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DVR Recommendation to replace VCRs

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
I'm fairly new to this site and have found it full of GREAT information about just anything in AV.
But I have a specific need that I haven't found directly addressed yet and so want to ask if I can get some recommendations.
Basically, I'm looking into switching over from VCR recording to DVR recording.
My situation is that I have very erratic and long hours and cannot watch my desired TV shows when they are broadcast, so I 'time-shift' tape everything I want to see. I'm not critical about HD now or even HiDef (I record at EP speed), I just want to watch the shows out of the corner of my eye while I'm working.
Currently, I have about 6 VCRs stacked up and each programmed to record selected shows during the week. Each Monday, I re-do the programming for the next week and so on. To view, I use a different VCR while I'm working at my desk (background). Then I just recycle the tapes until they wear out.
I have looked at various reviews until I'm blue in the face and am dismayed about all of the negative reviews about almost all of the DVRs; seems like none of them have any reliability at all. I know sometimes a 'lemon' comes along with anything but the overwhelming negative numbers leave me numb.
A friend of mine has some kind of video service and he has a couple dozen (really) of the Panasonic DMR-ES15s and swears by them. He runs them 6-7 hours a day, every day and they last a couple of years. But they are hard to find (used) on eBay since they are so old. Is there a newer replacement for the ES-15s that is just as reliable?
Is there a simple, tuner, cable connection DVR that is programmable (8 hours on a DVD) that could be used to replace my VCRs that is sturdy and reliable? I'd really like to just unplug the VCR, plug in the DVR, and have it just like the only change is from TAPE to DVD. I plan to use -R/W DVDs [I understand -(minus) is better than +(plus)(?)]
I just need something to record from the cable to replace my VCRs.
Or should I just stick to buying used VCRs and keep on truckin' with them?
Thanks for any input.
post #2 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by silvercbx View Post

Is there a newer replacement for the ES-15s that is just as reliable?

I think Panasonic got out of the domestic DVD recorder market all together. The last couple models they had were the DMR-EZ28 and the EZ48. You MIGHT find a EZ48 around, but they're so buggy few recommend them.

Quote:
Is there a simple, tuner, cable connection DVR that is programmable (8 hours on a DVD) that could be used to replace my VCRs that is sturdy and reliable? I'd really like to just unplug the VCR, plug in the DVR, and have it just like the only change is from TAPE to DVD. I plan to use -R/W DVDs .

How do you feel about a hard drive equipped unit that can store hundreds of hours and you don't have to mess with discs? Just set the timer, record to hard drive, watch later, and delete? This unit will do all that. If you feel the show's a keeper or need to view elsewhere, pop in a DVD, burn, and it's ready for any common DVD player.

http://www.amazon.com/Magnavox-MDR51...0393364&sr=8-1

Has a very large support base here, too.


The other alternative is a TiVo, but then you're looking at monthly fees or a high initial price. They're much easier to program, though, and have multiple tuners (4 for the Premiere Elite.) And you can transfer the recordings to a computer on your network to play back elsewhere.
post #3 of 27
The MDR513 refurb with 320GB HDD is $20 cheaper at J&R but they only have 23 left.

Click "HDD DVDRs" in my sig. for lots of info.
post #4 of 27
Thread Starter 
While an HD unit is interesting, I didn't explain fully, I guess. I use the 6 VCRs to record tapes and then take the tapes to a different place. It would be impossible to use ONE hd unit as many of the programs overlap in times and with each VCR having its own tuner, they all overlap the times just fine. An HD unit with only one tuner couldn't do that (I think).
post #5 of 27
No, you'd need one for each channel, probably one for each VCR.

The only thing that records multiple channels in one box is a TiVo or Moxi DVR. Or a Home Theatre PC with multiple installed tuners. I suggested TiVo because then you could transfer the recorded shows over a network.
post #6 of 27
Thread Starter 
OK, I see no one seems willing to jump in with any DVR recommendations ---- hmmm.
Unless everyone is using an HD unit, there should be SOMEONE who has enough experience working with these machines to have a feel for the reliability of the various brands (?)
Thoughts?
post #7 of 27
DVR as in DVD recorder with no hard drive?

Honestly, it's such a pain putting up with the quirks of straight DVD recording without a hard drive involved that it's hard to recommend that line of action. VCR tape recording is brute simple, so there isn't much to mess up. DVD authoring, on the other hand, has a bunch of stuff just waiting to go wrong on any given machine. A hard drive is a good safety net. Once it's on there, you can dump to DVD, and if it chokes, you take out the bad DVD, pop in a new one, and go. If you're going straight to DVD from the source, if it burps and stops recording, you've lost it.

