Panasonic ES20 - First Impressions (blog style) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 549 Old 10-02-2005, 01:23 PM - Thread Starter
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I just picked up a brand new ES20 today after deliberations between the ES10/ES20 and the Pioneer 220/225/233.

I have learned a lot in a short amount of time through this forum, so I figured I can contribute a little myself by posting my first hand impressions on the ES20.

I will be updating this post blog-style (adding new things as I discover them, so it will keep growing)


My experience
==========
* Please read this section so you can adjust the weight of my first impressions
* This is my first DVD recorder
* With VCRs, I am okay with the 6 hour mode. (I am not very demanding/picky on image quality)
* For this, I'm using a 20" analog TV
* I am not an expert
* Some problems may be masked because I am using entry-level components so please keep that in mind!
* I am not brave enough to open this to see what's inside

First Impressions - Summary
====================
* Overall I am very impressed so far it has definately exceeded expectations.


First Impressions - Hardware
============
* It feels very lightweight - listed weight is 5.6 lbs. I wouldn't put anything on top of it since its the lightest and newest of all the components i have.
* Although the user manual states that you have to connect this directly to the TV and not to a VCR because of copy protections in VCRs, it works fine when connected to a 1997 Panasonic VCR.
* Remote control does not intefere with other Panasonic VCRs (1997 and 2003 models give or take)
* Remote control is overall good, the menus are good, but a couple of spots could have been more streamlined
* Included: 1 Panasonic DVD-RAM, red/white/yellow cable, RF cable, 2 Panasonic AA batteries for the remote
* Noise Reduction is available for Line-In inputs only


First Impressions - Operations
============
* The manual states that you can Create, Erase and Delete chapters. I did not notice the "shorten title" feature but I did not read the manual cover to cover. Even without this feature, you can remove commercials by placing them in a chapter and deleting the chapter.
* Pressing PLAY will play the last recording (nice feature!)
* You can position the info bar when pressing DISPLAY at five different but overlapping spots on the screen (LOL feature)
* Fast forward and slow motion appear to be more responsive (using DVD-RAM) than the Comcast PVR
* During playback of finalized DVD-R you cannot watch TV channels or line-in sources. I guess it's a visual reminder you have a non-recordable disk in the drive. But this could be annoying if you were watching a DVD while monitoring the TV. Of course there are plenty of workarounds for this, but still...
* Pressing TIME SLIP with -R or -RW in the drive opens up a window with a silly message. This could have been handled in a simpler and more elegant fashion.


Performance
=========
* So far recorded about 60 discs, mostly -R and +R, with a handful of -RW and one DVD-RAM (multiple times and experiments). No coasters yet, only "lost" 20 minutes of disk space (see Possible Bugs #2)
* Formated brand new TDK 2x DVD-RW in about 1 minute
* Finalized Fuji 8x DVD-R with 12 min left in LP mode in about 4 minutes
* Recording is almost instanteneous (within 5 seconds) of pressing record, not only on -RAM but also on -R and -RW. Most of my recordings start with the paused screen of the PVR because I didn't think the recording would start so fast.
* Time to start recording on blank discs as well as Commercial Skip and Time Slip is faster on -R discs than +R discs. This was observed using the same Fuji +/- tri-color discs.


The recording
==========
* There are many things I would like to test, but I can't test them all at once.
* At the default settings I noticed that the reds were redder (darker Input is defaulted). When changing to lighter the colors more or less match those of the PVR. Only options are Darker and Lighter. Output Component gets a 3rd option Normal (which is default)
* It does not pickup the title automatically using the Panasonic TV tuner. The recordings title is the channel number and timestamp.


Test #1
----------
* Setup: composite-video (red/white/yellow), DVD-RAM disk, 8-hr mode, default recording settings (noise reduction = off, input/output = darker)
* I recorded a few minutes of a basketball game off the PVR (Comcast Motorola DCT xxxx) from a digital channel (ESPN Classic). This was a fast game: 1983 NCAA Final NC State - Houston (Olajuwon, Drexler, etc).
* I was expecting to see a block party but instead it was quite watchable. Of the five minutes or so that I watched there was only one instance of noticable pixelization when a player made a fast elliptical drive to the basket starting from the corner. It looked like the (unusual) move surprised the cameraman as it was the combination that perhaps results in that. I probably wouldn't use the 8hr mode to save games I'd like to watch again - but I would use it use it to fill up a disk that may have some space left.
* On playback I didn't notice any significant difference with MPEG-DNR at On or Off, but I didn't examine this thoroughly.


Test #2
----------
* Same settings at in Test #1 but the game this time was recorded on the Comcast PVR from NBA TV (digital cable channel). This was a european basketball game. The court was lighter (both in lighting and in the floor) than game #1. Also this was a 2005 game so that could also explain the slight difference. This was not bad either, but it was slightly worse than #1. Still not bad!

Test #3
----------
* Same settings as above but this time the source was a VCR (red/white/yellow), and a 2005 game recorded in the 6 hour mode on a Maxell tape. This was worse than #1 and #2, and it reminded me of recordings using my ATI TV card (purchased in 2000). It was better than the ATI card, but the players were definately digital. I would not record a game with this setup at the 8hr mode

