FAQ: DVD Recorders and the Analog to Digital Transition - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 220 Old 04-15-2007, 10:54 AM - Thread Starter
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NOTE: This material applies only to the USA. If you are in Canada, some of this material may affect you peripherally. If you are elsewhere in the world, you can safely ignore what follows.

Updated: 30 April 2010

1. What's this analog shutdown I've been hearing about?

As a result of legislation of the US Congress, all full-power analog over-the-air (OTA) broadcast TV ended on June 12, 2009, leaving only the digital broadcasts that most stations had also been sending already. (Some stations had already shut down their analog transmitters before this.) Low-power stations and translators were not subject to this deadline. The FCC is pushing those stations to convert also, as soon as feasable, but has not announced any deadlines at this writing.

2. Does this mean that analog cable is going to shut down, too?

The congressional mandate applies only to OTA broadcasts. Cable companies are free to convert their analog channels to digital whenever they choose, except for local broadcast stations that have chosen "must carry" status and therefore foregone any compensation by cable companies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled in September 2007 that cable companies must provide those channels in analog form through June 12, 2012. I suppose that other local broadcast channels, that have negotiated compensation for carriage by cable companies, will continue to negotiate for carriage in analog form.

However, cable companies want to convert their analog channels to digital sooner or later, because they can send more digital channels than analog in the same bandwidth. Also, with digital cable it's easier to block unauthorized access. Comcast is now converting its "extended basic" customers from analog to digital. Only the "limited basic" channels will remain in analog form, including mainly the local OTA broadcast stations. Other cable companies will probably do something similar during the next few years.

3. How does all this affect DVD recorders?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated that as of March 1, 2007, all devices made or imported to the USA, that can receive OTA broadcasts, must include digital (ATSC) tuners. Previously, practically all DVD recorders sold in the USA had only analog (NTSC) tuners.

In April 2007, new DVD recorders began to appear on dealers' shelves, with both NTSC and ATSC tuners. All models seen so far also have QAM (digital cable) tuners. See other threads in this forum for discussion about specific models. Meanwhile, older models with only NTSC tuners have disappeared from the marketplace, as dealers sold out their stock. These models are now available only through after-market sources such as eBay.

Also, some DVD recorders have now appeared, that have no tuner at all. They can record only from other devices with tuners (e.g. cable STBs or DVRs, or standalone ATSC tuners for OTA broadcasts) via their line inputs.

4. Does this mean that my old DVD recorder (or VCR) is going to be useless after analog shutdown?

There are now few OTA analog (NTSC) broadcasts for it to tune to, only whatever low-power stations or translators operate in your area. As your cable company shuts down analog channels, you will no longer be able to tune those, either. However, you can still record from an external digital tuner via the recorder's line inputs. For example, you can use a composite-video or S-video connection from a cable set top box or DVR, or a standalone ATSC tuner for OTA broadcasts. People have reported success in using a Panasonic DVD recorder with an "infrared (IR) blaster" to control the Zenith DTT900 digital-to-analog converter box. The Zenith DTT901 works the same way. The Channel Master CM-7000 converter box can also be controlled this way, using a Pioneer cable box code.

5. My DVD recorder has the TV Guide On Screen (TVGOS) feature. How does the analog shutdown affect TVGOS?

TVGOS receives its electronic program guide (EPG) data via a signal embedded in the OTA broadcast signal of stations which have contracted with Macrovision (the current owner of TVGOS) to provide this service. In preparation for the OTA digital transition, Macrovision developed a new version of TVGOS which uses digital (ATSC) instead of analog (NTSC) broadcast signals. It appears that most areas have digital TVGOS service as of November 2009, but some areas have lost it, and some others have had "teething problems" with the new service.

So far, no DVD recorders with ATSC tuners include the TVGOS feature. All DVD recorders with TVGOS have only NTSC tuners. Nevertheless, there are two "loopholes" by which they may be able to receive digital TVGOS indirectly.

