I'm back, and I bought the Lite-on 740GX. No local Costcos stocked it, so I had it shipped. Last night I integrated it into my home theater system.
That part was easy -- I substituted the DVR for the DVD player, using the same patch cords. I unplugged the cable TV input from the VCR and ran it into the DVR, and I was up and running. There's also an RF out (bypass) jack, so I ran another line back into the VCR. With my setup, this lets me watch & record on either or both the DVR and the VCR, as desired. (We have a lot of tapes.)
I've never used a DVR before, so as is my custom with a new tech toy I picked up the remote and set the manual aside to see how far I could get. It's fairly intuitive -- there's an "Easy Guider" button that walks you through all the menu functions. I could readily record to HDD from the TV using the menu, via one-touch recording (OTR) or timer. It has VCR+, but that won't work properly until you set up the unit's clock. (The remote has buttons for OTR and VCR+.) And, of course, I can watch a DVD.
I dunno if this is standard, but unlike the VCR I bought years ago, this unit doesn't auto-scan the channels to find a time signal when it's first powered on; that needs to be initiated via the menu. The unit requires a minute to scan each channel, so I left that for later and set the date/time manually. I set it up to tape -- sorry, record -- two randomly selected shows overnight (a 'Simpsons' rerun and 'Blade: the Series'), using both the manual timer and VCR+.
This morning I had a little trouble discovering how to play back what was recorded on the HDD. The 90-page manual's "Playback" section tells me everything about viewing video files, music files, DVDs, VCDs, XYZs -- but nothing about watching HDD files. The "Easy Guider" menu has a selection for "Play last recorded", which showed me Blade, but what happened to the Simpsons?
Turns out the remote has a "Contents" button which displays the HDD's contents. Problem solved. It's in the manual, but under a section called "Easier Application and Access". Since this is new to me, I don't know how this compares to other DVRs.
That's as far as I got. The manual is pretty good -- there's a lot of stuff about which formats are supported. The unit has a lot of capabilities that I'm looking forward to exploring.
Bottom line: so far, no complaints. It's not impossibly cumbersome and complicated. Then again, I've just scratched the surface, and it's only a day old.
The URL for the unit's specs are in a post above. (I can't yet post URLs here.) The English user manual (dated 06/12/06) and the firmware manual (dated 06/02/06) are available, but you need to click the 'Download' link on the sidenav and do a search.