Test #4
----------
* ES20 settings: 4-hour LP mode, Fuji 8x DVD-R, S-video input

* Source: Comcast PVR, three concerts recorded on the PVR, two from Showtime and one from INHD (In Demand HD channel but shows as letterbox)
* Editing: I was able to change the title and add a still of my choice as the thumbnail. No other editing choices were available (other than erase title)
* The disc finalized in 4 minutes. The disk was almost full with 12 minutes left in LP mode
* The chapters were created as expected at 5 minute intervals during Finalization. Machine asked twice if I was sure before Finalizing.
* I didn't notice any significant problems. The sound was fine and in-sync but I'm using entry-level pieces. There were some indications of picture compression on the two non-INHD concerts, but these were night/indoor concerts and had lots of lights/smoke/etc so it isn't easy to figure out.
* The INHD concert seemed to have better quality but that could be because it was at a venue with better lighting and without flashing lights and other visual effects. (INHD concert was Norah Jones and the handsome band)
* Not being able to see how much time is left per title during Playback is -annoying-. Even my ancient and silly Apex does that.
* Next step: Try playback in the ancient Apex DVD player which is allegeldy having problems with DVD-R playback. (I forgot which website I saw that)


Test #5 - Heat check
======
* After torturing this poor thing all day with recordings, different modes and different inputs I didnt notice any significant increase in temperature. It was cool to the touch on the outside from all sides, slightly warm (not hot) on the right side, and the DVD-R disk was slightly warm after about 6 hours of writing, finalizing and playback on this disk and about 9 hours of total operation. The device has a fan on the back and grills on the right side (fan side) for ventilation. I have not heard any fan noise but it is never totally quiet so I can't really tell. [CORRECTED thanks to GenChan].


Test #6 - Cosmos
======
* I recorded a couple of episodes of Carl Sagan's classic "Cosmos" that the Science channel is now showing edited with new modern-era graphics. Since I am mostly interested in the audio, I recorded this in the 6 hour mode (two DVDs will fit all 13 episodes). I noticed that the new shiny computer graphics are some losing their edge when recorded in the 6 hour mode, but it's not a big deal for me. I didn't notice any visible differences for the materials recorded in 1980 - mostly Carl Sagan walking around and talking non-stop


Test #7
=====
Source: Comcast PVR recorded basketball game from CSTV (digital channel)
Settings: FR mode equivalent of 5:30 on a single disc. Input Level = lighter. Noise reduction = Off
* This is probably one of the most challenging games for a DVD-recorder: 1989 Arkansas-UNLV - two fast-paced run-and-gun teams. The court had high contrast areas specifically in the paint and the sideline "banner ads", with visible jaggies along the high contrast lines. There was also digitization on some players moving very fast (2-3 second coast-to-coast drives) but it was not detracting or annoying. The five-speed slow motion worked great, more effective than any VCR for breaking down plays in slow motion. There was some smoothing/compression as expected. I was able to detect Larry Johnson even when the jersey number was obstructed. I couldn't tell whether playback MPEG-DNR made an impact or not.

***** For those of you who like to test DVD recorders on a regular basis, you may want to keep this game around as a benchmark - very few games are faster than this.


Test #8 XP vs SP vs LP vs FR (5h) vs EP (6h)
======
Source: Comcast PVR recording of a BBC America sitcom
* EP was not good. The faces were smoothed out as if the actors were wearing an invisible semi-foggy mask
* FR (5 hour mode) was a nice improvement over EP. Probably okay if just watching it once and then deleting
* LP (4 hour mode) was quite watchable and re-watchable. Not bad for archiving.
* XP and SP were better than LP, but the improvement from 6h to 4h was bigger than 4h to SP/XP. I was standing next to the TV, but I couldn't really tell the difference on my setup between the PVR source, XP and SP. Keep in mind my entry-level setup may be masking details, differences and problems.

Test #9
----------
Source: grainy/noisy 6-hr VHS tape containing South Park episodes recorded 1998-99 or so
Settings: FR mode (4:45 setting), Line-In NR = On, Input = Darker
* Results: The recording seemed to be cleaner than the source and very watchable despite the double compression.


Test #10 - updated
------------
Playback in Apex AD600A:
DVD+R: 2 out of 2 finalized Fuji 8x DVD+Rs played without problem.
DVD-R: None of the discs played but this recorder does not play DVD-Rs unless downloaded firmware are uploaded. (was not expecting them to play).

Test #11: music video
------------
Source: Comcast PVR music video from digital channel
Settings: LP mode, LineIN NR = off
* Results: This was a busy and colorful rock video. Overall I was satisfied with both the video and the audio of the recording.

Test #12: Commercial Deletion test
=======
This was relatively easy to do.
1) Start by playing back the segment you want to edit
2) Press "Create Chapter" to mark the beginning and end of each section you want to isolate. You can also press PAUSE and then Create Chapter for more precision.
3) After you finish playing/fast-forwarding and creating new chapters, you press the Navigator button. Before the Navigator shows up, the ES20 does some processign on the chapter markers and displays "please wait" on the screen for a few seconds
4) [EDITED] In Navigator, you can select the title, and then use the arrow keys to highlight the chapter(s) you want to delete and press Erase. And the chapter is gone! If you want to delete more than one chapter at a time, just mark each chapter with the PAUSE button. This adds a check-mark in the thumbnail. I did not test crossing page boundaries.

Test #13: Concert
------------
Source: Comcast PVR: Usher concert from Showtime
Settings: LP mode, LineIn NR = ON, Input = Lighter
This was a very fast paced concert with both the performers and the cameras moving around. The air was also busy with smoke, and lights and background stuff. There was visible blocking in the background, especially top left of the picture. I wanted to test with LineIn NR = Off after I saw the macroblocking but I had already deleted the source. It will probably broadcast again so I can test it then. To be continued...


