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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm about to add a DVD recorder to my system, primarily to get a permanent copy for some of the programming accumulating on my DVR that I'd like to keep. This is new ground for me, since it's the first DVD recorder I've ever had or used. Most (if not all) recording will be done via the audio and video input jacks, not the tuner.


So - from you veteran DVD-R users, is there anything I need to know? Like:


* The best type of discs to use? There seems to be a lot of formats - like DVD+R and DVD-R.



* Most of the recorded discs will be played back on other players, not the machine it was recorded on, so compatibility with other players is important. Is the particular disc type relevant to that?


* I'm more interested in best picture quality than maximum record time on a disc. Are there any discs that offer the best picture quality for a 120 minute length? Or is 60 minutes the best I'll be able to do?


Regards,

Wayne A. Pflughaupt
 

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DVD recorders are a totally dead product category: what appears to be a "wide selection" on store shelves is illusory. There is only one model series left worth looking at, and it has been recommended here ad nauseum. Look at the topmost "permanent" thread in this forum for all the info you would ever want on these Magnavox models.


The value per dollar of the Magnavox units has far exceeded any other recorder available in the USA market since 2007. The basic chassis design is solid and has not changed since its introduction, aside from minor bug fixes and enhancements the only difference is HDD (hard drive) size. The original model H2160 and H2160A have 160GB HDDs and were produced until early this year. They were replaced by the 320 GB MDR513 a few months ago, and that was replaced by the 500GB MDR515 just recently. The latest model is the most convenient and most expensive, it can be purchased new at the Wal*Mart website for $279. Like-new repacked H2160 can sometimes be found for $159 and the MDR513 for $179 by checking the J&R website. A huge percentage of our forum members have purchased the $159 repacked H2160, which is the deal of the century in video recorders.


All three models look the same and have the same features. All have the most reliable DTV tuner you can get in a recorder (unimportant to you now, but valuable to have in reserve). All have one of the best video encoder chips ever put in a recorder. All have superb XP (60 mins) and SP (120 mins) recording quality, with additional lower-quality speeds available. All are easily upgraded/repaired by the user.


A common misconception we get with this type of inquiry is "I only want to dub DVD copies from my cable/satellite PVR or old VHS tapes, so I don't want a hard drive feature". This is just plain wrong and a holdover from five years ago when the price difference between a good recorder with HDD over the same unit without HDD was $200, and people had not yet realized recording DVDs without an HDD buffer was excruciatingly inconvenient and painful (this is what ended up killing the DVD recorder as a product: they were premature, and useless if not equipped with an HDD, which no one wanted to pay for because they didn't understand optical discs require preparation on HDD first if you want to have any flexibility or recovery from mishaps). The Magnavox models today cost from $50 less to only $50 more than comparable models from other mfrs, none of which have the HDD feature anymore. Cheap recorders under $100, or DVD/VHS combo decks, are not worth dragging home.


Recording directly onto a DVD is risky, primarily because todays blank media is no longer optimized for real-time recording but "high speed" dubbing from an HDD in a PC. The response time for pausing and restarting record mode is slow and unpredictable, and trimming unwanted bits or commercials awkward and unsatisfactory. Finally, real-time recording directly onto a DVD is the quickest way to wreck the burner drive, which only has so many hours of continuous burning before it dies. When using a DVD/HDD recorder like a Magnavox, you record a movie or set of TV episodes to its HDD first. Since the HDD is an HDD, you can trim unwanted bits like station intros, commercials and so on very quickly and easily after the dub, instead of having to sit there riding the pause button during the dub. You can also select the order you want several shorter recordings to appear on the DVD. When things are arranged as you like, you then engage the high-speed-lossless-dub function which will create a DVD from your HDD project in about 15 mins. In other words, two hours of material on the HDD will copy to DVD in 15 mins: this wears down the burner one-eighth as much as direct to DVD mode, and allows you to make multiple DVD copies of the same project.


Like DVD recorders, DVD media is in steep decline. Most of it is optimized for very high speed (16x or faster) burning in PC, the stuff you find in stores puts stress on slower 8x DVD recorder burners and often results in failed or faulty burns. Since you are primarily interested in long-term archiving and compatibility with other hardware, stick with DVD-R. The only such media left that is optimized for DVD recorders is TY/JVC 8x premium and Verbatim DataLifePlus 8x, available only thru media specialty dealer websites like supermediastore and rima. DVD+R is perfectly fine, but harder to get in the preferred 8x speed rating.


