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Short comparison of 3 machines Toshiba, Pioneer and Panasonic

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I had a chance to test a Panasonic EH-55, Pioneer 640H-K and a Toshiba XS32. Here is what I found out as to the good and bad.

Panasonic EH-55 good points:

1. Good LP resolution of 500 lines (don't know if I will ever use it though)
2. Accepts DVD Ram cartridges in case format (not that useful)
3. Fast response machine quick on from a cold start (nice but not that useful)
4. Flexible recording mode is useful to fill a disk
5. Can switch channels easily on the remote (good convenience)
6. Better easier to read on screen fonts with correct contrast (important)
7. Chapter mark on remote (good)
8. SD card slot neat to watch pics in clearly (ggod if u have a new camcorder that records to SD otherwise not that much use)
9. TV channel selection on face of remote, no flip lids to worry about wearing out.

Panasonic EH-55 Bad points:

1. TVGOS not sure if reliable ( I hate the manual alternative as it is very limited) Also I always lose the 1st 3-5 secs of a broadcast because I cannot fine tune the clock to pretend it is 5 secs slower)
2. Lack of eject on remote
3. Only 5 record quality settings (it is useful for me to have more flexibilty)
4. Does not do commercial skip on dvd's. It does on dvd ram though
5. No backward skip function
6. Expensive compared to other models
7. Commerical skip very inflexible only 1 minute forward
8. No frame by frame advance
9. No go to a time spot function
10. No defrag function
11. Editing chapter marks result in non-seamless freeze. I heard about but have not tried it.

=====================
Pioneer 640H-K

Good unique points:

1. Lots of picture quality settings
2. Good value for the money
3. Has a 30 sec incremental advance commercial skip and 5, 15 30, to 3 min back skip. I fins this most useful.
4. Hard drive optimization for defraging.
5. Lots of user friendly features on well laid out remote.

Bad points:

1. Lack of eject on remote though getting a 633 remote solves this problem.
2. Awkward editing only one playlist allowed
3. No high speed dubbing from dvd to HD in video mode
4. Does not do commercial skip on dvd's
5. No chapter mark on remote
6. Fontrs are too light and letters too thin hard to see at times.

==========

Toshiba RD-XS32:

Good unique points:

1. Has the most full featured editing of all the brands and models.
2. Remote have status, time bar, chapter mark, pic-in-pic and many other features. The other Toshiba models are missing the 1st row with the satus, time bar so the XS even beats the later models.
3. You can do the same commercial skip on dvd's as well as on the HD.
4. High speed both ways on video mode.


Bad points:

1. Lousy dvd burner. Wears out quickly if used a lot.
2. Black level bug which may or may not exist on certain models.
3. Flimsy flip lid on remote.
4. Small Hard drive only 80 gb.
5. Very slow to start up usually about 45-50 seconds.

The best machine is a Toshiba XS model with 160 gb and no TVGOS. Unfortunately when I went to purchase a newer higher capacity one they all had that dreaded TVGOS on it so I didn't buy. Now that my dvd burner has died, I am forced to either upgrade with an old LG drive if I can find it or buy a another brand since Toshiba doesn't make HD models anymore in Canada.

All the units have excellent PQ and I can't tell much difference at the SP speed.

I have not extensively checked out all the Panasonic's features as I have to return it within 30 days to get my refund. I do own the Pioneer and Toshiba so I am more familiar with it. The Toshiba despite it's bad points has got the Pioneer and Panny beat in a lot of respects. Unfortunately, you cannot get it anymore and it has issues with the limited capacity and the awful dvd burner and maybe a Black level bug.

If I missed anything or am incorrect please tell me.

My 2 cents for now,

Don
post #2 of 16
Quote:


Panasonic EH-55 Bad points:

1. TVGOS not sure if reliable ( I hate the manual alternative as it is very limited) Also I always lose the 1st 3-5 secs of a broadcast because I cannot fine tune the clock to pretend it is 5 secs slower)

I would think that the EH55 has the same TVGOS features as my older E95. It allows you to fine tune the time settings (both start and stop times) so that you don't miss the start and endings. After you have selected the program you want to record, press the "PROG/CHECK" button on the remote and select the program you want to tweak and press ENTER. That brings up a menu where you can enter the minutes you want to start recording early and stop late. Works very nicely, glad I found it.

