Originally Posted by Highnoon1
I also still maintain a cable connection, and there are still a few analog channels on there, so my ES20's analog tuner hasn't been totally worthless. Because of the cable, I'm actually more interested in the Magnavox's QAM tuning rather than the ATSC aspect.
This is yet another
can of worms, far more slimy and wriggly than anything you'd encounter with satellite. QAM is an absolute sick joke, poorly regulated by the FCC and exploited to the hilt by cablecos. So for every Magnavox buyer who thinks its an ideal tuner for their boxless cable, there's another two who regret they ever heard the name Magnavox. The unit is optimized for off-air recording, at which it usually excels, and line input recording from cable or satellite decoders. For tuning boxless cable, not so much. It has a freakish dual-mode digital/analog QAM tuner that is vulnerable to every nasty trick the cable companies tend to pull, and even if you're lucky enough to live in a bubble where cable still functions circa 1998 with no intentional glitches the Magnavox is still prone to mixing up analog and digital cable signals to a point it trips all over itself. While this also happens with many other DVD recorders, the Magnavox tuner is weirder than others and has proven a big disappointment for a significant number of boxless cable subscribers.
There is speculation the tuner in the upcoming Magnavox 533 may be a slightly improved design, but overall there are no guarantees of full reliable QAM tuner functionality with ANY dvd recorder. They are generations behind the design of QAM tuners included in newer televisions: don't assume because your TV never has an issue, or your old ES20 never had an issue, that a new QAM-equipped recorder will work the same way: it won't. You may get lucky- many people are happy enough with them for a time. But eventually they glitch up on you during a timer recording. Be prepared, or make a habit of only using the Magnavox QAM tuner for non-critical recording. For once-in-a-lifetime programs, use your satellite decoder box via line input or the Magnavox off-air tuner. Also bear in mind, if you ever encounter anti-record flags in your favorite cable channels, you can't use a filter or TBC to cure them when using the QAM tuner: filters can only connect between the line outputs of a cable/satellite box and line inputs of the recorder.
1. Is the picture quality of the Magnavox comparable to the Panasonic, which I thought was very good ? I will miss Panasonic's Flexible Recording (FR) feature.
The Magnavox is roughly comparable to the Panasonic at the XP and SP speeds. You can reliably fit 127 mins onto a DVD using the Magnavox SP speed. If you use the off-air 16:9 tuner, the Magnavox blows the Panasonic into the weeds, subject to jjeff's caveat that the Mag tuner crushes blacks a bit which some people are sensitive to. Via boxless cable or line input from a decoder box, they're about the same. However the Magnavox has no flex record speeds, beyond SP you get a 150 minute speed, then 3 hrs, 4 hrs, etc. The Magnavox drops to half resolution immediately after SP while the Panasonic holds full resolution to 4 hours. Half resolution means you trade a bit of clarity for more accurate motion with less macroblocking, but not everyone likes that tradeoff and most Panasonic owners bought Panasonic specifically for the full-res 4 hour speed. If you never use anything but the SP speed you won't care, if you do then you'll want to audition the Magnavox carefully to see if its right for you.
some workarounds with the Magnavox that are impossible with your ES20 because the ES20 has no hard drive. For example, since the Mag HDD has near-limitless capacity you never run up against DVD recording time restrictions. If you like to record long sports events that run 5 hours or so, you can do it at SP speed on the Magnavox HDD. When you prepare for burning, you can edit out the commercials, then split the game across two DVDs at the SP speed. This preserves picture quality and avoids the necessity for dropping down recording speed, assuming you don't mind using two DVDs instead of one. And of course, if you don't plan to actually keep the recording but just want to watch-and-erase, you needn't make a DVD at all. You record to the Magnavox HDD, watch, then hit the delete button without ever using a disc. For this type of temporary recording, you can set the Magnavox to its best XP recording speed, and the PQ will beat your old Panasonic by a mile. While your ES20 can also record in XP, a blank DVD tops out at one hour capacity, so it isn't really practical. The Magnavox HDD can hold 80 hours of video at the ultimate XP speed, ideal for high-quality timeshift viewing.
2. Does a TBC degrade picture quality at all ?
It isn't supposed to, but yes it does. Not as much as a less expensive "filter," but they tend to soften the video a bit as they rip apart and reconstruct a stable signal on-the-fly. Its the nature of how they work, the only "transparent" TBCs are made for professionals and run several thousand dollars.
3. Can you recommend a good TBC ?
As jjeff and SuperEye have posted here, the two most appropriate TBCs for consumer use are the AVT-8710
and DataVideo TBC1000
. The DataVideo is better built but costs twice as much brand new ($480 vs $227). The AVT8710 is flimsy but much less expensive and includes some handy picture adjustments that can be helpful under some circumstances. Either is much cheaper second hand on eBay, if you're patient the DataVideo pops up every few weeks for about $150-$175 and the AVT for $100-$150. You may want to try a simpler filter like the Grex
first, many people are quite happy with it and you can buy it new for under $100.
I use the older Sima filter jjeff referred to as well as a DataVideo. The Sima has some impact on brightness level and color, but preserves sharpness. The DataVideo is completely neutral in brightness and color but does soften the image a bit. Most users of the Grex device rate it somewhere between these two.Edited by CitiBear - 9/3/12 at 12:17pm