FR recording mode
------------------------
* Panasonic's FR mode is great when you are putting one block of material on the tape (errrr disc!) in a single session.
* When you want to record two or more things at two or more different times, and you want a non-standard duration spread equally among the recordings, FR requires you to do some math in your head and also be around to press the STOP button when the show ends in order to force your desired rate. A feature such as Pioneer's MN is more convinient in this instance


Media tested so far
==============

DVD+R
---------
* Fuji 8x DVD+R (Made in Taiwan) tri-color 30pk (3x10)
* Fuji 8x DVD+R silver 25pk (made in taiwan)
* Philips 8x DVD+R 25pk
* Staples 8x DVD+R 50pk
* TDK 8x DVD+R - 25pk


DVD-R
--------
* Fuji 8x DVD-R (Made in Taiwan) tri-color 30pk (3x10)
* TDK 16x/8x DVD-R (made in taiwan) - disk says 16x, box says 8x - 25pk
* Verbatim 16x DVD-R (30pk)
* Sony 8x DVD-R (Made in Japan) 50pk


DVD-RW
-----------
* Office Depot 4x DVD-RW 25pk (made in taiwan)
* Sony 2x DVD-RW 25pk (made in .tw)
* TDK 2x DVD-RW 5pk in tall slim cases (Made in Taiwan)


DVD-RAM
------------
* Panasonic 3x DVD-RAM (5pk and one included with Es20)


Personal Media Recommendation
------------------------------------------
Of all the brands I have used, the only one I have reservations is the Philips +R mentioned above. I am happy with the rest.



Macroblocking Party?
===============
Let me preface this by saying that I have rarely noticed macroblocking on this device even when using FR modes up to 4hr:40min and even using 6hr VHS sources. However in this particular instance almost the whole screen became a macroblock party! The source was a comedy from BBC America (Absolutely Fabulous) recorded on a Comcast PVR and from there to the ES20 in LP mode. The scene that created the macroblock party was inside a bookstore, with rapid people and camera action while panning through shelves and shelves of books. This was the episode with Whoopi Goldberg as a guest star. To be fair to this device, I did not test the source to see if the macroblocking was actually in the source, and not introduced by the ES20. If this episode re-airs, I will make sure to re-test this and update this section. This is a probably a good test for macroblocking! I deleted the source before I could test the same with SP or XP or check to see if the macroblocking was in the source.


Annoyances
=========
* When you put an unformatted (brand new) DVD-RW in the drive it displays "Err" on the LED screen. This does not mean there's an error per say, just that the disc is unformatted. (States so in the manual). Not a very user friendly way to handle this for sure.
* You have to press Yes/Start three times (!) to format a brand new DVD-RW
* Two previous annoyances have not been fixed: when changing recording mode it is only shown on the front LED panel (but if you press STATUS twice it will dipslay the mode on the TV). The other annoyance is Time Remaining of the Title. It does tell the time remaining on the disk but not of the title.
* Display and Status buttons are placed in a row just above the row with the REC and ERASE buttons. This can be a bit awkward - trying to press STATUS without looking at the remote and you may end up pressing ERASE (it does ask for confirmation though)

Crash Log
=======
1) Recorded 30s on a brand new Fuji 8x DVD+R. Then realized I didn't have the right settings so I quickly stopped the recording and pressed Erase - I may have fat-fingered a couple of other keys along the way. The machine froze and the only way to re-activate it was to unplug/plug from the mains. Once rebooted, everything was fine, and I was able to fill up that DVD+R and finalize it. It was a strange crash but no damage done, media or programming was not lost.



Possible bugs
==========
1) The first FR mode DVD-RW that I burned had a surprise. The EP mode was at 6 hours. I created a timer recording for 3:03 FR on a blank disc. To my surprise the recording was at 3:03 hours but at the 8-hour EP mode. Playback clearly shows that the recording was done at FR. I am not sure what happened. I have not been able to reproduce it since. To be continued...

2) I started with a Fuji DVD+R and recorded two one hour episodes in 3hr FR mode (manually mimicking the equivalent of Pioneer's MN mode). Then I started recording a 3rd 1hr episode in FR mode to fill up the disc. After 38 minutes recorded, the recorder simply stopped recording. Trying to record any further said "disc full". However the device showed about 30 minutes left (LP) which was what I expected. I wasn't able to record anything else, but the disc finalized successfully and I was able to play it both on the recorder and my ancient Apex player.

3) Recorder froze during finalization of a disc. After unfreezing, I was able to finalize the disc successfully and play it. No harm.

4) Sometimes after you finish a recording on a non-RAM disc, you cannot use Time Slip or CM Skip during playback of what you just recorded. Furthermore, some of the functions typically available when you press DISPLAY button are gray'ed out. This is clearly a bug, but with a very easy workaround: Either open/close the tray or turn the machine ON/OFF. This is not a problem when waking up from a Timer or OTR recording, since the machine has already been turned off/on on its own.

5) FR recording using the Timer/Scheduler seems to have a mind of its own as to what recording quality to use. Unlike the "live" FR mode used when the machine is turned on, the Timer FR mode does not always fill up the disc, even if there is no other program is in the Timer/Scheduler. This seems to be a bug rather than a feature.

6) This is a very minor thing, but when you eject a DVD with a name, and then insert a DVD without a name, and you go in "Disk Management", the name of the previous DVD flashes on the screen for fractions of a second before it is blanked. This is probably cached somewhere in the ES20. Not a problem from a practical stand-point :-)

7) I noticed a couple of times some silliness with the Timer's FR mode when using Verbatim -R and another brand of +R which I forgot: I set up an FR recording with the Timer of something like 3hrs 20mins FR in the Timer/Scheduler. When the recording starts, the display shows that there are over 1 million hours (!!!) left. I wish the disk held that many hours :-) The show is recorded at a low quality (I'm guessing 6hr or 8hr EP). This is one more reason why I do not trust the Timer's FR mode, and wish they had a mode similar to Pioneer's MN32, where duration of the recording and quality of the recording are independent!



