Product Type: Sony DVD recorders
Newest Review: ... whining away like a small jet engine. A huge disappointment, I'll no longer trust Sony to provide quality equipment everytime.... more
The Sony "Eh?" Station
Member Name: davidbuttery
Date: 12/04/10, updated on 12/04/10 (1494 review reads)
Advantages: Upscaled video looks quite good; 250 GB hard disk
Disadvantages: Missing crucial features, terrible manual, user-unfriendly, unreliable, useless tech support
Don't. Just don't. I know, that was some way short of the minimum word limit, but honestly it's the most important part of the whole review. I have my problems with Sony products in general, in particular their deeply irritating refusal to use non-proprietary memory cards in their cameras, but for the most part the actual product *quality* has been somewhere between quite good and excellent. Not this time, it wasn't. My experience with the RDR-DC205 (henceforth 205 for short, so don't confuse it with a small Peugeot!) didn't last all that long, since it failed well within the first month, but it was more than long enough.
This is a device that includes both a hard disc and a DVD recorder. It only has one TV tuner, so if you want to record one thing while watching another you'll need a TV with an integrated Freeview tuner; not a problem for me, but worth bearing in mind if you use a set-top box. For some strange reason fewer and fewer people seem to want the joint HDD/DVD capability, and so there's not much of a range to choose from these days, but I think they're more use than the HDD-only machines. Well, they are if they work properly... in the case of the 205 that was rather the sticking point. What was left was an admittedly fairly attractive (if nothing special) block of black plastic. I'm sure that you'll like it too, since after all it's only £220 or so from Amazon these days, which seems quite cheap for modern art...
Let's get the good points out of the way first, since it won't take very long. The 250 GB capacity of the HDD is quite generous at this end of the market; a great many cheaper recorders only give you 160 GB at best. Picture quality is perfectly acceptable, too, and it's rather better than that with upscaled stuff, though I only have access to Freeview where digital telly is concerned and so don't expect miracles with off-air TV recordings. You get a choice in the setup as to which TV guide to install: GuidePlus (more details but irritating adverts) or Freeview+ (no adverts but fewer details). The on-screen display looks quite nice, too. Oh, and you can connect an MP3 player to it via a USB port. Er... that's it.
So, if you just want to watch commercial DVDs, then on the face of it you could probably do worse. However, there are so many flaws and irritations that even if yours doesn't break down I can't imagine you thinking that this machine is anything better than "okay, I suppose" for very long. Actually, you'll encounter one of them straight away: the unit takes a staggering amount of time to respond to button presses on the remote. We're talking five seconds or more on some occasions, which is entirely unacceptable and makes you wonder whether it's broken even when it hasn't. The same goes for turning it on and off: at times you start wishing that Microsoft had handled the boot-up, as it would have been quicker!
The worst issue with the 205 (and I use that word in the same way that Windows bugs are "issues") is the truly appalling lack of any usable way to record to a DVD. You can't record *directly* to a disc at all, which is annoying enough in itself but would be bearable were there a good high-speed dubbing provision. Actually, though, there's *no* high-speed dubbing provision. Yes, you read that right: if you want to copy a three-hour film from your HDD to a DVD, it will take you three hours to do it. Oh, and you can't use the recorder - for anything - while you're doing this. I don't understand what Sony were thinking here.
The instruction manual is absolutely appalling. I know that what you're thinking here: that this is par for the course for electronics; but believe me, this one is worse, a real throwback to the 1980s. It's in tiny print, is dreadfully poorly written, has several factual errors (eg a reference to the non-existent high-speed dubbing facility) and is not really any more use than just pressing buttons at random to see what they do. I suppose we should be grateful these days to have a printed manual at all, but frankly a half-decent CD-based version would have blown this booklet out of the water.
A few more examples of problems follow; this is by no means an exhaustive list. If you power down in the middle of a film and resume later, it doesn't keep your place but goes back to the beginning of the disc. (I'll add !!! to that one; it seems *such* a basic feature not to have.) The clock on the front panel is nearly invisible from more than about a foot away. Sometimes TV recordings had horrible judders every few minutes for no apparent reason. If you rearrange the Freeview channel order to suit yourself, it gets put back to the default when you switch off. The controls on the remote are often unintuitive; for example, some buttons you'd think would be toggles aren't. It goes on...
In the end it was almost a relief when the 205 broke down, refusing to say anything on the front panel other than "D01", a message not explained in that feeble manual. I sent an email to Sony support, but their representative was hopeless: he seemed to think that the message was "D001" (ie tuned to digital channel 1, which is BBC1) even though I'd clearly said otherwise. The response gave the impression that I was just a bit of a silly sausage and not reading the manual carefully, when in fact he had not read my description of the fault carefully. At this point the Sony was taken back to the shop and swapped for another machine - of a different make.
In summary, then, this recorder was an immense disappointment. Even if it had actually worked for longer than a week or two, the lack of any way to record to DVD other than by means of 1x dubbing would have brought it a low score; what did Sony think they were playing at when they decided to skimp there? Given all the other irritations, however, there seems absolutely no reason to recommend this product to anybody, except perhaps for use in a training video entitled "How not to do it". As such, one star is generous; this is a disgracefully poor effort from such a major manufacturer.
Summary: Avoid this one at all costs
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