Dave
post #3 of 16
The Pio has lots of features you left out, the best of which, IMO, is its "Disc Backup" function, which lets you make a high-speed, bit-for-bit copies of +R and -R discs.
post #4 of 16
Good Summary. Thank you.

A couple of comments. The Pioneer 640 does not read or write to dvd-ram, a deal-breaker for me, since dvd-ram is the only dvd that my Panasonics will high speed copy to hdd.

On the Panasonic eh55 and other Panasonics, they DO have a frame by frame advance or backward- press PAUSE, then >> or <<.

Edit point freezes only if high speed copied, real time copies can be seamless.

As for the backward skip function, the |<< and >>| skip back or forward to the next index (chapter) mark. True, it's not a time skip, but a chapter skip.

Also, someone long ago asked why the finalize is a separate step, why can't it be done automatically. The EH55 gives that option.

Sounds like the Toshiba is a neat machine, but not very useful if it has a short or unreliable lifespan.

When I sent one of my Panasonic E100's in for repair a while back, UPS had to look up some account #, said this was the first Panasonic they had received. Said they "get lots of Toshibas." (Got my second E100 on eBay, with 3rd party warranty, so was reimbursed my $137 or whatever, $130 plus tax, and the warranty even refunded the tax.)
post #5 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oiler1 View Post

=====================
Pioneer 640H-K...Bad points:

2. Awkward editing only one playlist allowed
...
4. Does not do commercial skip on dvd's

Nice post. A few points regarding the Pioneer since I know it better then the other two:

Re #2: Indeed there is only one playlist but I've found if you stick to only editing on the HDD immediately prior to off-loading to DVD, (which is a good habit to form to avoid HDD fragmentation,) multiple playlists aren't as important.

Re #4: Yes, I noticed commercial skip doesn't work on finalized DVDs when using the 640's remote, but oddly if you use the 633 remote with the 640, the commercial skip does work perfectly even for finalized DVDs. (The 2 remotes must use different codes for commercial skip.)

The Pioneer also has the convenient "Auto" bitrate setting (like Panasonic's FR) to fill a DVD which is great for commercial free recording, but IMHO it is important when listing Pros for the Pioneer that you should include the additional 32 manual (MN) bitrate options which allow you to more exactly set the correct bitrate (to within 5 or 10 minutes) to fill a DVD after editing out commercials. This allows you to maximize picture quality without wasting space where commercials were edited out, which is often 25% or more of the disc space.

The manual bitrates also provide much better options for most programming like movies which fall between 2 and 3 hours...rather than having to always drop to LP mode for anything over 2 hours like with the Panasonic. This may seem like a minor point especially for users of small screen SD TVs, but when you eventually switch to a bigger screen or HDTV, the extra pq is much appreciated.

I believe the Toshibas also have manual bitrates, although not quite as convenient to use from what I hear.
post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichardT View Post

The Pioneer 640 does not read or write to dvd-ram, a deal-breaker for me, since dvd-ram is the only dvd that my Panasonics will high speed copy to hdd.

Actually the 640 does indeed read/write DVD-RAM. You just can't insert a cartridge. From the manual under compatible media:

DVD-RAM ver. 2.0 / 2 x, ver. 2.1 / 2 x / 2 x
to 3 x / 2 x to 5 x, ver. 2.2 / 2 x / 2 x to 3 x /
2 x to 5 x

In fact since DVD-RAM are always VR mode, you can high-speed copy back to the HDD with no pq loss. (You can do that with any type of DVD media as long as the recordings are VR mode.)
post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by ACPewty View Post

IMHO it is important when listing Pros for the Pioneer that you should include the additional 32 manual (MN) bitrate options which allow you to more exactly set the correct bitrate (to within 5 or 10 minutes) to fill a DVD after editing out commercials.