First, for people who get TV via analog cable, Macrovision is working with cable TV providers to enable them to convert digital TVGOS data (received from a broadcast station in their area), to analog form for insertion into one of their remaining analog cable channels. This should allow analog-only devices with TVGOS to function as before, although possibly using a different TVGOS host channel. It requires that your cable company install the conversion and insertion equipment.

Second, for people who get TV OTA, the Dish TR-40, DTVPal, DTVPal Plus coupon eligible converter boxes (CECBs), the Dish DTVPal DVR and the ARTEC T3APR-T(TVG) CECB have a mode which converts digital TVGOS from an OTA broadcast into the analog version, for use with analog-only devices with TVGOS. This uses a different data stream (SCTE 127) in the digital OTA signal, than the one (TVG1) used by digital devices with TVGOS. Note that these devices can receive only digital OTA (ATSC) signals, not digital cable (QAM) signals. Therefore they are not a solution for people with digital-only cable service.

6. Why are there so few DVD recorders with hard disks (HDD) on sale now?

Older models with only NTSC tuners have disappeared from normal retail channels as pre March 1, 2007 stock sold out. As of May 2010, only seven new models with ATSC/QAM tuners and HDD have appeared or are forthcoming:

Philips DVDR3575H/37
Philips DVDR3576H/37
Polaroid DRA-01601A
Magnavox H2080MW8
Magnavox H2160MW9
Magnavox H2160MW9A (a slight update to the preceding unit)
Magnavox MDR513H (another slight update)

The Philips and Magnavox units share a common FAQ/discussion thread, linked to the names above. The Polaroid has its own thread.

Update, November 2009: The only model that is currently available is the Magnavox H2160MW9A. See section 10 of the first post of the thread linked above for sources.

Update, May 2010: The Magnavox H2160MW9A has gone on clearance sale, and is apparently going to be replaced by a new model, the MDR513H. This has a larger HDD (320GB) and will reportedly be available in June. See the Philips/Magnavox FAQ/discussion thread for the latest information.

Other companies (Panasonic, Toshiba, and Pioneer, at least) have no plans for such units. Companies that have given reasons for this have indicated poor sales of the previous NTSC-only units. This is in line with the common availability in the USA of HDD DVRs leased by cable and satellite TV providers. These units have relatively low monthly fees in contrast to the high up-front cost of an HDD/DVD recorder, and can record encrypted channels that DVD recorders cannot (at least not directly). Most people apparently mainly want to be able to time-shift programs by recording them temporarily, and have limited interest in archiving programs on DVD.

This situation may change in the future as a result of the FCC mandate discussed in the next section.

Note that HDD/DVD recorders for analog and/or digital TV are widely available outside the USA, e.g. in Europe, Japan and Australia, which do not have such a high penetration of proprietary leased cable and satellite equipment. Some of these are available in the USA through gray-market import channels, from dealers who specialize in multisystem (PAL/SECAM/NTSC) analog video equipment.

Some people have speculated that digital-rights management (DRM) issues are a cause of the lack of HDD/DVD recorders. That is, these units make it too easy to make high-quality recordings of copyrighted programs, so content providers have pressured consumer-electronics manufacturers to stop selling them in the USA.

7. Which digital cable channels can I record with QAM-capable recorders?

Current QAM-capable recorders can tune only those digital channels that a cable company does not encrypt (sometimes called "clear QAM"). With most cable companies, this currently means only the HD versions of the local broadcast channels (often not even all of those), plus perhaps a few odds and ends. You must tune other channels with a cable set top box and record them via a line input on the recorder. Many people expect that this will continue to be the case after the extended-basic channels are converted to digital, although this is not clear yet. Again, this is for current recorders; for possible future recorders, see below.

