Observations on the HDD500, in no particular order:
It's interesting that the unit performs a timer recording without actually "turning on". The record light appears in the display and the recording is done internally. This was disconcerting at first, since it's handy to be able to glance at the display and see that the proper channel is recording. You can, however, turn the unit on to get the channel display, and turn it back off without affecting the recording. Very cool.
The menu system (both Sony and TVGOS) seems rather cumbersome. It takes too many key presses to do almost anything and the response seems sloooow. It gets the job done, but takes some getting used to. The Sony menus won't be used that much after the initial setup is refined. The Guide menus will have to be dealt with.
The Favorites function is terrible. I'll just set up macros on my MX-700 remote.
The adjustable FF, REW, Replay, Advance and chapter marks are great.
The Guide is working as it should with no problems for OTA and cable. I have a CableCARD coming on Wednesday. We'll see how that goes.
One has to hope that there won't be any Guide problems, since there is no way to set the clock manually. No Guide = no clock = doorstop.
Overall, the unit seems to work, a welcome "feature" after my experience with the LG 3410A (three of them). Of course, more time is needed to observe the Sony's behavior.
One major concern: The HD picture through HDMI with DVI adapter may be a problem. I've always preferred component connections over DVI with any of the four tuners I've had, but DVI was nevertheless very, very good. Not so here. I'm no expert, but the picture seems washed out. Blacks are not as black. You can get away with this on sports programs that are well lit, but a couple of typical primetime "dark" HDTV programs did not look so good. The LG's DVI output was much better.
I have not tried the Sony's component outputs yet. My setup realy calls for using the DVI on the Sony as opposed to the DVI on my Comcast 6412. But maybe I'll switch after I get the CableCARD and the dust settles. Or perhaps an HDMI>DVI cable without an adapter might help?
This is especially disturbing since the HDD500 is connected to a Sony XBR plasma. This should eliminate any problems between devices form different manufacturers. The picture settings that work great for several other devices using DVI and component inputs just don't look as good with the HDD500. I'm experimenting with different picture settings on the plasma, so we'll see if I can find a solution. I don't think this is a deal-breaker, but I have not yet spent enough time investigating the problem.