Originally Posted by joed32
$49.88 Magnavox ZC320MW8 Refurbished Wal-Mar
$98.88 Magnavox ZC320MW8B New Wal-Mart
I would use one of these, the Toshibas go from a 2 hr speed to a 4 hr speed and the PQ at 4 is pretty bad. The Maggies have a 2, 2.5, and a 3 hr speed.
Totally agree: of the limited choices still available, these are the best one can do buying from a retailer with a return policy The specified budget of under $100 is unfortunately too low to buy what is really needed here, which would be a Magnavox MDR513 refurb DVD/HDD recorder (assuming they start turning up again at J&R in the next month or so for $169 after the replacement model 533 hits WalMart).
DO NOT even consider buying a used DVD recorder from random people on Craigs List. While it is true you might find a great deal on a really good recorder in mint condition, the odds are against you. Most DVD recorders being dumped into the second-hand market are on the verge of breaking down or already getting wonky. Unless you've been using DVD recorders for years, know what the best brands/models are to risk second hand, and know how to repair them, you could make a huge mistake. If you're unemployed and losing $50 on a paperweight would really hurt you, don't mess around. DVD recorders are not durable the way VCRs are: you can buy a 1997 Panasonic VCR for $15 on Craigs List that will still be operational ten years from now, but a DVD recorder made before last year usually has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. There's a reason hardly any DVD recorders are available new in stores anymore: they're a pain to use, engineered to self-destruct within two years, and only worth bothering with for hard-core video collectors. The exceptions were very expensive new and sought-after rarities today: they change hands for more than $300.
As to your other questions:
Originally Posted by DVD Dolt
What specs do I need to look for in a DVD recorder?
In your budget range you don't have anything in the way of choice, so forget "specs" for now. The most important "spec" is you buy it from a store selling like-new "refurbished" recorders. Refurbished just means someone bought it, took one look at the complicated instruction book, passed out in a cold sweat of confusion, and returned it the next day for a refund. As the largest retailer of discount electronics in the country, WalMart has tons of these. Choose one of the two suggested by joed32 above.
Do I need HDMI to record HD? Can someone explain upscaling and the other "up"?
You can't record in HD to any DVD recorder: only to a PC. The HDMI connection in DVD recorders is strictly for single-wire convenient hookup to modern TVs, which now have like five HDMI sockets but only one (if you're lucky) analog connection. "Upscaling" just means the HDMI output of the DVD recorder tries to make the recordings look a little less crummy so that they play better on a flatscreen, all of which are optimized exclusively to display flawless full HDTV signals only. They look like crap displaying standard-def DVDs: you are in for a big shock when you switch to an LCD or plasma TV from your current glass picture-tube TVs. Any HDTV you buy will automatically "upscale" standard-def videos to look as good as possible, but you can often improve this by adjusting the upscaler settings in the DVD player/recorder. Some lower settings can look better than the highest.
In the last post I listed over 20 links to units on sale on Craigslist, and elsewhere online, with prices and a majority of model numbers, but I will have to reconstitute this later and add it to the thread. I read a number of posts by DigaDo which I found helpful. He seems to dig the Panasonics, but so far I have only found 1 used one. I seem to be gravitating to the Toshibas, but really have no logic for this.
Nearly every Pansaonic coming onto Craigs List is being sold because the DVD drive has seemingly "died." This is a common problem with Panasonics: they attract dirt and grease to their DVD mechanism, which then can't spin a disc properly. 75% of these Panasonics can be cured by disassembly and cleaning, but 25% are really truly dead for good because of a fried laser. Identifying one problem from the other requires familiarity, which you don't have, and willingness to attempt DIY repairs. Toshibas are tricky: the "original" models made before 2007 were very high quality but very unreliable and can no longer be repaired, while more recent models are essentially identical to similar Magnavox models that roll out of the same factory. These are reasonably reliable if not abused, but the Magnavox version often has more recording speeds to choose from and is available much cheaper. If you like the Toshibas, skip used and just buy a refurb Magnavox from WalMart.
Right now the DVR is full. What I want to do is first record the NFL games I have on there on DVDs. They are in HD, but I think for the future there is a non-HD option I can choose if I have to. The NFL games I'm referring to have been condensed from the typical 3-hour length to 1/2-hour programs. If they were unavailable in non-HD, I would like the ability to edit before recording to the DVD, but I have a hard time imagining that this is the case. Nevertheless, it would be a nice feature to have, albeit not as high of a priority.
Convenient editing on DVD is not possible unless you're willing to spend a lot more money for DVD/HDD recorder. These would let you copy the games to their internal HDD, easily edit them, then copy to DVD at high speed (like a PC can do). Alternately, if you had a PC with video inputs, you could do the project on your computer. But budget recorders record directly onto a DVD in real time: the only editing you can do is hit the pause button, like a VCR from 1979. All DVD recorders are standard def, if you want HiDef you need the right accessories to turn your PC into a recorder and a BluRay player to play the non-standard AVCHD dvds you would need to make (or BluRay discs).
Here are my priorities in selecting the right model for me:
1. That it functions as described above.
Can't get all features mentioned within your budget, and HDTV requires a PC.
2. That it records in HD, unless somehow the TVs prevent it. I may buy an HDTV from one of the Craigslist people who is selling one cheap tomorrow.
Can't dub off your DirecTV in HD quality to a DVD recorder, only to PC.
3. The ability to edit.
See above. Simple budget DVD recorders only have "pause" as an editing feature. If you use DVD+RW discs, you have a little more flexibility, but erasable discs are more expensive and not as good for long-term storage.
Forget it if you buy used. If you buy a refurb Magnavox from a dealer, figure it will last three years. Six years is possible but unpredictable.
5. Price. I would like to spend less than $100, since I am currently unemployed, although I would stretch the budget a little for a decent warrantee.
Get one of the Magnavox refurbs at WalMart that were suggested by joed32 and DigaDo.
6. Other cool features, such as the ability to also connect to a computer, the internet, a camcorder, or a digital camera/memory card; to record single frames of video from TV programming, etc. .
Single frames from TV don't come out clear. The only DVD recorders that could connect to a computer were discontinued by 2008, and were none too reliable at PC connection. None connected to the internet, like a BluRay player does. Some more-expensive DVD recorders have USB that can import MP3 files, JPEGs, and some DiVX files from a thumbdrive, a DV/FireWire port to attach a camcorder, and a card slot to play JPEGs from a digital camera. None of these connections will accept video digitally from your DirecTV box or a computer: they're strictly limited to your own camcorder videos. Dubbing from DirecTV can only be via standard-def analog video outputs (yellow cable for video, red+white cables for L+R stereo audio). Dubbing from a computer requires the same analog connections, these days one usually needs an adapter for the computer output that costs as much as a cheap DVD recorder. You're better off burning discs of computer videos in the computer itself.
The only recorder still available new that comes closest to having all the features you want is the Panasonic DMR-EH69 import model.
It costs upwards of $400 from B&H Photo.