~ Overview ~
As I am a massive film and TV lover I had to buy myself a DVD recorder which would do an all-round job of recording movies and TV shows which I enjoy on a regular basis.
~ Price ~
This little recorder will set you back around £240 including deliver (tends to be around £10 if you order online which I did). I bought my DVD Recorder from Amazon for £237.
~ Strengths & Weaknesses ~
This little beauty has lots of features to delight any technology enthusiast. After using the recorder (using the manual of course) I found it quite easy to navigate around the menus and settings screens and changing the configuration to what I needed was quite easy.
It is very stylish and looks fabulous on a decent TV stand. I can also confirm that so far it has no reliability issues and has not blown up on me yet but you wouldn't expect that from a Sony product.
~ Specifications ~
It comes with a 160GB hard disk which can store a massive amount of data (programs/films) and supports all types of media and also all types of recordable DVD's and CD's. The recorder also supports HDMI up to 1080p and also comes with an integrated freeview tuner to link into digital TV which is essential to record digital TV.
Dimensions of the recorder box: Depth: 286mm Width: 430mm Height: 76.5mm.
It also only comes with one DVD/CD drive but does support firewire and USB hardware to play your media on.
~ Summary ~
- Price: £230
- Cannot be found under any cash back websites
- Supports most recordable DVD's/CD's
- Supports DivX, JPEG, MP3 and USB interface
- One year warranty included
- Supports SCART and S-Video
~ Conclusion ~
This is a fabulous product and for the price it is a true bargain as it does everything you need it to do and more. You get a remote too which I have also had no problems with to date. The black colour makes it look quite stylish and snazzy which looks nice to the average human eye. If you want to impress your mates then this is the device to do it with as it can record vasts amount of data and also back it up for you at the same time.
I tend to use this to record football or even to record programs for my wife (all that rubbish stuff like home and away or those programs that improve people's appearances, all very boring to me). My wife has no problems using this, and she has problems using the toaster! A great product and would recommend to anyone looking to buy a DVD recorder.
My Rating: 5/5
© Jazzy09 ©
This device from Sony serves a number of very useful purposes:
1. It can act as a digital or analogue tuner
2. It can act as a DVD player (with HDMI up-scaling)
3. It can act as a digital recorder
4. It can act as a DVD recorder
I bought this for the primary purpose of recording digital TV, burning it to DVD, and sending it to my girlfriend who is currently without a digital tuner. At this task it excels.
My existing HD-Ready TV already has a digital tuner, so I don't use the RDR-HXD870 to watch TV live. Although the tuner is excellent, the on screen display isn't as fluid as the one on my TV, so it's not as comfortable for just watching TV.
I also have a perfectly fine DVD player, so I tend not to use this machine for watching DVDs. Mainly, this is because I have not managed to connect this device to my surround sound system - but this is a failing of my speaker system, not the HXD870, which has all the outputs you could need.
The capacity of this recorder is excellent. Part of the digital signal in the UK includes "series" information, allowing you to set the recorder to automatically record all episodes of a particular TV series. I use this extensively, and have never missed a show - even a rescheduled one, or a one-off double episode.
An excellent feature is the ability to watch one show off the hard drive while another is recording - or even start a show while it is still being recorded. Great when you get home 20 minutes late - you can start playing from the beginning without waiting for the end of the program.
Note that you can't watch one digital channel through this device while recording another. You can of course watch one digital channel on your digital TV while recording a different one on this device.
Copying to DVD is very fast, and the produced disks are of excellent quality and play in any DVD player or PC.
The manual is a bit complex to read, but the on screen display is fairly intuitive and easy to use. Recording programs is as simple as finding them on the guide and pressing one or two buttons.
The device supports BRAVIA Theatre Sync, which is supposed to allow one-button startup of TV and media device; however, I don't have a Bravia television to test this with.
Setting up for the first time is complex - best get your 15 year old nephew to give you a hand if you're not familiar with your AV equipment!