Wishlist
======
* It would be nice if Panasonic offered DVD-RW(VR) as well. I know they are pushing the RAM format, but it would make their dvd recorders more appealing to a bigger audience.
* Allow CM Skip and Time Slip with finalized DVDs as well
* Additional FR mode that works like Pioneer's MN32 mode.
* Ability to PAUSE a live FR mode recording. This is a MUST!!! This feature was available in the ES10 according to ES10 users. This should be added with a firmware update and Panasonic should issue a formal apology for removing it :-)


Questions?
========
* I can try and answer any questions, but please keep in mind I don't have the ability to burn discs on the PC and upload sample movies/stills. I could capture stills with my ancient ATI TV card (from 2000) but its low quality would mask the DVD output.


VCD playback
-----------------
Granted VCD playback ranks about as low as "ability to brew coffee" as far as DVD Recorder features/priorities are concerned. But since I "ran into" an old VCD (of JPEGs) I created on the computer a couple of years ago, I decided to test it out on the ES20. It played back without any problems at all, with the Skip buttons moving one image forward/backward. There is no zoom button/feature on the ES20, so can't zoom the pictures. My ancient Apex dvd player was struggling at times with this VCD.



Undocumented Features
=================
1) When you press STOP when playing a commercial DVD (DVD-Video) or finalized DVD+R/-R, you get the blue screensaver background picture instead of the tuner/input picture. I accidentally discovered that if you press STOP once more, the "screensaver" disappears and you get the picture from the tuner or input channels. Panasonic calls it "screensaver" in the manual, even though it is just a background picture.

2) This I discovered after reading the user manual for the S29 dvd player. If you press and hold the up/down arrows during TimeSlip, the time moves in increments of 10 instead of increments of 1, so you can easily get to just about any point in the disc very quickly.

3) Getting the FIRMWARE VERSION. This I discovered by mistake. You can find out your firmware version easily:
a) Press SETUP on the remote
b) Use the arrow keys on the remote to go to the menu option "Display"
c) Press the DISPLAY button on the remote control
d) Your firmware version appears for a few seconds on the screen!

My firmware version is 00000103.

Other users of Panasonic recorders have tried this (see other threads, eg EH50 thread), with or without firmware updates and they get the same version. So perhaps this is a general version number, not a detailed version number., or perhaps it does not get updated with firmware updates.



Buried deep inside the Manual
======================
1) The device wakes up at 4am (!) every day to perform scheduled maintenance according to the fineprint in the user manual. If there are any recordings planned around that time, the maintenance is not performed.

2) Frame by Frame advance while PAUSED: The ES20 manual is not as clear on how to go frame-by-frame when you PAUSE. I thought it didnt' have the feature because I couldn't find the button shown in the user manual on the remote control. After reading the manual of the Panasonic S29 dvd player, it became clear: You can use the left/right cursor keys to advance frame by frame while PAUSED. The S29 manual has a nice picture of the cursor keys so it's easy to figure it out - I looked closely at the remote, and indeed there are two tiny marks to the side of the left/right cursor keys. What confused me originally was that I was looking for a button with that sign, but the sign was actually to the side of the cursor keys. This is more of a user error but if it got me confused, it will probably confuse a couple of other people too :-)


Features I did not test
================
* DV input and DV recording
* VCR+
* 480p
* Digital audio
* Playing or using/editing DVDs created by other DVD recorders
* DVD+RW or DVD-RW(VR) playback
* playing Playlists (the ES20 cannot create Playlists)
* mp3 playback
* JPEG playback (although I did play a VCD with JPEGs)
* Recording Pay Per View, OnDemand for pay (Free OnDemand records with no problems).


======================================
Playback Feature Comparison between ES20 and S29
======================================
Since a number of people want to use their DVD recorder as their primary DVD player, I am providing a simple comparsion between the ES20 and the S29 (Panasonic DVD player at $70 or less).


Playback Advantages of the ES20
------------------------------------------
* can play unfinalized DVD+R, -R, -RW(Video) recorded with the ES20
* MPEG-NoiseReduction (ON/OFF)
* can jump to a chapter by pressing the chapter number during playback
* PIP window when using unfinalized DVDs


Playback Advantages of the S29
-----------------------------------------
* can use TimeSlip and CM Skip on finalized DVDs and commercial DVDs (DVD-Video)
* TimeSearch: can enter the exact time you want to jump to by entering the numbers (eg 3h:25 min)
* Can see how much time is remaining per title by pressing remote buttons (but not per chapter)
* Variable playback speed with sound: 0.6x to 1.4x on all kinds of DVDs (ES20 only does 1.3x on DVD-RAM)
* Zoom (center portion of the screen only)
* Five preset Picture Modes (vs 2 of the ES20)
* Quick Replay (takes you back 8-15 seconds depending on DVD/recording)
* AV Enchancer (On/Off)
* Easy access to Playback features with dedicated Remote Control buttons (zoom, speed, subtitle, picture mode, quick replay, AV enchancer, Angle, etc )
* 5 bookmarks per DVD during a session (bookmarks lost if you open tray or turn OFF)
* A-B repeat, Random playback, Program playback
* Note: some of the playback features above do not work on +R discs





Update Log
========
* Updated Media List, Playback Feature comparison with S29 DVD player
* Added "Features I did not test"
* Added "Possible Bug #6" - Disk Name Flashbacks, and #7
* Added "Buried in the Manual #2"
* Added "Undocumented Features" and "Buried in the Manual" #1
* Added "Possible Bug #5"
* Added VCD playback
* Updated Media list
* Added Wishlist, Performance, Possible Bugs #2, #3, #4
* Added "Macroblocking Party"
* Added "Crash Log"
* Added Test #12, #13
* Added "Possible Bugs", "Annoyances", "Media tests so far", Tests #9, #10, #11
* Added Performance, FR recording, and Tests #6, #7, #8
* Added Tests #4, #5

Updates are shown in reverse chronological order.
It will make it easier for people who already read it to find the new stuff.
For new readers, everything is in one place above.