Added that most DVD recorders on the market now are bottom feeding junk. Few of the name brands are even name brands anymore. They're outsourced to companies like Funai, which can make some decent stuff, but they tend to slap together some cheap components, call it a DVD recorder, and shove it overseas. (Funai does make the recommended Magnavox, but they actually put some thought into that machine, proving that they can make a decent product. But the stuff they make under contract to companies like Toshiba are decidedly not.)

Panasonic was probably the last company that made its own hard drive-less recorders and that made decent ones. If you can find an DMR-EZ28 (it has the tuners you want) even for sale new now, it's sheer luck. The more available EZ48 model is a VHS/DVD combo that is notorious for buggy features, but the EZ28 seems stable. But of course all those DVD recording quirks still apply.

That's why hard drive-less models are not really recommended. They're just not a direct replacement for a VCR. You need the hard drive to duplicate VHS's recording stability.
post #8 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by silvercbx View Post

OK, I see no one seems willing to jump in with any DVR recommendations ---- hmmm.
Unless everyone is using an HD unit, there should be SOMEONE who has enough experience working with these machines to have a feel for the reliability of the various brands (?)
Thoughts?

If you will look around this Forum you will find lots of information.

Here's a recent thread that addresses some of your questions:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1395173

I own and use many Panasonics, both hard drive and straight DVD models. The best domestic Panasonics were last produced in 2006. I own and use many Magnavox and Philips hard drive and straight DVD models. I just purchased one of the last Magnavox 515 HDD/DVD models from jr.com. This 515 should arrive later this week.

Once one has used a HDD/DVD model one will not be satisfied with the limitations of a basic DVD Recorder.
post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by silvercbx View Post

OK, I see no one seems willing to jump in with any DVR recommendations ---- hmmm.

That because there aren't any good options available for you. If there were, you'd be hearing about them. Short of you buying as many Magnavox 513s as you have VCRs now, I have no advice. I should also note that the DVD disks can hold two hours of content quite well, four hours passably, but anything more than that, you are in the unwatchable territory of digital artifacts. Sorry. The eight hours on one DVD you are talking about is just not workable.
post #10 of 27
I kind of thought the first response, by Tulpa, gave a pretty good recommendation to the problem as first stated.

1. You have up to six vcr's recording simultaneously; then you'd need six dvdr's if you went the dvdr route.

2. You want to record in one place and play back somewhere else. That means picking up the tape (or dvd) and carrying it somewhere else to play.

You didn't say where the "different place" is. The solution may be different if a different room versus a different building across town. Tulpa, in post #5, mentioned a network.

Timing may be a factor; you always play back the next day. within a week. months later.

Your vcr system is working well, it is flexible, and you've worked out a nice system to use it.

Going to dvdr with hdd (HD refers to High Definition) offers advantages as well as challenges. There will be changes, else why are you asking.

Is there a compelling reason you can't record some where you play back?

Could you run a cable to the playback area? or wireless audio-video?

My setup allows playback from a converter box, any of four dvdr's, a dvd player, or satellite receiver to tv's in the living room, dining room and basement. The tv in the living room has multple inputs so is semi independent of the other playbacks.

In other words, with a bit of planning, you may be able to gain some advantages over the tape system.

For timeshifting and selective playback, Magnavox 515 or 513. I'm willing to bet you could handle your simultaneous recordings with no more than three. Are there tv repeats?

If you want to get into editting, combining and rearranging home videos, the import Panasonic EH59, EH69, or the discontinued EH55 if you can find one.
post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Church AV Guy View Post

( Sorry. The eight hours on one DVD you are talking about is just not workable.

dual layer discs?
post #12 of 27
Thread Starter 
ok, ok, OK! I surrender!!!!
I spent an hour reading the suggested threads and learned a lot. It looks to me like if I want to go to DVR recording, I should just skip single disk recording and use the HDD method. Makes a lot of sense but I'll have to think about it all.

I do have just one question:
Using a SINGLE HD-DVR, could I record three separate TV shows on the same day at the same time? It would seem that the unit would need three separate tuners or I would have to have three separate HDD recorders (?)

Well, two Qs:
Most of the threads referred to used models - are there any current, new models that do as well? I realize everyone is trying to save a buck but I'd like some reference points to think about. 'Wajo' referred to Phillips and Magnavox units that were good but I was wondering if there are 2012 models around as good?

Anyway, thanks for all the 'food for thought' -- even better than I expected.
post #13 of 27
I think you would need a unit with separate tunners. i know Panasonic Aus has one with twin tunners but that will be no good to you if you are in USA.
post #14 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by billmich View Post

dual layer discs?