The FCC has mandated that as of July 1, 2007, new cable set top boxes and recorders must decouple the access and authorization functions so that third party manufacturers can sell STBs and DVRs that can be used with any cable company. These devices would use something like CableCard 2.0 (which has been renamed as "Tru2way" technology) or downloadable software to authorize and decrypt channels as necessary. So far the only Tru2way devices are some Panasonic TVs, but there may be significant availability of Tru2way service from cable companies (particularly Comcast) in 2010, which might lead to the availability of Tru2way recorders.

8. Can I use an ATSC-capable DVD recorder as an HDTV receiver?

All of the units seen so far deliver only standard-definition (SD) output. They can receive high-definition (HD) signals, but they downconvert HD to SD both for recording and for immediate viewing via a line output. This is because of limitations in the integrated chips that are used for decoding and processing the ATSC signal in these units.
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post #2 of 220 Old 04-15-2007, 11:07 AM
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Great summary!!
On point 4 what are some of the other reasons that most of the major manufacturers are making DVD recorders with a hard drive?
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post #3 of 220 Old 04-15-2007, 11:21 AM
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Excellent - thanks!
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post #4 of 220 Old 04-15-2007, 11:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RCBridge View Post

On point 4

Actually, it's point 5 now. Right after I first posted it, I remembered another question I was going to put in there, and it fits best in position #4.

I was going to try to add something more there, but I have to go back and refresh my memory. Most of that stuff is buried in tangential discussions in threads that started off about something else.
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post #5 of 220 Old 04-15-2007, 04:23 PM
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I'd say that maybe you could even touch on the subject of program guides and the ability to record through them (or not), but that's probably not something we will start knowing more about in detail until the actual models start being released - or at least 'till the specifications are announced, anyway.

If we can get this made into a sticky (which it probably should be - there does seem to be an awful lot of redundancy here on the subject as of late), you can always add stuff as it goes along.
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post #6 of 220 Old 04-16-2007, 08:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RCbridge View Post

Great summary!!
On point 4 what are some of the other reasons that most of the major manufacturers are making DVD recorders with a hard drive?

I assume you mean withOUT a hard drive?
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post #7 of 220 Old 04-17-2007, 02:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RCbridge View Post

Great summary!!
On point 4 what are some of the other reasons that most of the major manufacturers are making DVD recorders with a hard drive?

Like Captain Shirk, I assume that you would like to know why the DVD recorder with hard drive market is being abandoned. The one reason that appeared in print was the easy availability of very cheaply rented DVRs from cable companies (and Tivo brand DVRs were mentioned by name) as market competition that is making DVD recorder sales of higher end products unprofitable. DVRs are killing the DVD recorder market. I don't see the products as occupying the same space, but there is a lot of overlap.

Personally, I am hoping that the major DVD recorder manufacturers have seen the end of the tunnel of DVD recorders and are working on something newer and better for us. Yeah, I know, wishful thinking, but "A man's gotta have hope!" or something like that.

Luke

Evil is charming and beautiful. It makes you doubt yourself. It asks for one small compromise after another until it whittles you down, and it functions best when no one believes in it.-JOA
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post #8 of 220 Old 04-17-2007, 03:12 PM
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Might wanna throw the Magnavox HD unit in item 5. It may be out already, if another post was correct.

- Rich
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post #9 of 220 Old 04-17-2007, 04:50 PM
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This needs to be stickied and required reading for all newbs.

On item 5 add the Polaroid unit - that's definite it's just a matter of time before it shows up at Walmart along with the Phillips.

You may want to touch on the issue of HD passthru (or lack thereof) with the new units.
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post #10 of 220 Old 04-19-2007, 02:08 PM
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Great recap!