I'm going to second this as a real boon on the Pioneers. I'm not too familiar with how other recorders handle this, but (as an example) on the Pioneers you can record three 1-hour shows to the HDD at a speed (bitrate) which allows you to fit 2 hours and 10 minutes on a single-sided DVD. Then you can edit out the commercials (which reduces the runtime of the three shows to a little less than 2 hours and 10 minutes) and high-speed copy the three shows onto one DVD with no quality loss. As ACP mentioned, there are 32 different recording speed settings in increments of around 5 or 10 minutes, so this allows for a lot of flexibility. I use this feature all the time and can't imagine life without it.
post #8 of 16
That's how the Toshibas work as well. I can't imagine recording without it since it makes things so much better in terms of making the best possible recordings you can, once you learn what settings to use for what you want to do. (i.e., with 4.2 DM/1 on the Tosh I can get 3 hour-long shows with commercials removed recorded.. 5.8 DM/1 for 2 hour-long shows in better quality, etc).

I think they're about the same as the Pioneer-- plus you get to control audio separately which is nice. (I.e., you pick audio and video bitrate separately, can you with the Pioneer?)
post #9 of 16
Nice comparison (albeit with a few inaccuracies), however academic for those of us in the US since none of these are available currently.
post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmscott42 View Post

That's how the Toshibas work as well. I can't imagine recording without it since it makes things so much better in terms of making the best possible recordings you can, once you learn what settings to use for what you want to do. (i.e., with 4.2 DM/1 on the Tosh I can get 3 hour-long shows with commercials removed recorded.. 5.8 DM/1 for 2 hour-long shows in better quality, etc).

I think they're about the same as the Pioneer-- plus you get to control audio separately which is nice. (I.e., you pick audio and video bitrate separately, can you with the Pioneer?)

No. Toshiba is the only one out there that let's you choose both video and audio (LPCM) recordning quality. I believe LPCM is only available in the XP mode with Pioneer. With the Toshiba LPCM is available up and down the MN selection range (except for some of the lower quality MN rates if I remember correctly).
post #11 of 16
Thanks, great summary.

A few words about the Philips DVDR3575H/37 for comparison on similar terms:

- The only one of these models with a digital ATSC/QAM tuner (still SD resolution only though)

- 160 Gbyte HDD, doesn't need defragging (no modern design should need defragging)

- Records DVD+/-R/RW, but not DVD-RAM or dual layer.

- No TVGOS-type program guide, programmed strictly by time and channel

- Has 6 fixed recording rates (1/2/2.5/3/4/6 hr on DVD), no finer choices of video or audio bit rates. But at least includes the 2.5 hr mode, and an Auto setting for automatically picking the best fixed rate to fit the remaining space on a DVD

- Skip forward/backward has nice big dedicated keys on remote, works on commercial DVDs as well as DVDR and HDD, skip time can be programmed.

- Will dub at high speed from HDD to DVD, but only in real time the other way.

- Can switch channels easily on remote, and has Eject button on remote

- No chapter marking from remote, can't manually mark chapters while recording or during normal playback, only in editing mode

- Reasonably good editing for the usual commercial deleting operations, esp. the Scene Delete function on HDD - but lacks Combine Titles, and no way to skip quickly to a particular time index or chapter while editing

- Has all the expected playback functions, i.e., smooth fast/slow/frame forward/reverse, variable speed play with pitch-corrected sound

- Medium-fast startup (about 15 sec - I had to time it to set up my one-key Pause Live TV on the Harmony remote)

- One important feature not mentioned for the others: The Philips will not play video from a USB device, only music/photos. I know the Panasonic will do this, don't think the Pioneer does.

The Philips is available here in Canada for $300-$400, the Pioneer 640H from $480-$550, the Panasonic EH55 from $500-$600. Haven't seen the Toshiba. The Panasonic is the star of this bunch overall, but the Philips is the cheapest
post #12 of 16
Nice comparison. I'd like to add that the Toshiba's TVGOS has worked fine for me for about a year, which it didn't on a Pioneer 633 I reurned for that reason. I know TVGOS has gotten a lot of bad press, and rightly so when it doesn't work, but when it does work I think it's a great feature.