Coming soon
=========
* Why I choose the ES20 over the many other models?
* recording from 6hr VHS tape thru composite with and without In-Line NR
* page-by-page comparisson of the ES10 PDF and ES20 printed manual (both US editions)

Boldly trying a new DVR: http://moto3416review.blogspot.com/
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post #2 of 549 Old 10-02-2005, 02:16 PM
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There was some confusion as to wether it had a 10bit A/D converter or a 12bit A/D converter so by any chance is this mentioned in the specs. or anywhere in the owners manual?

I would also like you to test it at the other recording speeds if you can & report back on those. Thanks & enjoy your "new" playtoy
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post #3 of 549 Old 10-02-2005, 02:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill1313 View Post

There was some confusion as to wether it had a 10bit A/D converter or a 12bit A/D converter so by any chance is this mentioned in the specs. or anywhere in the owners manual?

I did not find anything in the user manual. If this was mentioned in the ES10 manual, perhaps I can look for it in the same place in the ES20 manual? In the specs section, it says 525 lines, 60 fields, MPEG2 hybrid VBR, 662nm laser, but I haven't seen any mention of the A/D converter. I think it's the same version as the French language ES20 manual on the Canadian site. I will let you know if I find anything else.

(By the way thanks for letting me know about that in the other thread. I was not aware that the US ES20 was actually different until I read your reply).


Quote:


I would also like you to test it at the other recording speeds if you can & report back on those. Thanks & enjoy your "new" playtoy

Thanks :-)

I will be testing the 4-hour mode next on a Fuji DVD-R using S-Video (I have to off-load my PVR from all the recordings I made in anticipation). This one will be from INHD (even though I dont have a HDTV, the widescreen broadcasts are very watchable in letterbox).

EDIT: I just realized Component is Output only :-( It would be nice if I could send the PVR to the ES20 via Component output!


After that I'll do some XP, SP and FR tests from different sources.

Boldly trying a new DVR: http://moto3416review.blogspot.com/
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post #4 of 549 Old 10-03-2005, 12:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ncaahoops View Post

...Remote control is overall good, the menus are good, but a couple of spots could have been more streamlined...

Do you think the remote is good? The way I see it, the weakest feature of all these recorders are the remotes, and the Panny is one of the worst. Panny, are you listening?

* If you're not gong to give the jog-shuttle dial additional functionality that the buttons don't already have, then get rid of it and replace it with 4 tactile keys for up, down, left, right. I hate to think of all the times I was pressing the darn thing at the 2 o'clock position instead of 3 o'clock, and nothing was happening.

* Please cluster the editing keys together. For some unknown reason, the huge TV Guide key is right in the middle of all the editing keys. Again, I hate to think how many times I hit this by mistake and was blown out of an edit session. I suggest you put the TV Guide key below the jog-shuttle dial, and out of the way. And as a byproduct, you can then move the editing keys closer together allowing the owner to reach all the editing keys with his thumb without having to change how he holds the remote during an edit session. You know, it's not really any harder to do it right way.

* Can you do something about the responsiveness of the remote? Depending on what I'm doing, there can be up to a second delay between pushing a button and seeing the results on the screen. And can we have a remote that we don't have to point almost directly at the DVR? My remote doesn't work if I'm more than 20 degrees off access. Very annoying.

* Can we have some kind of keyboard for entering alphanumeric text? My pager has it - so does Blackberry. The cost cannot be that much.

I've been trying to figure out why folks get outraged by things like a 20 second power-up time on some recorders, but there is very little discussion about these lame input devices. I guess it all comes down to expectations. We're so complacent about this, that the manufactures have had little incentive to improve upon them. It's not unusually to buy a TV these days for $5,000 with a remote that you know is worth about $10.
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post #5 of 549 Old 10-03-2005, 11:24 AM
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probepro, The new 20 does not have a Shuttle Dial (But the new HDD 60 may have it?)

It's just the basic Panasonic remote that they started using on the E55 & I think it does a good job once you get used to it unlike the "Shuttle Dial" designed ones.

Yes, I agree & I can't understand why we can't hook up a keyboard to enter titles & etc but maybe there saving all these features that people want for their new higher priced HD Recorders?
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post #6 of 549 Old 10-03-2005, 08:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by probepro View Post

Do you think the remote is good? The way I see it, the weakest feature of all these recorders are the remotes, and the Panny is one of the worst. Panny, are you listening?

I like the remote overall. I found it quite responsive, especially when compared to the remote of the Comcast PVR (Motorola DCT). The only annoyance is the three rows of keys at the bottom which can be confusing if you are pressing them using tactile feedback instead of looking at the remote.

I did notice that this one may not have as wide an angle, but it could be just my setup. I did not try bouncing the beam on this one, but my Panasonic VCRs can read their remotes fine even when bouncing the beam off reflective surfaces.

This is probably an entry-level remote compared to the remotes of the more advanced hard disc based machines. There is no TV Guide feature or button.

The text entry is a bit awkward but surpringly not ineffective. It uses a grid of all letters and characters, and you can use either the cursor keys or press numbers to jump to a row. I usually create short title names, with codes (eg s1, e1, p1 for season, episode, part) all caps. But it would be annoying if I was entering more than just a few words.

Boldly trying a new DVR: http://moto3416review.blogspot.com/
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post #7 of 549 Old 10-04-2005, 09:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ncaahoops View Post

I like the remote overall. I found it quite responsive, especially when compared to the remote of the Comcast PVR (Motorola DCT)....