One minor note: New DVD recorders with HDD have been announced in other markets (Toshibas in Japan, Panasonics I think in Japan and Europe), but not the USA market. Perhaps clarifying this will be helpful, as the manufacturers haven't stopped altogether making them, they just haven't announced/designed/made anything for the US market as of right now (other than the Philips mentioned above)

Boldly trying a new DVR: http://moto3416review.blogspot.com/
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post #11 of 220 Old 04-24-2007, 06:08 PM - Thread Starter
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I've updated the FAQ at the beginning of the thread. Section 5 has been expanded to include possible reasons for the lack of new DVD/HDD recorders, and a new section 7 has been added that says that the new units cannot be used as HD receivers.
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post #12 of 220 Old 04-25-2007, 07:56 AM
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This is such a helpful summary I'm replying mostly to bump it back to the top until it becomes a sticky. I'll add some more reasons for the decline in the U.S. market and supply of HDD DVD recorders. One is computers. I have an MPEG 2 capture device that lets me do everything with my computer that I can do with my Pioneer DVR-510H. Another reason is HDTV. That's where people are spending their dollars. Another: most people have little interest in creating a DVD collection of TV shows. And lastly, these machines are more complex than a DVR.
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post #13 of 220 Old 04-25-2007, 06:30 PM
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does this pertain to satellite service(Directv) for both non-HD and HD channels as well?
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post #14 of 220 Old 04-25-2007, 06:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HealyGuy View Post

Another: most people have little interest in creating a DVD collection of TV shows

Are you saying people have little interest in recording their own TV show DVD collection (vs. alternatives such as taping shows or buying commercially released TV show complilations on DVD) or not interested in TV Show DVD collections in general? Either of which appears to go against the growing, seemingly popular trend, of commercially released season-by-season TV show complilations on DVDs. I get the impression from this trend that people want to possess their own copies of popular TV shows as well as feature length films and the frugal would want to record their own vs. buying the commercial DVDs.

The Future ain't what it used to be...
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post #15 of 220 Old 04-25-2007, 09:45 PM
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I read somewhere one cable company (maybe Comcast) was making digital STBs available with more than one output.

Personally, I have three Panny recorders in my family room, all connected with both RF and line inputs from splitters/switchers. Of course I can only record one show at a time using the STB for a digital station, but for the rest I can record three different things simultaneously.

I'd hate to have to rent additional STBs for that one room. And not to mention the bedrooms where I now just get expanded basic cable, but will have to get a digital STB to continue to get any reception.

Seems as though the cable companies will increase their revenue streams with all these additional STBs we'll need to rent from them, or am I missing something?
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post #16 of 220 Old 04-25-2007, 10:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vferrari View Post

Are you saying people have little interest in recording their own TV show DVD collection (vs. alternatives such as taping shows or buying commercially released TV show complilations on DVD) or not interested in TV Show DVD collections in general? Either of which appears to go against the growing, seemingly popular trend, of commercially released season-by-season TV show complilations on DVDs. I get the impression from this trend that people want to possess their own copies of popular TV shows as well as feature length films and the frugal would want to record their own vs. buying the commercial DVDs.

We could have a good time debating this over some drinks. But I won't do it here. If I'm wrong, so be it.

For me what is awesome about a HDD DVD recorder is archiving sporting events. Years from now I'll enjoy watching the Ducks slaughter the Trojans for the Pac-10 basketball championship. I know I'll never again see an Oregon team play better basketball than what was played in that game. And I'll never be able to buy a DVD of that game in a store, either. It's the progams (including major news events) that never will be commercial DVDs that make having a HDD DVD recorder really worthwhile. It also has been handy shrinking my 12" laserdiscs to 5". And I've made a few dollars converting clients' DV tapes to DVD as well. (Hmm, why pay me to do that when they could have bought one of these for themselves?)
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post #17 of 220 Old 04-30-2007, 09:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HealeyGuy View Post

We could have a good time debating this over some drinks. But I won't do it here. If I'm wrong, so be it.