This is a great recorder if you already have Freeview with your Tv or a set top box. That will make it possible to watch a Freeview channel on your Tv while recording a different Freeview channel on the DVD. The fact that it's a dual tuner doesn't make it possible to do both with the DVD recorder alone and you can only record one channel at a time, so really the whole dual tuner aspect is pointless. However if you're not bothered about that, it's a good way of receiving Freeview.
On the upside, it's even better than just having a set top box alone, because with a set top box you can only record whatever channel is set on your Freeview, and then it won't record a different channel until you reset it. This one will switch Freeview channels so you can set it up to record several programs one after another on different channels. It also has HD upscaling which cleans up the Freeview signal, getting rid of the drag or pixilation you sometimes see on an LCD screen. You'll need a tv with a HD socket and you'll need a HD cable. I suggest getting a good quality cable as it makes a difference to result you will get. I can see a definite difference between watching the Tv Freeview and the DVD Freeview, so tend to mostly watch through the DVD.
As a gadget it's marvellous. You can chase play, which means you can set it to record, and then start watching the program you're recording a few minutes later. You can watch something you've saved to hard drive or watch a dvd, at the same time as recording something else. You can set it to record a tv series and it will pick up everything a week ahead. It has a range of quality options, and the high quality is really good, but be warned if you use HQ to record a one hour program it will use up two hours of memory.
Another useful aspect is you can seperate your store of titles into genres, or input your own name to store your favourite programs under. Very useful when your store of titles is running into the dozens.
There's a comprehensive instruction manual that to be honest I haven't used much. It tends to be easier sometimes just to press buttons and see what happens, and as it's a very user-friendly system it's fairly clear just by looking at what's onscreen.
This is a great recorder that's still doing well after eight months, with no problems. I would say the best set up is the one I've got, with an LCD tv with inbuilt Freeview and also my old video recorder, which makes it possible to record two Freeview channels at the same time.
I have read through Nibelung's review of this Sony machine and he does make some valid points about it. I also own this DVD recorder/hard drive/freeview tuner and I have to say that it is an absolutely superb piece of kit. I do have to state that I am running it through a HDTV that displays at 1080p and the freeview signal is very crisp and clear.
Initial set up is very straightforward and quick to do, again as Nibelug states the A5 manual is 150+ pages and lets be honest most people will not read it. I must admit I did not read it all but after a setting it up I have refered to it on several occasions when I have needed to (which I think everyone does when they buy a new appliance).
Performance wise this is up to Sony's usual high standards and works extrememly well. It is easy to record to the built in hard drive, in fact its so easy my 5 year old son can do it. It is then possible to record the saved programmes to DVD. I have done this regularly and never encountered any problems. I have also recorded DVD's on this machine from other sources, ie Sky+ and even all my old video collection which was easily achieved by just connecting an old VCR and away you go!
Recorded DVD quality is excellent (allowance being made for the quality of the recorded matter) obviously a recording from an old VHS tape is never going to be 1st class.
Overall if you want a top class DVD/Hard Drive then this is very highly rated and I do not think you will be disappointed.
Like it or not, Freeview TV is coming - that's the over-the-air digital TV that bit by bit will see off analogue TV, and in fact the process has started, with the whole country slated to be 'cut over' by 2012.
Just being able to watch it, assuming you can (I'm conveniently forgetting any aerial upgrades that may be needed), merely
requires either a set-top box or a TV with the digital tuner built in.
Try recording it though and your options get slimmer.
You can either buy a set-top box that also contains a hard disk drive and two tuners, (aka Personal Video Recorder or PVR), or buy a machine like the Sony RDR-HXD870 which can not only receive Freeview, but record to a hard drive, and thence to a built-in DVD recorder if the need to archive anything should crop up. This also means that it doubles as a DVD and CD player.
So a 'no-brainer' contest there, you might think - the Sony wins hands down as it does everything I could currently wish for.
Well yes and no really.