For temporary storage, DVD+RW is the most convenient but DVD-RW is a bit more compatible with DVD players. Verbatim is preferred, but since its temporary by nature you can get away with other brands. Rewritable media is slower, rated at 2.4-5x, so you don't have to hunt for it online and can just buy it in a store. If possible, stick with the slower speed RW, the 5x is relatively new and doesn't always work well in recorders. Dual-layer (DL) media is not supported by the Magnavox at all, nor is DVD-RAM (which is incompatible with most players anyway).


There are some here who will suggest a Panasonic EZ-28 instead of the Magnavox. The Panasonic is a nice unit, with good recording quality and the ability to record DL and RAM media in addition to all the usual -/+ discs. It offers an interesting "flex record" feature, which allows setting a variety of in-between recording speeds. But it has very crude editing features, no HDD, and costs an average $189. The HDD in the Magnavox renders the EZ-28 an overpriced curio, unless you really prefer the Panasonic name or already own an older Panasonic with HDD and just want a backup unit.


As far as recording quality, the media is distinct from the recording "speed". Quality discs like 8x Verbatim and TY/JVC will burn better in a recorder and will likely be more durable, simply because the recorder "likes" them better. (Common retail 16x media might burn equally well in a PC, but you're asking about DVD recorders.) All DVDs have a fixed data capacity limit, you vary recording time by changing "speeds". XP is the ultimate, but its 65 minute per disc limit is very confining and best suited to compilations of sports highlights or music/dance concerts. SP is the best overall "speed", giving 130 mins per DVD at only slightly diminished quality from XP. The next speed available on the Magnavox is SPP, which gives you 150-160 mins per DVD at noticeably reduced quality from SP but can be useful for longer movies. After that come 3 hr, 4 hr, and 6hr speeds which get progressively less watchable. Remember, with the HDD you can cut out commercials before burning the DVD, so you can often fit three one-hour dramas or six half-hour sitcoms on one DVD in SP mode.
 

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Yeah, it's getting to the point where we can just say, "Get the Magnavox (latest model number.)"

.

Even the dude who said he didn't need a hard drive got one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Wow, stunning post, CitiBear – thanks! Another question, if I might.
Quote:
When using a DVD/HDD recorder like a Magnavox, you record a movie or set of TV episodes to its HDD first. Since the HDD is an HDD, you can trim unwanted bits like station intros, commercials and so on very quickly and easily after the dub, instead of having to sit there riding the pause button during the dub. You can also select the order you want several shorter recordings to appear on the DVD. When things are arranged as you like, you then engage the high-speed-lossless-dub function which will create a DVD from your HDD project in about 15 mins.
Is the editing-on-the-HDD feature available on all the Magnavox models you mentioned, or just the recent ones?


Regards,

Wayne A. Pflughaupt
 

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It's available on all HDD machines, period. The one question I think CB missed is, +R, or -R? -R is reputed to be more reliably compatible with other players, especially older ones. But, virtually all players still in use should play +R. So, the real question is, which format is your DVDR optimized for? For Pioneers, it is -R. I think it might be +R for the Maggies, since they are descended from Philips, the inventors of +R. Perhaps someone here with a Maggie will tell, or it is doubtless on the info thread.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by kjbawc /forum/post/19566328


It's available on all HDD machines, period. The one question I think CB missed is, +R, or -R? -R is reputed to be more reliably compatible with other players, especially older ones. But, virtually all players still in use should play +R. So, the real question is, which format is your DVDR optimized for? For Pioneers, it is -R. I think it might be +R for the Maggies, since they are descended from Philips, the inventors of +R. Perhaps someone here with a Maggie will tell, or it is doubtless on the info thread.
Info on DVD types, etc.


Anything you put on the HDD is equally editable.
 

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Everything you record to a HDD is available for editing. The one exception to that is that some DVDRs have a "disc backup" function, that allows you to make an exact duplicate of a DVD, by reading the original, and storing it in the HDD, then dubbing it to a blank DVD. This HDD copy cannot be edited.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by CitiBear /forum/post/19562839


The original model H2160 and H2160A have 160GB HDDs and were produced until early this year. They were replaced by the 320 GB MDR513 a few months ago, and that was replaced by the 500GB MDR515 just recently... All three models look the same and have the same features.