For me what is awesome about a HDD DVD recorder is archiving sporting events. Years from now I'll enjoy watching the Ducks slaughter the Trojans for the Pac-10 basketball championship. I know I'll never again see an Oregon team play better basketball than what was played in that game. And I'll never be able to buy a DVD of that game in a store, either. It's the progams (including major news events) that never will be commercial DVDs that make having a HDD DVD recorder really worthwhile. It also has been handy shrinking my 12" laserdiscs to 5". And I've made a few dollars converting clients' DV tapes to DVD as well. (Hmm, why pay me to do that when they could have bought one of these for themselves?)

LOL @ Oregon/USC... Actually the NCAA has finally just discovered the existence of DVD technology. They are going to release every single 2007 NCAA tournament on its own DVD, both men's and women's, ranging from $21 to $25 per game pre-release price. Not sure what the price will be once they are released.

I agree recording a sporting event or news coverage or anything that won't be available on DVD is different than recording a movie, because if you miss the movie recording, you can borrow it from the library, or a friend, rent from netflix, redbox, blockbuster, or even buy it new or used. If you miss a game or news or anything that won't be released, it's much harder to find it and more so from the copyright owner since they dont make it available.

Having said all that however, TV on DVD is one of the hottest areas in DVD sales. Given that almost all TV shows that make to DVD are released months after the end of a season, fans of a show will still want to put them on home-made DVD (eg -RW/RAM) even if they plan to buy the official DVDs. They are especially helpful if you dont watch the show right away, listen to the director's podcasts over the video, look up things in previous episodes especially for "complex"/serialized shows like Lost/Heroes, or wait for a block of episodes before watching so you are not left hanging from week to week, etc, etc, etc.

Boldly trying a new DVR: http://moto3416review.blogspot.com/
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post #18 of 220 Old 05-01-2007, 03:35 AM
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We could have a good time debating this over some drinks. But I won't do it here.

Isn't [online] debate that one of the very reasons why these forums exist?

The Future ain't what it used to be...
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post #19 of 220 Old 05-01-2007, 07:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vferrari View Post

Isn't [online] debate that one of the very reasons why these forums exist?

Yeah, but whether or not I can justify my assertion that few people want to record collections of TV shows seems rather off topic to me. And, of course, I am going to lose this debate.

Personally I've also bought packaged collections of TV shows. I want the anamorphic 16:9 versions for playback on my HDTV and I want the special features that are included. I don't consider recording my own DVDs of those shows to be an adequate substitute for the commercial boxed sets. I did, however, record all the episodes of "The 4400" because I want to eventually watch the series but don't want to buy it. After watching it I won't have any need to keep those DVDs. Call it very-delayed time shifting.

Maybe I'm using the logical falacy that because people didn't buy DVD recorders this means they weren't interested in recording TV shows to DVD. I obviously just made that up based on my personal behavior.
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post #20 of 220 Old 05-10-2007, 10:08 AM
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I'm having trouble understanding why all the newer equipment includes the analog tuner. I would think that just a digital tuner would be sufficient.
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post #21 of 220 Old 05-10-2007, 10:12 AM
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Probably to allow compatibility with current NTSC broadcasts which are not scheduled to go dark until 2009, and with cable systems that carry analog signals.

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post #22 of 220 Old 05-11-2007, 04:57 AM
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DVD recorders with NTSC tuners, or no tuners, will not become obsolete when analog over-the-air transmission ends in February of 2009. Satellite and cable are already transmitting in digital so there will be no change for those subscribing to either type service. Only those receiving their programming over-the-air would have to buy a new recorder that includes the ATSC tuner.

DVR's and the price of hard drive recorders have all but eliminated them from the US market. A good hard drive recorder will run $400.00 + depending on the size of the drive. I just purchased a Pioneer International 80 GB recorder and paid $416.00 delivered. The American market is very price conscious and wants play and plug products which rule out hard drive recorders. Hard drive recorders offer terrific special features, but do require reading the manual to understand how to use them. There is a definite learning curve with hard drive recorders.
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post #23 of 220 Old 05-11-2007, 02:29 PM
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Just a question.