Yeah, it is all relative. I own a Panny EH50 and an Pio 533, and the 533 remote responds immediately, as it should. By comparison, editing on the EH50 is tedious. The Panny's remote is better balanced and fits my hand better, but the shuttle dial is a big nuisance. Pioneer takes this man-machine interface issue very seriously, and it's beginning to show in their products. Their new line of DVRs just released in Japan are designed to be VCR replacements that even your Aunt Mary can operate. Panny has a lot of catching up to do. They need to start designing DVRs that work the way people work, not they way the hardware works.
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post #8 of 549 Old 10-05-2005, 12:13 AM
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The shuttle dial on the Pannys is crap. It wouldn't be so bad if it had more tension. It feels really loose and turns easily with out any pressure. I don't know how any times I picked up the remote and set off the jog shuttle to rewind or fast forward. The E50 responsiveness is sluggish beyond belief. While editing out commercials the 531 will play and show how the cut looks like before you actually cut the commercial. No such thing on the Panny. Owning both machines I like the LP mode of the Panny. Everything else is better on the Pioneer 531. I like on the 531 that you can high speed a DVD to the hard drive and then high speed back to DVD to make a 1 or a few copies. No such thing on the Panny that I found unless I can't figure it out?. You have to real time it which kills too much time.

I used to have an E10 and later sold it for the E50 for the hard drive. That sucker used to get "major" hot if you played a couple DVD's on it for a few hours. It was so hot I almost dopped the DVD once..LOL. I though it was going to burn my hand. It wasn't that hot but hot enough it freaked me out. I can't believe the E10 never had a fan.
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post #9 of 549 Old 10-05-2005, 08:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Ripper64 View Post

I used to have an E10 and later sold it for the E50 for the hard drive. That sucker used to get "major" hot if you played a couple DVD's on it for a few hours. It was so hot I almost dopped the DVD once..LOL. I though it was going to burn my hand. It wasn't that hot but hot enough it freaked me out. I can't believe the E10 never had a fan.

Wow! The ES20 so far has not gotten hot, it is colder than me when I touch it. The discs come out just slightly warm after a 5-hour burn. And it only has one grill on each side (+ the fan in the back)

Boldly trying a new DVR: http://moto3416review.blogspot.com/
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post #10 of 549 Old 10-31-2005, 11:25 AM - Thread Starter
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DVD-RAM: A new way to watch VHS tapes?

I just tried using a VHS tape with bad noise, not just the uniform background noise, but also the annoying sparkling noise dots which make it very annoying to watch even on my basic setup. This was a VHS recording thru an RF cable that wasn't plugged in properly.

Watching it thru the ES20 removed the annoying sparking noise (LineIN NR and MPEG-DR were both ON), but it was even better when I decided to stream (time shift) it to a DVD-RAM (at SP mode). I waited for 15 minutes (for commercials skips), and started watching on the DVD-RAM while it was recording. I was quite impressed at the improvement over the original VHS tape. After this, I am thinking of using this setup as a way to watch VHS tapes (extra benefits of NR, Time Slip, faster CM skip, more fine-tuned pause/rewind/fastforward).

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@ncaahoops
Very good review. I have one suggestion for you. Make an XP and SP recording and test it on your Apex player.

@Bill1313
On a packaging box it is printed:

2X LP Horizontal resolution (500 lines) with DIGA ENGINE.

To me, that means that ES-20 has the same 12-bit encoder as the ES-10 model. I can't see a reason why Panasonic will install the obsolete 10-bit encoder in the new succeeding model when they have a better new one.
I bought the ES-10 over the ES-20 because I don't care about the DV input (I can't see any picture improvement from that port over the other ones and I am loosing one S/line input with the excellent TBC/DNR electronics) and because I like the build quality of the older model better.
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post #12 of 549 Old 10-31-2005, 07:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zorankarapancev View Post

I bought the ES-10 over the ES-20 because I don't care about the DV input (I can't see any picture improvement from that port over the other ones and I am loosing one S/line input with the excellent TBC/DNR electronics) and because I like the build quality of the older model better.

Hi, I'm new but have to query, doesn't S-video inputs bypass the TBC/DNR circuitry? I have read here that it operates only through the composite RCA input? Or, I'm possibly mistaken.

I ask because ES10's are selling cheap near me, but I like to use S-video cablings.

Cheers!
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post #13 of 549 Old 10-31-2005, 08:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zorankarapancev View Post

@ncaahoops
Very good review. I have one suggestion for you. Make an XP and SP recording and test it on your Apex player.

Thanks! Do you mean to test the noisy VHS tape I mentioned just above as you described, or try that with various input sources? I still have the noisy VHS tape intact...


Quote:
Originally Posted by zorankarapancev View Post

@Bill1313
On a packaging box it is printed:

2X LP Horizontal resolution (500 lines) with DIGA ENGINE.

To me, that means that ES-20 has the same 12-bit encoder as the ES-10 model. I can't see a reason why Panasonic will install the obsolete 10-bit encoder in the new succeeding model when they have a better new one.
I bought the ES-10 over the ES-20 because I don't care about the DV input (I can't see any picture improvement from that port over the other ones and I am loosing one S/line input with the excellent TBC/DNR electronics) and because I like the build quality of the older model better.

I don't have any way to verify this but it looks like the LP mode is similar to the ES10 (2x 500 D1 lines). I'm partly basing that on this:

As far as macroblocking is concerned, from what I have observed so far, it only happened at some occasions (while recording sports), perhaps it depends on the various aspects of the picture (camera angles, cameramen, lighting, color and texture of floor/arena, uniforms and audience).

Though not tested side-by-side, I think the sweet spot is from 4:2x to 4:4x FR instead of 4hr LP for sports (for those who can stand this type of picture compression).

