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Good results, but a few irritations
on 9 July 2010
I bought this to replace a Sony recorder which had no Freeview, and because a recently bought Panasonic TV seemed to have much better reception in our marginal area than the (very expensive) Sony set-top box.
It's grindingly slow in pretty much everything it does, but it produces much better pictures than the (5+ years old) Sony. If you record in highest quality to the hard drive, when you copy to your DVD, if it doesn't fit, instead of choosing an arbtirary recording mode (SP 2 hours, LP 3 hours etc) it compresses your files just enough to fit exactly onto the disc ("flexible recording") so you always get the best possible pictures. The algorithms are much improved too: I squeezed the whole of "Reds", a film lasting well over 3 hours, on to a single DVD-R and there wasn't a trace of mpeg2 artifact.
Reception a definite improvement on the old STB.
Pause live TV excellent.
There are a few personal irritations most of which are pretty trivial and relate to the software.
Slow reaction to every button press I have already mentioned, advertising panel on program guide noted by others.
No intelligent chaptering! Hasn't this been standard for ages?
Be careful with weekly timer recordings - it can't cope with these unless they start at the same time each week.
Listing recordings on the hard drive: poor selection of information. Tells you to the nearest minute when each recording was made, and even the day of the week, but no duration or size of the file. (Actually, I don't think the word "Gigbytes" apprears in any menu or display).
Every time you make the list or return to the listing screen after doing something, it insists on playing the currently selected recording in a little window, including sound, from the beginning. In an unedited recording this is usually a bit of banal dialogue from a BBC employee and becomes excruciatingly irritating when heard for the 20th time. (If it won't let you switch this off, at least put a TV mute button on the remote!)
Editing: I spend quite a lot of time removing adverts and think I will grow to like the available buttons (which include chapter +/-5mins; buttons for +1min and -10 secs; "joystick" for frame-by-frame) but remote design could be improved: the buttons are all different sizes and arbitrarily placed. When doing a repetitive job like this you don't want to have to keep looking at your fingers.
Can't do anything else when copying. I don't know if it would be possible to release the freeview tuner just by revising the software.
If you set the machine to switch itself off after copying, it will crash, and you will have to disconnect the power and reboot. As a matter of fact it has minor crashes from time to time which together with the slow response times (and a few other trivial irritations and malfunctions which I can't remember) suggests that the software is pretty ropey, possibly because it's new. No software updates yet, but when these arrive they should make this fine machine even better.
(March 2011) 9 months on and no sign that the creaky software has been updated. It has now several times failed to produce a proper DVD - the disk has no chapters and is not and cannot be finalised so can't be used in any other machine and is to all intents useless. (If this happens to you, you must switch the machine on and off at the mains or it will just do it again.)
I suspect the Sony equivalent might be better.