Update: The 515 is superior to any of its predecessors, as described here.


It's moved to a new ball park!
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne A. Pflughaupt /forum/post/19566260



Is the editing-on-the-HDD feature available on all the Magnavox models you mentioned, or just the recent ones?

Yes, all of them.


Quote:
Also, would the editing be available for stuff dubbed to the hard drive externally, or just programming from the tuner?

kjbawc already answered "yes", I'm just agreeing with him: anything you record to the HDD from the internal tuner, the line inputs, or the DV/USB camera inputs can be edited.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wajo /forum/post/19566416


Update: The 515 is superior to any of its predecessors, as described here.


It's moved to a new ball park!

Yes, but its also a somewhat pricier ballpark now that we've all grown used to snapping up the older H2160 refurbs for only $159!
. Hopefully the Magnavox refurb gravy train will start flowing again soon for those who are on a tight budget. Mind you, I agree the new 515 is still an excellent value at the current $279 price: if the nameplate said Panasonic, Sony or Pioneer it would cost $499. The two nicest upgrades in the 515 besides its huge HDD are the easier-to-use remote and changing the phrase "Empty Title" to "Empty Space" on DVDs that have leftover capacity. The ability to preset recurring title names for weekly or daily timer recordings is also pretty cool.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by kjbawc /forum/post/19566328


It's available on all HDD machines, period. The one question I think CB missed is, +R, or -R? -R is reputed to be more reliably compatible with other players, especially older ones. But, virtually all players still in use should play +R. So, the real question is, which format is your DVDR optimized for? For Pioneers, it is -R. I think it might be +R for the Maggies, since they are descended from Philips, the inventors of +R. Perhaps someone here with a Maggie will tell, or it is doubtless on the info thread.

I only use -Rs in my Maggies and they work fine.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by CitiBear /forum/post/19562839


The value per dollar of the Magnavox units has far exceeded any other recorder available in the USA market since 2007.

Feature set, interface, and (maybe--I won't argue this one too vigorously) picture quality may be a bit below high-end Panasonics, Pioneers, and Toshibas of 2004-06, but the HUGE price difference (figure 2 or 3 Maggie 515s for the cost of one Pan/Pio/Tosh) makes the Magnavox a way better value for money.


Don't need no stinkin' HDD? Last night I was dubbing some priceless VHS content to my Pio 450's HDD. I wanted to max out the disc and not leave many unused megs. I oops'd and set the data rate a smidge too high to allow all 3 programs to fit. I saw that even before I burned the disc and juste went back and re-recorded about 30 minutes of the least important content at a lower data rate (still higher than SP, though). Then I burned it all to a DVD-R.


Imagine recording and hour and three-quarters to a DVD-R in real time, only to run out of disc space at the very end.



As soon as HDD DVD recorders came out, I said "that's what I want!!"
 

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Yeah, the harddriveless units can work under the right circumstances, but they give you NO margin of error. I think that's something the people who insist they don't need a hard drive overlook, or have trouble conceptualizing.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulpa /forum/post/19569241


Yeah, the harddriveless units can work under the right circumstances, but they give you NO margin of error. I think that's something the people who insist they don't need a hard drive overlook, or have trouble conceptualizing.

The value or need of a HDD, just like a tuner, all depends on the workflow. I'm sure your comment is in reference to the Loobster thread. In his case he does not need an HDD because his intended use of the DVDR is as a transport to convey the recording from his DVR to his PC as quickly as possible. Recording to HDD is just an unnecessary step. With his particular workflow, RAM capability would have been far more valuable than a HDD. Actually, with his workflow he really doesn't need a DVDR at all -- assuming he can co-locate the DVR and his PC, a video capture device for his PC like the Hauppauge USB-Live-2 would have been the best solution.
 

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He was the most recent, but not the only one. While a HDD isn't absolutely necessary, the Magnavox is the best choice (for a recorder) for other reasons as well, and doesn't really cost much more.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson /forum/post/19569651


The value or need of a HDD, just like a tuner, all depends on the workflow.