Yes, it's got some means to make permanent DVDs of TV programmes, so, unlike a PVR, you won't have to delete recordings for ever once the hard disk is full, but NO, it won't let you record one channel and watch another since it only has one digital tuner.
Sony's own advertising tells of 'dual tuners' which struck me as an odd phrase when PVR makers usually boast of 'twin tuners'. There's a reason for this ambivalence - it has ONE digital and ONE analogue tuner, the latter of which will have the same purpose in life as a chocolate tea-pot come 2012, at least in Britain it will, but this unit, which is made in Hungary is made for use in several European countries, some of which will retain analog cable and set top boxes like Canal+.
Unfortunately, it seems on reading the reviews on Amazon.co.uk that not many people realised this, using such phrases as 'unfit for purpose' or 'they lied'.
Incidentally, those that DID know what they were buying are largely pleased with it, as am I.
To save you the trouble, you will NOT find any Freeview twin-tuner boxes WITH a DVD recorder built in, but it seems to me that like any other nascent technology, the makers are loath to put it all out there on the market at first attempt, for fear of making a really good one with nothing to upgrade to.
Me, I'm not too worried. After all, I've not only already got an integrated digital TV, but also a Topfield 5800 twin-tuner PVR, which should be enough tuners for any techno-glutton, but the means to archive programmes simply to DVD still eludes me. Even with a twin tuner PVR under my belt, I still find recording clashes since I've found it's always prudent to 'pad out' a recording by three minutes at the end. This then leads to what were merely going to be back-to-back recordings to start using two tuners as for 3 minutes, they are running in parallel.
The fun starts when you don't want to watch either of what's being recorded.
WHY THIS ONE?
This was always going to be a two-horse race between the Sony and the equivalent Panasonic, also an excellent machine. However, the Panasonic required to be fully powered up to watch any set-top boxes or PVRs that might be 'plugged through' it to the TV, whereas the Sony only required being on stand-by. As I'll be doing a lot of this, the Sony emerged as the overall winner. A further feather in the Sony's cap, through being a newer model and therefore closer to the latest Freeview parameters, is that the timer can be set to monitor a series of episodes and cancel the reservation once they finish.
Good job I downloaded both manuals as PDF files, otherwise, I could have been caught out on the toss of a coin.
Both machines are only a tad over £200 if you shop around, and with more or less the same features all bar the last two. It also helped that my DVD player is now on the blink, and I'd just received an unexpected windfall in the form of a small inheritance.
Combine this with the fact that I haven't bought a decent gadget for months, and the fate of £209 including free delivery from Amazon.co.uk was sealed!
OUT OF THE BOX - IT'S SPAGHETTI TIME!
Setting up is much like you would for a VCR (only "on STERoids" as Clarkson would have it).
Your aerial cable should be diverted here first and extended on to the TV. If you think you'll ever have a use for the analogue tuner between here and 2012, you can also 'daisy-chain' this into the process with more short aerial cables.
Outputs are a slightly more dazzling array than the humble VCR could ever boast. You've got a coaxial digital link to feed a home cinema decoder, so that 5-channel sound can be heard when playing a shop-bought DVD - it works for TV recordings and audio CDs too but only in stereo. This was a nuisance, because I had to go out and buy a coaxial lead, its predecessor having been a fibre-optic one.
As well as the now-familiar SCART* leads, you have separate S-Video connections and three individual phono sockets feeding 'Red-Green-Blue' to any monitor capable of 'component input'. Basically, you pick the best that your TV can stand and use that.
*(Syndicat des Constructeurs d'Appareils Radiorécepteurs et Téléviseurs - so now you know)
Notably, this box has sprouted something else - an HDMI output, this being the 'latest thing' feeding a digital sound and vision signal straight to any TV willing to talk to it, the idea being that this enhances picture quality by cutting down on losses in analogue conversion. The Sony also does something called 'up-scaling' to partly take advantage of so-called 'HD-Ready' TVs, although you can't make an HD picture out of something that isn't HD already. However, there is a visible improvement I'm told. A new HD TV isn't a step I've taken (yet) but when I do, I'll make sure that it can resolve 1080 lines with progressive scan. All I know at present is that 1080p is better than 1080i, and the Sony talks to the former. Note: Even when (or if) Freeview gets real Hi-Definition transmissions, this box will NOT be ready for them.