Even using LP on a Panasonic(one of the few that actually record to DL media) you can only get a little more than 7hrs/disc. Of course DL does NOT come in RW so every burn would be ~$1 and not reusable.
While one could get 8+hrs of fair video on tape as mentioned 8hrs on a DVD will be anything but fair, more like poor quality.
I agree with a few others, the '06 Panasonic ES-15/25 or possibly the '08+ EZ-28 were the last decent direct to DVD burners.
While it's possible to record direct to DVD with something with a Magnavox HDD DVDR very few people probably do this, most everyone first records to the HDD and then HS copy to DVD which is a extra step for the OP.
post #15 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by silvercbx View Post

I spent an hour reading the suggested threads and learned a lot. It looks to me like if I want to go to DVR recording, I should just skip single disk recording and use the HDD method. Makes a lot of sense but I'll have to think about it all.

There was a pertinent question asked. Is your workplace your own home or is it some distance away, necessitating portable media?


Quote:
Originally Posted by silvercbx View Post

Using a SINGLE HD-DVR, could I record three separate TV shows on the same day at the same time? It would seem that the unit would need three separate tuners or I would have to have three separate HDD recorders (?)

First, terminology check.

DVR = Digital video recorder, a unit that only uses a hard drive. TiVo is one. So are cable DVRs. No disc burning. TiVo Premiere Elite has four tuners. Most others have at least two.

HDD/DVD recorder = recorder with a hard drive. Almost all of these only have one tuner. So you will need one for each simultaneous channel you record.


Quote:


Well, two Qs:
Most of the threads referred to used models - are there any current, new models that do as well? I realize everyone is trying to save a buck but I'd like some reference points to think about. 'Wajo' referred to Phillips and Magnavox units that were good but I was wondering if there are 2012 models around as good?
.

There hasn't been an absolute new model released in some time. The Magnavox can still be had new (although supplies are dwindling fast) or in certain cases, new-in-box refurbs. They're as close as you can get to a 2012 model.

The sun is setting very fast on these machines.
post #16 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by billmich View Post

dual layer discs?

Yeah, dual layer support is very sketchy indeed. Most recorders with dual layer support do so in a very limited fashion. Some can only record to dual layer media high speed, while some others are restricted to finalizing the first layer before they allow you to use the second layer. Neither of these will allow him to do what he wants, to record to a removable media in his absence, so he can just pick it up and play it somewhere else.

I'm sure that there are at least one or two models that had real dual layer support for real time recording, but I don't know which makes/models they might be.
post #17 of 27
OK. How about Plan "C"? Ease into your transition. Get one (new) Magnavox 515 or 513. Use it for as many of your recordings as you can (onto the HDD). Use vcr's for the needed simultaneous recordings. That will gain you experience and allow you to rearrange your scheduling to optimize your convenience.

If recorded to the HDD, can you "pipe" to signal into the room you want to view it in? If you need to play off the recording site, you would have to go thru the operation of recording to a dvd, which could be done at high speed. Be aware that -R discs are write-once only, not reusable as are tapes. Maybe that's another situation you'd want to stay with tape.
post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by silvercbx View Post

ok, ok, OK! I surrender!!!!
I spent an hour reading the suggested threads and learned a lot. It looks to me like if I want to go to DVR recording, I should just skip single disk recording and use the HDD method. Makes a lot of sense but I'll have to think about it all.

DVD recorders are basically dead. Are you willing to consider not-in-kind solutions? Would you consider a solution in which you record in one place with multiple tuners to a portable HDD then play in another location using a media streamer? Depending on the size of the portable HDD you can store more than a hundred recordings in the original broadcast quality.
post #19 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

DVD recorders are basically dead. Are you willing to consider not-in-kind solutions? Would you consider a solution in which you record in one place with multiple tuners to a portable HDD then play in another location using a media streamer? Depending on the size of the portable HDD you can store more than a hundred recordings in the original broadcast quality.

He sounds like a VCR guy, not a HTPC one. Of course, a well implemented Hi-Tech solution (like yours) will make him happy
post #20 of 27
It all depends on what he wants to spend and how technical he is.

I don't think a HDD-less DVD recorder solution will be a frustration free experience. HDD recorders will be expensive if he needs six (probably about $1000-$1200.)

A TiVo would have four tuners. Then he could transfer the recordings to a computer and to a portable device, a USB stick, etc. Still talking about the TiVo cost and a new way to play at work to replace that VCR.

A HTPC would work, but you have to build it. And each tuner costs money. And he still has to take the videos to his place of work somehow. Sounds like he does this every day, not like once a month.

Honestly, it does sound like more VCRs is as viable as anything else, if he's good to go with it.
post #21 of 27
Yeah, it sounds like media streaming is not portable enough for his needs.
post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Church AV Guy View Post

I'm sure that there are at least one or two models that had real dual layer support for real time recording, but I don't know which makes/models they might be.