I have observed more macroblocking at LP than 4:xx FR. Which could be because has it has fewer lines and so it can increase the rate?? (guessing/speculating here).

The drop-off from 4:2x-4:4x FR to 6hr EP mode is significant. I cannot stand the 6hr EP mode and I am not demanding on PQ...

Boldly trying a new DVR: http://moto3416review.blogspot.com/
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post #14 of 549 Old 11-01-2005, 07:16 AM
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@mattso
I wrote S/line input, which for me means S-video/RCA input. Sorry if I confused you. Most of the time I am working with excellent video sources (Betacam SP, DVCam, DV and first generation SVHS tapes) and that is why I am using S-video port. When I am dealing with poor VHS recordings I am using exclusively line (RCA) input.

@ncaahoops
I am confident that with the XP and, eventually, with the SP recordings, you will experience occasional stuttering and maybe even freezing with your Apex player.
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post #15 of 549 Old 11-01-2005, 07:20 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zorankarapancev View Post

@ncaahoops
I am confident that with the XP and, eventually, with the SP recordings, you will experience occasional stuttering and maybe even freezing with your Apex player.

Interesting... I'll test that!

So far I haven't had any playback problems with the Apex but I have only been watching things recorded in 4hr+ modes on the Apex (Sports action at 4:2x-4:5x, tv shows at 4hr LP mode, and misc at 6hr EP).

I haven't had any issues with mixed rate titles on a single disc (eg 6hr EP and 4:xx FR on the same disc). I'll set some time aside to test all the things I recorded using different recording modes on DVD+R to make sure what I record is actually playable elsewhere!

Since I don't want to take any sides on the +R/-R debate, I am using both (one of the reasons I got the ES20). So far I have recorded about 1/3rd on DVD-R, 1/3rd on DVD+R, and 1/3rd on DVD-RW/DVD-RAM. Until I get a modern era dvd player, I can only play finalized DVD+R on the Apex. I am not brave enough to try the firmware hacks to make it read DVD-R.

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post #16 of 549 Old 11-02-2005, 06:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zorankarapancev View Post

@ncaahoops
I am confident that with the XP and, eventually, with the SP recordings, you will experience occasional stuttering...

I've had that happen with a 1:09 FR recording made with my ES10 and played back on my Panny RV-32 (with updated firmware). I've also observed some macroblocking with the same recording.

I need to play the same disc in my Toshiba DVD player to see if it is the player that is the problem or if it is the disc itself.
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post #17 of 549 Old 11-02-2005, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Black Rose View Post

I've had that happen with a 1:09 FR recording made with my ES10 and played back on my Panny RV-32 (with updated firmware). I've also observed some macroblocking with the same recording.

I need to play the same disc in my Toshiba DVD player to see if it is the player that is the problem or if it is the disc itself.

In your case it is probably media related problem. Panasonic recordings play fine on a name brand players (Sony, JVC, Panasonic, Pioneer).
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post #18 of 549 Old 11-03-2005, 12:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zorankarapancev View Post

In your case it is probably media related problem. Panasonic recordings play fine on a name brand players (Sony, JVC, Panasonic, Pioneer).

In my previous post I forgot to mention that the original recording was made with an ES10 (transfer of our 9 year old wedding video from VHS).

I then took it to my PC and fixed up the chapters, added menus, etc with TMPGEnc DVD Author 1.6. TDA is not supposed to re-encode the video when it writes the new DVD, so I am assuming that the video recording is still the same as when it came off the ES10.

I played the disc in the Toshiba DVD player, and the macroblocking was not present.

So either it was the media (finalized Maxell DVD-RW burned at 2X) that the Panasonic RV-32 didn't like, or it was the content itself.
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post #19 of 549 Old 11-03-2005, 03:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Black Rose View Post


I played the disc in the Toshiba DVD player, and the macroblocking was not present.

So either it was the media (finalized Maxell DVD-RW burned at 2X) that the Panasonic RV-32 didn't like, or it was the content itself.

If the Toshiba was fine and you have problem with the Panasonic player...then the content is fine and the problem is the media compatibility with your Panasonic player.
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post #20 of 549 Old 11-03-2005, 07:20 PM - Thread Starter
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So MacroBlocking may be attributed to the media and the player's compatibility with the media (not the content)? If that's so, then I should check the media I had noticed some MB on - they maybe of the same brand!

Boldly trying a new DVR: http://moto3416review.blogspot.com/
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post #21 of 549 Old 11-04-2005, 07:20 AM
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The media I have been using are Maxell 8X DVD-R (made by Ritek) and Maxell 2X DVD-RW (not sure who makes it).

Both sets of media are the Made In Taiwan Maxells.

EDIT: The Maxell 2X DVD-RW are made by Optodisc.
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post #22 of 549 Old 11-05-2005, 07:34 AM
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thanks for the review. i have been eyeing this model the last few days and, as a matter of fact, i am going over to BB today to purchase it.

so this review is quite timely.

thanks.

I may be wrong but I'm not wrong long.
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post #23 of 549 Old 11-05-2005, 11:29 AM
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Thinking that I can use the DV Input to transer files from my Mac Mini...I exchanged my DMRES10 for this POS...!!!

Why take out the SHORTEN TITLE feature...?!?! I can't stand doing the Creat Chapter method, very annoying and lazy for me to bother with it. I tried calling Best Buy but they sold it.

Now I'm trying to see if which Best Buy carries the DMR-ES10, if not I'm returning it. I sent an e-mail to Panasonic Canada about my complaint.
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post #24 of 549 Old 11-05-2005, 05:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by NickG View Post

thanks for the review. i have been eyeing this model the last few days and, as a matter of fact, i am going over to BB today to purchase it.

so this review is quite timely.

thanks.

You are welcome!

