.html

It was very close in picture and build quality to the workhorse 900, however I never did hear if the built-in TVGOS was a blessing or a nightmare (a la Pioneer).

Ha! CNET's also got a review there of the Pioneer DVR-533H-S (and alludes to its big brother the 633H-S, which I had the "pleasure" of owning, briefly) and gives it its CNET Editors' Choice Award. The CNET Executive Editor even refers to it as the "perfect" DVD Recorder and says they had "no problems" with the TV Guide on it.
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post #8 of 15 Old 08-22-2009, 08:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post

The HX715 was indeed sold in the US, and it had an NTSC tuner and TVGOS. It immediately followed the HX900 (I remember it very well from my Crutchfield catalogs at the time.

Okay, it seems I got the x15 mixed up with the x25: sorry about that, folks. Somehow I got confused, and thought the difference between the x15 and x25 was the same as the difference between the x80 and x90 (which is, they're simultaneous model lines but the higher numbers have the more elaborately featured DTV tuners for the Europeans who want or need the extra features). Apparently the the x15 was the last USA model and the x25 was an update to it sold only overseas (and perhaps in Canada before the ill-fated 780).

Personally I don't recall seeing any threads here on the x15 specifically, just occasional questions about upgrading the 525 or 725, but if Rammitinski says the x15 threads are here, they're here (Rammi is a big fan of the GX-900, so he would know.) Its hard to keep track sometimes of when each mfr "left the building" and took their DVD/HDD models exclusively to Europe and maybe Canada. Most of the Sony-owning members I've assisted with HDD replacements had the 525 and lived in Europe, so thats what stuck in my brain.

I wouldn't worry too much about the RDR-HX715 having TVGOS issues as bad as the Pioneer 633: nothing has issues as bad as the 633 (I know, I've repaired enough of them). The only issue you might have with the Sony TVGOS would be loss of the TVGOS analog signal in your city, an on again/off again phenomenon reported on AVS extensively. You should still be able to use the 715 manually in the absence of TVGOS data. Although I remember reports here about one Sony model that relied completely on the TVGOS for basic functions, and is effectively crippled if it can't pick up the signal: perhaps Rammitinski could jump in and identify it, as it might be a poorer choice than other Sonys?
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post #9 of 15 Old 08-22-2009, 11:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Sounds like I done good when I chose the HX900.

Now that I have a PDF file of the HX715's manual, I can compare its features with those of my HX900. But if anyone knows any differences from memory, please feel free to jump in and mention them.

I don't use TVGOS myself, but I vaguely recall some problem with it that affected the operation of my HX900 a couple of years ago. I think something went bonkers with the clock and I couldn't set it manually. I remember frantically trying to find out more about who carried TVGOS in my area. At some point, the problem sorted itself out.

Are there really still some analog feeds of TVGOS? I have all sorts of digital to analog converters coming into the HX900 (DirecTV, Comcast, CECB), so if TVGOS is being fed on any of those sources, I guess it's getting into the device okay. At least, the clock is still working.


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post #10 of 15 Old 08-22-2009, 10:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wintertime View Post

Sounds like I done good when I chose the HX900.

Absolutely. It's one of the best HDD/DVD recorders ever made (easily the best model Sony themselves ever made. The more I think of it, the HX715 may be when they started with the copy protection stuff - although I still don't think it's anywhere near as bad a problem as their recorders have now).

I like the PQ of all my Pannies a little better, and the operation of the Sony is a bit clunky, but it was probably the only model ever that was rated as an excellent DVD player, too (I think my remote even has a zoom button on it - although I never played any pre-recorded DVD's on it).

I will say that no other model I've had or seen even comes close to the external build quality of it (if I stack it with my Sony DHG-HDD500 DVR, they look almost like twins).
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post #11 of 15 Old 08-22-2009, 11:14 PM
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Also, the Sony's TVGOS is completely dependable, as far as I know - as in the Pannies. (I've never had any problem with it in my HX900, and I don't recall anyone else saying they ever did in a Sony HDD/DVD recorder, either. The IR blasters will work satellite tuners, but you can't get guide info - only manual timer setting.)

If you had any kind of temporary problem with TVGOS (even though I know you don't specifically use that feature yourself), it most certainly was with the host channel/signal - everyone has had those at one time or another.

