ed1, just to reassure you that you probably made a good decision to go with the Magnavox 513:
1. WalMart will take it back no questions asked if you don't like it. The Panasonic EH59 and EH69, while more fully-featured, are sold only thru a professional NYC photographic specialist and a couple other niche dealers who have little to no patience with "consumer" buyers who are unsure of an item they ordered being suitable for them. They would take the Panasonic back, of course, but with more of a hassle than just dropping the Magnavox off at the nearest WalMart returns counter next time you need paper towels and dog food.
2. For the simple editing tasks you have in mind, the Magnavox is just fine. Its difficult to explain before you even have a recorder in your hands to play with, but I'll try to describe why RichardT prefers the Panasonic interface and what ClearToLand meant by "working around" the Magnavox limitations:
Prior to the Magnavox being offered, all DVD/HDD recorders (including the Panasonics) were priced at roughly $449-499. At this price level, it was common to offer an editing feature called the "copy list" which allows "nondestructive editing". Having this feature is make-or-break for RichardT, so he will naturally rate the Magnavox much lower for not having it. But, one has to consider the Magnavox sells for only $198: to achieve this remarkable low price while keeping a widescreen digital tuner and high-quality video encoder, something had to go. That something was soup-to-nuts editing features like "copy list."
The term "copy list" is borrowed from TV production gear, where HDD video editing began 20 years ago at a cost of $50,000 for something not much different from the current Panasonic or Magnavox DVD/HDD machines. When you perform "normal" or "destructive" editing on VHS, DVD or HDD, it means you are working on the original recording that you made. If you erase part of the tape, the video is gone forever. On the Magnavox HDD, if you cut out a "bad" part of a home video dubbed from VHS (out of focus, poor sound, lens cap was left on), that piece is permanently erased and you can't get it back.
While this sounds scary, it really isn't that crucial when digitizing VHS tapes: once you get the hang of how to operate the Magnavox its pretty unlikely you will make some horrible mistake like deleting the scene of Aunt Tilly blowing out her birthday candles (instead of the scene just before where the camera was running unattended for five minutes pointed at a brick wall). If you did make such a mistake, you still have the tapes: just dub that one scene back into the Magnavox HDD recorder. Problem solved.
The more expensive recorders like Panasonic give you a choice: editing the video on the HDD directly (like the Magnavox does) or using the "copy list." A copy list is just that: a list of things you want to copy from HDD to DVD. This gets hard to explain, but here goes: when you have the copy list open in a Panasonic recorder, you choose whatever recordings you like from the HDD and add them to the list. Since the HDD can hold approx 60 VHS tapes worth of video, say you wanted to make a DVD with selected scenes from six of those tapes. You would choose each of those dubs and put them in the copy list. Once on the list, you can highlight each one and edit out everything but the scenes you want on the DVD.
However, these edits are not made to the actual recordings on the HDD: they are just stored in the copy list memory as a set of instructions. These tell the recorder to edit the video on the fly while it is burning the DVD copy (record this scene, but not that, then change to that tape dub and burn that scene, then change to this tape dub and and burn this scene, etc, until the DVD is finished). The actual dubs you made to the HDD recorder are not edited or cut, so if you change your mind about deleting a scene you can just tweak the copy list to put it back in (instead of having to go back to the actual tape and re-dub the scene into the recorder).
The Magnavox, OTOH, does not have this kind of "smart" or flexible copy list: you can't edit scenes in the copy list itself but must do it on the actual HDD recordings BEFORE choosing to copy them to DVD. So if you want to cut out the five minutes of the camera recording the brick wall in between Aunt Tilly opening her birthday presents and cutting her cake, you need to do that on the HDD recording before telling the Magnavox to burn it to DVD. If you make a mistake and cut out the wrong scene, you don't get a "do-over" but will need to dub from the tape again. I hope this is clear, I'm confusing myself
trying to explain it
On a similar note, lets go back to what the Magnavox and the Panasonic have in common: they both have HDDs capable of storing dozens of VHS tapes worth of videos. They both let you choose specific scenes from those different tapes, cut out parts you don't want, and re-arrange scenes to play in the order you desire on the final DVDs. When you want to get more creative, like use a scene from TAPE5 then a scene from TAPE2 then a scene from TAPE4 then a scene from TAPE1, it is admittedly easier with the Panasonic because you can fiddle with this in its copy list without changing the actual recordings. On the Magnavox, its a little more work because you need to edit each of the HDD dubs themselves. In my above example, if you wanted to mix and match ten minute scenes from four different tapes to make a single DVD, you would need to speed-search through each tape dub and split those scenes out to make them individually available on the Magnavox HDD. Then you can put them into the Magnavox copy queue in whatever order you want them to play on DVD, and burn your DVDs.
This is all ridiculously complicated to explain in words, but once you have the Magnavox in your hands to use it will all make sense very quickly. It is MUCH MUCH easier to do than to describe.