Boldly trying a new DVR: http://moto3416review.blogspot.com/
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post #25 of 549 Old 11-16-2005, 08:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zorankarapancev View Post

@ncaahoops
I am confident that with the XP and, eventually, with the SP recordings, you will experience occasional stuttering and maybe even freezing with your Apex player.

One test so far:

One hour scifi show (from the local Fox channel) recorded on Comcast PVR, from there recorded and finalized on ES20 (XP mode, Philips 8x +R). I did not notice any problems with playback on the Apex, but i did not watch the show minute by minute. I watched parts of each chapter and random spots but did not notice any problems. [This Apex player has the classic Galaxy Quest playback issue]


I don't have any "throw-away" blank DVDs at the moment, so I can't do more of these tests at XP/SP until i find "throw-away" DVDs (eg the $3ar on black friday mentioned in another thread).

Boldly trying a new DVR: http://moto3416review.blogspot.com/
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post #26 of 549 Old 11-17-2005, 08:40 PM
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ncaahoops, good review. I'm interested in the DV input. Unless I missed it you haven't tested it yet. When you get around to it, how well does that work? Do you find the quality to be better than with S-VIDEO input?

The second question I have for you is regarding the lack of HHD. Have you missed not having a HHD for anything? If you had an HHD, what could you do that currently you can not?
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post #27 of 549 Old 11-18-2005, 02:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by turu1 View Post

ncaahoops, good review. I'm interested in the DV input. Unless I missed it you haven't tested it yet. When you get around to it, how well does that work? Do you find the quality to be better than with S-VIDEO input?

The second question I have for you is regarding the lack of HHD. Have you missed not having a HHD for anything? If you had an HHD, what could you do that currently you can not?


Thanks for your kind words.

Question #1: I forgot to mention this in the review. I don't have any way of testing the DV input as I dont have access to a camcorder with DV out. I will test it if I can borrow someone's camcorder with DV out, but this may take a while since people are less likely to part with their camcorders during the holidays.

Question #2: Yes, I miss not having a HDD. I am using the Comcast DVR as a surrogate hard drive but it's not the same as having a hard disc. The things that I could do additionally with a hard disk model:
1) fast transfer from hard disk to DVD
2a) editing on the hard disk (comcast DVR does not allow any editing at all)
2b) because of 2a I could custom-burn the DVDs so no space is wasted and it is recorded at the highest possible quality
3) replace the Comcast DVR that I am renting at $10/mo (although I getting spoiled by these Comcast DVR features: dual tuners, and the ability to record 2 digital channels in parallel).
4) advanced features of the HDD models (not neccessarily because of the hard disc, but because manufacturers put more features in more expensive models)

The main reasons I didn't get a hard disk model:
1) I wasn't familiar with dvd recording, so I wanted to get started with a relatively basic model. I didn't want to make a first purchase in the $400s when I wasn't very familiar with the technology
2) prices! $200- vs $400+

I am guessing that i will get a hard-disk based model in 12-18 months. A big plus if they come up with dual-tuner models and the ability to record digital channels (over 100) - which I don't know if the cable industry will ever allow them to do.

Boldly trying a new DVR: http://moto3416review.blogspot.com/
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post #28 of 549 Old 11-20-2005, 03:32 PM
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hi,

some questions for this particular model for current owners:

i've read on some reviews that the the es20 suffers from lines/artifacts/noise made from the fan. Do you experience any of this and how visible is it? is it always there or only sometimes?

does the es20 work for digital cable shows like espn, fox sports, etc if you don't have a pvr? i.e. directly from time warner's generic digital cable box.

also, is it able to switch channels or do u have to set the channels on the cable box and keep it on in order to record?

have u had any problems importing the dvd-r/+r's into a computer to edit it?

thanks.
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post #29 of 549 Old 11-20-2005, 06:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jn2006 View Post

hi,

some questions for this particular model for current owners:

i've read on some reviews that the the es20 suffers from lines/artifacts/noise made from the fan. Do you experience any of this and how visible is it? is it always there or only sometimes?

I can't say for sure because my setup is messy using cheap cables and A/B switches and different things sometimes introduce interference. I will try to check more on this.

Quote:


does the es20 work for digital cable shows like espn, fox sports, etc if you don't have a pvr? i.e. directly from time warner's generic digital cable box.

also, is it able to switch channels or do u have to set the channels on the cable box and keep it on in order to record?

There are two ways to record TV shows on the ES20:

1) Using the ES20's tuner
You can record anything you want from the analog channels (1 thru 99 or so) completely independent of the cable box. This includes the standard cable channels one finds in most systems like ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, CNN, FoxSports, etc - anything under 99 or so. For this to happen, you have to connect the RF cable from the wall to the RF-Input of the ES20. (Typically you have to split the RF signal from the wall and connect it to the ES20 and the cable box and any other devices you may want).

2) Using the Cable box's outputs
You can record what the cable box is tuned to. The ES20 has no way of controlling the cable box. This would work with either the S-video, composite or RF coax outputs of the cable box going into the ES20 inputs.

(One note on the RF output of the cable box: Some older cable boxes had a working RF pass-through. In the latest ones from Comcast (Moto 6412) that I have used RF passthru does not work).





Quote:


have u had any problems importing the dvd-r/+r's into a computer to edit it?
thanks.

I haven't tried that. I am not using the PC for any sort of DVD editing - partly because i dont have a DVD burner :-)

Boldly trying a new DVR: http://moto3416review.blogspot.com/
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post #30 of 549 Old 11-21-2005, 12:46 AM
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speaking of the RF cable,

does the panasonic es20 record audio in stereo if u use built in tuner? I read complaints from others that the liteon 5005 records in mono. i think i'm leaning towards the es20 if picture quality is mostly free of artifacts.
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