And yes - there are still analog feeds of TVGOS - with cable. The clock may be sent out independently of the TVGOS signal, though - that's how the old VCR's used to get it - it was sent by a PBS station. You could be getting it through cable if you have the coax running straight into the recorder's analog tuner. I think I was able to get the time signal through my Dish tuner one time when I tried it (believe it or not - don't ask me how - but I was picking up a sort of "PSIP" for some of the channels, too, using my Panny E85H - mainly the locals, so it may be possible through the Direct tuner, too. If the CECB is a DTV Pal or Artec with TVGOS conversion, you could be getting it through that - if you're using it in TVGOS mode - which it sounds like you're not).
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post #12 of 15 Old 08-22-2009, 11:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post

Although I remember reports here about one Sony model that relied completely on the TVGOS for basic functions, and is effectively crippled if it can't pick up the signal: perhaps Rammitinski could jump in and identify it, as it might be a poorer choice than other Sonys?

That would be the HD Sony DVR's. They don't have manual clock setting. But they have digital tuners, and are pretty much picking up the digital guide info and clock and working for most people (mine does).
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post #13 of 15 Old 08-23-2009, 11:22 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post

And yes - there are still analog feeds of TVGOS - with cable. The clock may be sent out independently of the TVGOS signal, though - that's how the old VCR's used to get it - it was sent by a PBS station. You could be getting it through cable if you have the coax running straight into the recorder's analog tuner. I think I was able to get the time signal through my Dish tuner one time when I tried it (believe it or not - don't ask me how - but I was picking up a sort of "PSIP" for some of the channels, too, using my Panny E85H - mainly the locals, so it may be possible through the Direct tuner, too. If the CECB is a DTV Pal or Artec with TVGOS conversion, you could be getting it through that - if you're using it in TVGOS mode - which it sounds like you're not).

I had the definite impression that the HX900 was getting its timing information from TVGOS, not from an XDS signal. But the manual doesn't specify where it comes from, so I'm not sure now where I got that impression. Wherever it was getting it, I was majorly annoyed that I couldn't set it manually.

I just looked at the manual again, and perhaps I could have gotten control of the clock by disconnecting all the incoming feeds (and maybe power cycling the unit). It says, "If the clock data is received automatically, 'Clock' cannot be selected from 'Settings' in the Setup Display." So if the clock every goes way off again, I'll look for a way to defeat the automatic setting.


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post #14 of 15 Old 08-23-2009, 11:55 AM
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Did you do a "true" reset (not just unplugging and replugging, or going through the TVGOS setup again)?

With most TVGOS units, you first reset the TVGOS zipcode to all zeroes (this effectively kills it). Then you do a default settings reset according to the manual. With Panasonics you hold down the channel up and channel down buttons on the front of the recorder at the same time. This resets the unit to default, and you can reset the clock manually then.

It's been so long since I've used the HX900 that I don't even remember how to do it on that. That method you described sounds kind of crude, but that may be how to do it with that unit. They usually really bury that information in the manuals so badly that you have to be a certified cryptologist to find it.

And yeah - many assume that any unit with TVGOS gets it's clock as part of the TVGOS signal. I've never been too sure of that myself - as far as with every device and every guide version, anyway (the HX900 uses a pretty old version 7 guide).
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post #15 of 15 Old 08-23-2009, 05:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post


And yeah - many assume that any unit with TVGOS gets it's clock as part of the TVGOS signal. I've never been too sure of that myself - as far as with every device and every guide version, anyway (the HX900 uses a pretty old version 7 guide).

On my Panny EH-55 the front panel display got it's time from TVGOS but a scheduled event went off the analog channel clock set signal. It was odd seeing my EH-55's front panel time differ from my other Pannys that didn't have TVGOS but when it came to a scheduled event they would start in accordance to the display of my others, not the EH-55. Every once in a while I would panic when I would see the EH-55's time say 7:00 PM and my 7 PM scheduled event wasn't starting, then I'd look at my other Pannys and see they were 6:59 PM and it would remind me what was going on. Sure enough when the other units would say 7 PM the EH-55 would start.
Of course now I get no time signal from either TVGOS or the analog channel time signal
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