Originally Posted by turlockaviator
The Walmart where I live had a stack of about 6 of these left on their clearance shelf...they marked them down to $150.00, so I bought a second one. FOr what they do, they're useful.
I had a chance to try one of these too (for a couple of days). I actually thought it was a pretty clever little machine for $200. Nothing else out there seems to come close. We had been thinking of buying a simple DVD recorder since there are a couple out there now for about $100 or slightly less, but these require a lot of planning to record programs on RW discs to watch them later. Also, working with a set-top box of any description means that would tie up the machine and the receiver for the duration of the recording. So here is what I think:
Styling wise, I like this unit. It is actually quite sleek with its black top and silver bottom frontal design. It does not look cheap or tacky in my opinion, except for one thing: the access panel to the front inputs is really flimsy and does not really close tightly either. They should have just left it open, with no closure at all, like some other units do.
The remote has all the necessary functions, and a few extras, keeping it fairly simple to use and understand. The four circular direction buttons configuration is now familiar for most people and the two rocker buttons used for "skip back" and "skip forward" (left button) as well as "next chapter" and "previous chapter" (right button) are a nice feature I find. Whilst this is not a high end design it is not nearly as cheap or tacky as the low end DVD recorders we saw for $100. Some people may complain that some buttons are lacking, but too many buttons make a remote confusing to use for a small brain such as mine! I find this one has about the right amount of buttons!
Set up was easy with our Dish satellite receiver. We cannot, of course, watch one channel and record another because you have to have 2 satellite tuners for that (this is true of every DVD recorder I have ever seen and has nothing to do with the RCA unit). I suppose people watching OTA broadcasts can probably use a splitter or something, getting signal on the TV from its own tuner, and the signal on the RCA from its own tuner.
We did, however, have stereo sound (probably because we are using the set top box's tuner, not the RCA tuner, which people have described as mono).
Also, we could watch a DVD and record a program at the same time. We could also watch a recorded program from the HDD and record another one at the same time. The Picture in Picture function is handy to check what is recording too. None of the DVD recorders we had looked at could have done either.
First off, the pause live TV facility was truly amazing. Without even thinking about it, or doing anything, the unit records a buffer of what you are watching from when it is turned on. I found it hard to live without after 48 hours! It works well except for one thing: The buffer is 60 minutes, and if you are watching a program delayed after using the pause feature (so you are actually catching up on the live program the whole time) it seems to kick you off back to live TV when it reaches the end of the first 60 minutes of delayed use. This is very annoying, though you can still rewind back to where you were before getting kicked off, so you never actually "miss" any of the program you were watching.
Recording to a hard drive is so much less trouble than to DVD, and there are no long delays reading the disc and formatting when necessary (or having to make sure there is always a formatted blank disk available).
Being able to record programs you want to keep without adding an external DVD recorder also is a bonus. I did not try the "smart record" option yet to see how it works.
So, bottom line, whilst this unit has its limits, it seems like a bargain to me. A DVR from dish would be $50 (or $70 for a dual tuner, I believe) and then $6 a month after that, so $120 to $140 for the first year. A cheap DVD recorder would be $70 to $100. The total adds up to $190 to $240 for one year, or $260 to $310 for two years of use! Other similar units available are are at $300 plus and their reviews do not seem to show that they are much of an improvement.