Originally Posted by Ben2000
In the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog is a VHS to DVD converter unit. I don't see a brand name on the unit, and I suspect it is refurbished. Kind of expensive at $499, although it gets pretty good user reviews.
It isn't refurbished, its brand new. No matter what the brand name, only one mfr has made this type of recorder since 2010: Funai. This same machine has been sold under the Funai, Magnavox, Sanyo, and Toshiba names, plus probably a few others that slipped under the radar. Aside from a few minor (mostly pointless) feature differences that favor the Toshiba, they're identical units. The Toshiba and one of the others (I forget which) can burn both types of dvd blank (-R or +R) while the other two can only use -R. It doesn't matter at this late date: -R was the first standard anyway and most compatible. Some people claim they can buy +R cheaper but generally they're the same price (roughly $25 per 100 for Verbatim AZO).
If you click on the HS link to the instruction video, you'll immediately notice the tell-tale Funai/Magnavox remote control design which hasn't changed in over ten years. The remote they show is even labeled Funai, so I would assume that is the branding you'll get on the unit. Although anything is possible: Funai will make a recorder with your grandmothers name on it if she pays them. From the looks of the unit in the HS catalog pic, it may be a custom hybrid combining the front panel trim of the Toshiba with the exposed buttons of the Sanyo. I wouldn't put it past them to slap an HS label on the thing while forgetting to take the Funai logo off the remote.
My sister has a boat-load of VHS tapes that need conversion to digital. Many tapes are old so they might not be good, but she has some recent ones that were recorded on about 6 years ago.
All are tapes of TV shows she recorded. No copy right protection.
Tell your sister to reconsider. It is no easy task to convert "truckloads" of tapes to dvd, even with a simplified box like this. Tapes vary tremendously in playback tracking, so one usually needs to sit and watch each tape as its being copied and ride the tracking control in case of drift in the video or audio. And after all the work, she will almost certainly never watch the recordings again.
I speak from hard-won experience, being one of those dorks with thousands of tapes: I'm so bored with the transfer project that its dragged on for nearly ten years. There are so many new TV series from streaming sites like NetFlix that I have no time or inclination to watch my old recordings. After awhile, I started buying the commercial dvd box sets of many older series just so I could avoid yet more VHS transfers: those box sets also sit on shelf after shelf, also likely never to be watched.
How much is your sister's time worth? She'll be much better off by ruthlessly discarding the VHS stuff she really doesn't need to preserve: either buy the cheap box sets pre-recorded, or embrace the fact almost everything can be found on NetFlix or youTube on demand. Also keep in mind that VHS copied to dvd looks pretty dismal on a modern 42" flat screen HDTV (or even a 27"- it isn't the size, its the LCD technology being VHS-hostile).
It was a passable unit at its original selling price of $195 at Best Buy in 2009. The current price of $499 is utterly absurd: Funai and its retailers are blatantly gouging now, since very few people like your sister remain who suddenly, out-of-the-blue, just-now, ten years after dvd recorders started getting discontinued forever, decide they want to digitize their VHS. She's very very VERY late to that party, and will pay dearly for one of these recorders now.
If she decides to proceed, I'd strongly recommend she follow jjeffs advice to buy a reconditioned Panasonic from mickinct. Panasonics were the most durable and rugged of these combo recorders, and had the best built-in VCRs. They sold for $500 back in 2006, when $500 actually bought you a quality product. mickinct is a superb Panasonic tech who rebuilds these units completely with authentic Panasonic parts: he has a sterling reputation among AVS Panasonic enthusiasts.
This HS/Funai type of unit is very cheaply built, with a notoriously flimsy VCR that typically tracks poorly, breaks within a year, and can't be repaired. Worth a try if you can score one used in mint condition locally off Craigs List for under $150, otherwise forget it. For reference, these are the different variants that were available: