Originally Posted by slinky
Hi guys, hope you're well. Haven't been here in a long time and this will be a brieft stay. Thanks to many of you for some nice e-mails. Two of you wrote regarding my comprehensive review of the RD-XS54 and also bugs, which is easiest addressed here in this manner for the moment. I will also have answers regarding anomalies, upgrades to the XS54 and other specific details and will post them on my personal web site.
The Toshiba XS54 is fun. It is the most capable machine, bar none, to make "polished" DVDs that impress superficially and navigationally. It does have an absurd menu system that makes things overly complicated but the features are incredible, especially the ability to prioritize recording high quality audio over picture for music concerts. There really is a difference between Dolby1 and Dolby2 and PCM - it's not superficial with just a decent HDTV (especially the bass and midrange.) It's lack of dual layer recording is unfortunate but I never use those discs, given price and likely inability of my S77 or many other players to play the dual layer format (which I think is different than double layer, but correct me if I'm mistaken.) One can also transfer recordings to a PC on 2 DVDRWs if you really want to preserve those "special" programs. It's an amazingly versatile machine for those who want to do more than just simply record their programs and make some DVDRs. That said, there are a couple of important issues I have discovered and the severity is uncertain and perhaps XS34 owners have experienced some of these:
(1) An inordinate number of blank DVD-Rs will say they are "unreadable or damages" initially. Taking out the DVDR and putting it in again, maybe wiping a pristine DVD will make this error go away. On occasion I have had to pull the plug out of the XS54 because the recorder got "stuck" when it was beginning to burn a DVDR. I am using TYs virtually every time with occasional Memorex which works no better or worse than TYs. It seems that it might be the writer and I will find out when I get a replacement (I can already hear the useful torrent of abuse coming from you know who.)
(2) More serious is after recording several items, mostly off of cable but NOT HBO or Showtime (which dubs to DVDR perfectly), I'll experience an error when trying to standard dub from HDD to DVDR/DVDRW of "DVD recording was terminated because a title or chapter with non-standard properties was detected" and no error code. Removing all chapters did not work. Per support, an unfortunate omission is any indicator whether a recording is copy protected or write once except when you try to write to DVDR. At that time you will see an error message with an error code that will tell you. So you could waste an hour editing to find out you might not be able to write the program to DVDR.
Now these that programs WILL burn to DVD-RAM. In addition, using rate conversion (which typically sucks) it WILL burn the same program to DVD-R or DVD-RW. This makes me wonder whether it is a software bug and not a copy protection issue. HOWEVER, I did encounter the same error when recording the same program twice, which is either coincidence or there is a format issue.
Regarding my previous ownership of the Pioneer DVR-633, I'll say it was a great machine although it doesn't have near the overall versatility to make great looking DVDs. For many this won't be a big deal. All they want is to see the movie/program and have chapter marks, no need to see the scenes they want to skip to and I can appreciate that. However, if the 2 areas where the 633 has real limitations which are apparent to me in using the XS54 are:
(1) No chapter mark ability while viewing a program in full screen. This is too bad since I really enjoy watching material I have recorded and getting rid of commercials/chaptering as I encounter them. Re-editing later takes a large chunk of time.
(2) Inability to properly format 16:9 material onto DVD due to no manual setting. Yes, when there is a 16:9 signal fed to it the 633 should, in theory, record it in that format and retain it when burning to a DVD. The problem occurs when you record off cable using the s-video from my experience. The boxes I have either didn't work at all or the format comes out actually in 4:3 format which is "squeezed." I don't think any standard recorder does better than 4:3 resolution anyways and with 16:9 recording you get the same number of horizontal and vertical pixels although I could be wrong. If you have a control on your TV to zoom or to do "full" screen format, it will unsqueeze the 4:3 and display it as 16:9. Looks good. However, when you try playing it on TVs that don't have the control or in many 4:3 TVs you end up with a small 4:3 picture that is long and skinny and no way to fix it. Fortunately with the XS54 you can hard set that flag to 16:9 and it will appear properly on all TVs, even though you recorded it in the "long and skinny" 4:3.
So that's the current news guys. Thanks for writing, feel free to contact me or ask questions about the stuff I post on my personal site and I hope you are all enjoying your new equipment.