Only if a PC is the immediate next destination, and you're a fanatic who would never even think of keeping the disc made by the recorder as your library copy. The number of such hard-core hobbyists has dwindled considerably since their heyday a few years ago, the majority of those who want complex PC disc authoring today have returned to direct all-PC solutions. For 9 out of 10 people who come here asking the vague "whats the best recorder" question, the slam-dunk answer is a Magnavox with HDD, if only because all the other choices have disappeared. The old Panasonic, Toshiba, Sony and Pioneer models had advantages over the Magnavox, but at a significantly higher pricetag, and in any case they're gone from the marketplace aside from a couple grey-market imports.


Of course, cost is a consideration: aside from being a very decent reliable recorder with HDD, the Magnavox has been available for a very long time at ridiculous lowball pricing ($159 refurb, $229 new). At those historic price ranges, it made no sense for the average consumer to spend as much or more for a Panasonic EZ-28 with no hard drive. Most people use their recorders for simple timeshifting 80% of the time, for that task a HDD blows DVD-RAM or DVD-RW into the weeds. Eraseable DVDs are a kludge, best avoided unless you have a specific need to shuttle recordings between devices and do it often enough that using DVD-Rs would be massively wasteful. When you have an HDD in your recorder, you never bother with a DVD until you want to keep something permanently, plus you get all the editing conveniences and extend the useful life of the burner.


With the "bargain" Magnavoxes out of stock right now, only the newest MDR515 remains available at a higher $279 pricetag. That is disappointing, but for the extra $80 over the cost of a Panasonic EA-18 or EZ-28 you still get much more flexibility (the HDD is easily worth $80). Its not like theres a lot of choices here: most brands today have serious usability issues that make recording difficult or impossible. The last of the "known-good", vetted, heavily-documented models are the Magnavoxes and the Panasonics. The EA-18 has no tuner and is inexplicably popular with the "I don't need no stinkin HDD" folks, the EZ-28 is the same machine with a tuner and a couple extra features. These two Panasonics are excellent units within their limitations, but you need to carefully consider if you think its such a great idea to pay for those limitations.


Its very easy to assume, "I don't need a tuner, I don't need a HDD, I just want to make quick n dirty DVD dubs from my cable PVR or dump the recordings into my PC". But circumstances change: over the three years lifespan of the recorder you might drop your cable for budget reasons and need a tuner after all, and no cable PVR means no HDD convenience unless you have one built into your DVD recorder. If you're going to spend a minimum $170 on a recorder, the extra for a Magnavox will be well spent as future-proofing. The key advantage of the Panasonics is DVD-RAM, for those who really do only need the recorder as a slushbox to feed their PC. But that advantage must be weighed against limited recording time at the better quality speeds, limited compatibility of DVD-RAM, and a tendency for the burners to get dirty/jammed requiring periodic disassembly. If you're hard-core, you know all this and are prepared to deal with it, but if you're Joe Consumer, get a Magnavox. Wait a few weeks and see if Wal*Mart drops the price $40 like they did when the previous model debuted a few months ago.


Or, do what most people do who come here with questions: totally ignore what we've said, and buy the cheapest DVD/VHS combo recorder you can find at your local chain store. A surprising number of buyers don't use them for anything but playing NetFlix rentals, if you rarely record anything then a recorder that often fails to record won't bother you much.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by CitiBear /forum/post/19571025


Only if a PC is the immediate next destination,

Well, like yeah. That specific workflow was kind of explicit in the rest of my post you quoted. As to the rest of your post, you seem to be pontificating against straw-dog points I never made in that post.

Quote:
The key advantage of the Panasonics is DVD-RAM, for those who really do only need the recorder as a slushbox to feed their PC.

Well you almost got that one right. I'm not sure what you mean by "slushbox" but I am sure it's meant to be dismissive of the point. But the point still stands, for people who just want to use the recorder as a "transport" between DVR and PC, a HDD is irrelevant and RAM capability would be far more valuable.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson
But the point still stands, for people who just want to use the recorder as a "transport" between DVR and PC, a HDD is irrelevant and RAM capability would be far more valuable.
I submit that the point is clearly not true. If you don't have a HDD, what do you do when the program exceeds the DVD's capacity?
 

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The best of both worlds would be DVD-RAM capability and an onboard hard drive for maximum flexibility. Unfortunately, that was only on Panasonics and Pioneers (any others?) that are now out of production.
 
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