Toshiba models (I have the XS-35) indeed have superior editing capabilities; however, they do often have bum burners, which is really a shame.
post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by plplplpl View Post

Nice comparison. I'd like to add that the Toshiba's TVGOS has worked fine for me for about a year, which it didn't on a Pioneer 633 I reurned for that reason. I know TVGOS has gotten a lot of bad press, and rightly so when it doesn't work, but when it does work I think it's a great feature.

Toshiba models (I have the XS-35) indeed have superior editing capabilities; however, they do often have bum burners, which is really a shame.

I like Toshiba's a lot but only the XS-32. After my burner went I contemplated replacing it with an older LG drive as mentioned on these boards. If you can do that then the dvd burner will not be an issue anymore.

The TVGOS is great when it is working. If I can find some way of tweaking the clock to fool it into thinking it was 5 seconds slower I would have bought an XS-35 with the higher cap. HD. I had it briefly and the TVGOS failed to record an important show. If the TVGOS site ever goes down then you lost those recordings. This is what I don't like about that system. I guess you can always backup on a VCR or second DVR for shows you really don't want to miss like serials.

The Pioneer 633 was a good machine except it grinds the HD all the time loading the TVGOS info.
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveC E100 View Post

I would think that the EH55 has the same TVGOS features as my older E95. It allows you to fine tune the time settings (both start and stop times) so that you don't miss the start and endings. After you have selected the program you want to record, press the "PROG/CHECK" button on the remote and select the program you want to tweak and press ENTER. That brings up a menu where you can enter the minutes you want to start recording early and stop late. Works very nicely, glad I found it.

Dave

Yes, but if you have back to back timed recordings of shows on different channels, you kind of want to tweak the clock time back slightly as to not miss the first 5-10 seconds. I do that on the Pioneer and Toshiba models which do not have the TVGOS. I deliberately set the clock about 5 seconds slower than the real time (at least I think it is on a channel displaying the time). Of course that means the ending is 5 seconds earlier, but I rather capture the all the beginning of a show than miss maybe part of the preview of the next show which is usauly at the end of the present show.
post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
As an addendum to this thread, I 'd like to ask further opinions.

I went a bit bananas this week and bought 3 more DVR's. There were all on sale. These are the Pioneer 640H-K , Pioneer 550H-K and a Panasonic EH55. I also have a chance to buy a refurbished Toshiba XS-32 for $185.

I presently own a Toshiba XS-32 in which the burner died and a Pioneer 640H-K which is now my main unit.

I have several options but mainly I cannot afford to keep 6 machines!

1. I could take the old LG-4163B drive out of my PC and replaced the dvd burner in the Toshiba. Since I have had it for about 3 years, the life of the hard drive might be only 2 years left? I would have a used LG burner that I used on my PC for 3 years as well.

Since I do not know how long this old machine would last, should I buy the refurbished Toshiba as a backup or replacement? I love all the editing and other features on this machine over all the other brands. It's just the dvd burner and small HD capacity that sucks.

2. I could just replace the Toshiba with the cheap Pioneer 640. I bought it for about $300 as an rarely used demo. I can look at it as a backup, which is equal to an extended warranty.

3. The Panny and new Pioneer 550H-K has nice features like HDMI output and upscaling to 1080p. Since I don't have HD cable or a Plasma, it doesn't mean much to me now. I have a Sony 5 disc dvd player that accepts HMDI and does 1080i anyways. Is there any difference between 1080i and 1080p? If I ever subscribe to HD cable will I even need more DVR's as they can supply me with a PVR to record HD!

The Panny is an excellent quality machine but it still has the TVGOS and some features I find lacking from the Toshiba. I will most probably be returning it.

I do intend to upgrade to HD within 2 years or when my old tube TV conks out. If I have 4 of these machines is this overkill? I asking for it to be obsolete in the future? I live in Canada so we down have to have digital tuners yet. The main thing for me is to retain the Toshiba somehow in full working order as none of the other brands satisfy me completely and you can't get the Toshiba new anymore.

As you can see there are several factors affecting what I should keep or do in the future.

Suggestions?
post #16 of 16
Great discussion and comparison!!! The last time I looked at them I was set on the Pioneer 640H. I didn't think that there wouldn't be any new ones since then though.
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