Saw the Panasonic combo model and the box said "dolby Digital recording" Does this recorder or any with a digital tuner record in Dolby 5.1 or are we still limited to 2 channel and pro-logic?
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post #24 of 220 Old 05-11-2007, 07:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ernie6 View Post

The American market is very price conscious and wants play and plug products which rule out hard drive recorders. Hard drive recorders offer terrific special features, but do require reading the manual to understand how to use them. There is a definite learning curve with hard drive recorders.

Actually, the DVR part of most units is relatively easy to get the hang of - it's the DVD recording and the editing features that are harder to grasp.
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post #25 of 220 Old 05-12-2007, 09:35 AM
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Does the Philips (or other in-production brands) recorder let you do fast playback with audio? My current DVD recorder (a Panasonic E75V VCR/DVDrec, no hard drive), is starting to fail and eventually I'll need to get a replacement. I'd like to get a recorder with hard drive and fast playback (at least 1.33x) is a must for me. The lack of fast playback is one reason I don't want to get a DVR. The other reasons are lack of editing and of course the price, which is $12 a month ($144/year) more than the standard STB I have now.
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post #26 of 220 Old 06-01-2007, 11:25 AM
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No. 7 What's the point of including a ATSC tuner with a DVD recorder if it can't be use as a ATSC receiver? These recorder can't output HD signals to a HD ready TV? I am in the market for a HD tuner and I was hoping these new crop of DVD recorder with digital tuner would allow me to view HD channels without buying a ATSC receiver (like the Samsung 260).
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post #27 of 220 Old 06-01-2007, 08:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mister_two View Post

No. 7 What's the point of including a ATSC tuner with a DVD recorder if it can't be use as a ATSC receiver? These recorder can't output HD signals to a HD ready TV? I am in the market for a HD tuner and I was hoping these new crop of DVD recorder with digital tuner would allow me to view HD channels without buying a ATSC receiver (like the Samsung 260).

You could use it as a Q&D ATSC tuner I believe, but it would be standard def, not High Def reception. Still, it would be preferable to NTSC and if the unit has HDMI like the new Philips model then there might be some upconversion benefit; that seems to be what I'm reading. So whether it would be satisfactory for you as a hi def tuner depends on how big your screen is; if you had a 20 or 26 inch LCD it would almost look like digital hi def, and you would get all the ATSC channels with it. The unit certainly could work as a receiver for an older CRT TV once analog goes dark.
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post #28 of 220 Old 06-02-2007, 01:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mister_two View Post

No. 7 What's the point of including a ATSC tuner with a DVD recorder if it can't be use as a ATSC receiver? These recorder can't output HD signals to a HD ready TV? I am in the market for a HD tuner and I was hoping these new crop of DVD recorder with digital tuner would allow me to view HD channels without buying a ATSC receiver (like the Samsung 260).


Samsung ATSC HD tuner (260) works very well -- I have one.

RG
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post #29 of 220 Old 06-27-2007, 07:27 AM
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Panasonic question... I considering getting a Panny combo dmrez47vk... however I have noticed that all the Panny's that I've seen DO NOT come with an IR Blaster... why is this... I anticipate problems without one... and if so would I be able to purcase one later...
Any recommendations/comments...
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post #30 of 220 Old 07-21-2007, 09:52 AM
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Digital tuner equipped DVD recorders have the potential to keep a lot of analogue televisions out of landfills. When those analogue televisions are demoted to secondary sets here is one machine that can receive digital signals with an indoor antenna in an urban setting. The DVD recorder can play DVD's. With a VHS tape player connected to an external input recorders can play VHS. I think the DVD recorder is a multipurpose product with a lot of potential and the electronics companies should continue to improve picture and sound. Congress should balance protection of intellectual property with keeping old analogue televisions useful and making this a very profitable widely used product.
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