The only one I'm aware that could record realtime to DL media in one title was the EZ-28(and probably the combo EZ-48v). I occasionally use my EZ-28 for this exact purpose, to record one long title(generally between 3 and 5hrs) using FR. As you know one cannot use FR when recoding to a HDD and get one title larger than ~4GB(single layer size). This and "prepping" my DVDs to record on my non HDD Panasonics(to allow 1 FR title of 4.4GB) is really all I use my EZ-28 for, but it works very nice for that purpose
post #23 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by profhat View Post

He sounds like a VCR guy, not a HTPC one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulpa View Post

Honestly, it does sound like more VCRs is as viable as anything else, if he's good to go with it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dare2be View Post

Yeah, it sounds like media streaming is not portable enough for his needs.

Maybe we should let him answer?
post #24 of 27
Thread Starter 
Hi, guys,
Really appreciate all the chiming in and free thinking about my original question. It just warmed my cockles to read all the posts.
After a lot of reading and consideration of all that what was said here and some in-depth research, here's what I'm going to do.
I agree with Kelson that, basically, HDD is dead - not today but sooner than later. The available (used) gear is rapidly disappearing and, for my own particular needs, not worth investing in just to duplicate what I now easily do with VCRs.
There are still plenty of VCRs around and I can stock up if I wish to keep me going for a long time (just as long as I could with HDD - and cheaper). I already have a huge stash of brand new VHS tapes to replace those that wear out so I'm good for probably a few years, at least.
I believe wajo is correct in stating that individual disks would be a waste, especially since the most time I could get (reliably) would be 4 hours on one disk; I get 6 hours (reliably) on one tape at an acceptable resolution [since I kind of watch the shows out of the corner of my eyes as I work]. Even using R/W disks would not really be any different; so why waste the time (and money) converting.
So, I'll just leave it as it is - I just got caught up in the techy aspect and the delight of working something new into place (variety is the spice of my life and technical 'dreaming' is sooo fun - as I suspect a lot of you also enjoy). My system is well developed and functions well so, as they say, if it ain't broke - don't fix it. (When I was an RSS for IBM, new stuff coming down the pipe just put me into bliss.)
There is one thing I have started to fantasize about; maybe you would enjoy thinking about it and speculating as I am. How about a PC with 4-6 Happauge tuner cards in it, each tuning to a different station via standard cable attachment, each tuner recording directly to an HD (4-6 stacked). Then, if desired, for portability, just un-plug the HD and take it to your remote PC, plug it in and away you go! Neat, huh? All you need is a motherboard that can hold the cards, some software that can manage all the tuners and a case that can hold it all. I don't have the time to work on making this a reality or I would give it a shot. But a neat solution, no?
Anyway, got to go back to work. Thanks for all the input; it was much fun!
Ciao
post #25 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by silvercbx View Post

How about a PC with 4-6 Happauge tuner cards in it, each tuning to a different station via standard cable attachment, each tuner recording directly to an HD (4-6 stacked). Then, if desired, for portability, just un-plug the HD and take it to your remote PC, plug it in and away you go! Neat, huh?

That's what I was getting at with my post below. There are a number of us who are already doing it and kicking it around here (like most threads there is lots of chaff that can be skipped through).
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

Are you willing to consider not-in-kind solutions? Would you consider a solution in which you record in one place with multiple tuners to a portable HDD then play in another location using a media streamer? Depending on the size of the portable HDD you can store more than a hundred recordings in the original broadcast quality.
post #26 of 27
That's where I'd head in your situation too, like Kelson said many of us are already doing many variations of that idea and loving it now that most of us have figured out the bugs and have a stable working version of whatever we went with.
All that will probably happen with time is the solutions will get cheaper and more powerful as more regular folks go to something similar and the demand goes up.
post #27 of 27
Quote:


Even using LP on a Panasonic(one of the few that actually record to DL media)

Nice to know that thanks. I want to be able to use 8.5 GB discs

http://www.ebay.com/itm/USB-3-0-Port...item35b0e1dcb1

I got one of these little units which are not bad. Its a media player that will play any file inc DVD files, you can fit a 500GB SATA HDD inside, plus you can even attach larger USB external HDD to it and also you can attach external USB DVD drives to it. So you have a portable player/storage device that you can take where you want to watch your recordings. Only slight issue that i have with mine is that the 3.5mm jack is slightly loose or its the cable. I traced the problem to being if i just rotated the plug it got a better connection. It also has HDMI out which worked fine straight away. I am hoping to find a more higher quality 4 contact A/V to RCA lead which may fix it or maybe i can bend a contct inside the 3.5mm jack. I am quite happy with it so i would even buy another one as maybe i just got one with a not very tight 3.5mm jack. Maybe that is an option for you if you need to take your recordings to another room and be able to play it, but i see you decided to stay with VHS anyway.

Also it runs off mains power with a 5volt power adaptor from memory. No batteries.
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