GETTING TO GRIPS - The Bad News
Wait for it - the instruction manual has 172 (!) A5 pages, all in English, before anyone asks.
GETTING TO GRIPS - The Good News
Fortunately, getting started doesn't require a working knowledge of the whole tome - just the bits on how to connect it, tune it and set up TV recordings. You can always grow into the other bits, like finding out how you play them back, or copying and editing camcorder tapes later.
To a certain extent, the size of the book reflects the sheer amount of everything that you can do with this machine - not only is it also a DVD movie and CD-Audio player, but it can also be used as a juke box for up to 99 albums-worth of CDs, and can store jpegs for later use as slide shows. It can handle DivX format movie files through its front USB port or on disk, and can 'suck' pictures straight from a USB-compatible digital camera.
Of course, if you start on these mini-projects in earnest you'll wish you'd bought a version with a bigger hard drive than the 160 gigabytes supplied in this one. There are 4 machines in this series, all basically the same except for disk size, the 770, 870 (mine), 970 an 1070. The B or S suffix merely tells you whether it's a black or silver one. As for myself, this isn't my only hard-disk recorder so I was more swayed by price.
Setting up was easy - almost 'plug and play' really. All I had to do was confirm which country I was in and then let it loose finding digital channels. You CAN also get it to find analogue channels but unless it's to let you get both S4C AND Channel 4, I can't really see much point, unless you've bought it now in a region where Freeview can't be supplied until the analogue switch-off - at least you can pause live TV, record and make DVDs of analogue programmes in the mean time.
From my location, 15 miles from Crystal Palace, my digital reception is excellent and the picture from the digital tuner is vice free even in bad weather and with jumbo jets flying through my line of sight with the mast. If you have a problem, the setup menu lets you monitor signal strength and quality.
The set-up menu is, how can I put it, a trifle 'busy', especially if like me, you're routing something else through it and onwards to the TV, but it all comes right in the end. I've now got both the SCART-IN and SCART-OUT sockets set to RedGreenBlue to make maximum advantage of not only my PVR, but also this machine and the TV.
SETTING UP A RECORDING
Easy - press Guide, and up comes the electronic programme guide (EPG). Pick the programmes by scrolling down and across the listings. Each one that's selected takes you through to another screen where you can either just press OK again or make adjustments. The only one I'd bother with is to check the 'Series Link' box if it's available, thereby ensuring that any further episodes are catered for. Unlike the 'Every Week' option in previous PVRs and set top boxes, this one cancels itself once the series ends. This is a new feature to Freeview although not to Sky and it narrows the gap between terrestrial PVRs and the Sky+ box. You can also set the machine to 'EPG Link' which ensures that the latest timings are used shortly before the next recording.
Recording quality is user-selectable although the default of 'SP' - standard play, yielding 70 hours of recording seems fine. I've also set the machine to lessen the quality automatically as the disk fills, which in past experience it won't.
Even easier - press the Title List button and you're presented with a list of either the last four or last eight recordings, which be scrolled down further. The four-title option is great since it shows four thumbnail movie screens, one for each programme, and plays short snatches of them from strategic points in the programme to help you confirm your selection. Like most things 'digital', the playback is indistinguishable from the original; well at standard record quality it is. Some of the more 'economic' quality settings start to get a bit grainy. I'd say that if you've any inkling to archive programmes to DVD you shouldn't venture below standard quality. In any case, you've still got 70 hours of capacity before you have to start getting rids of titles.
OTHER STUFF WOT I DUN
Since my other PVR routes through this box, I can also copy over recordings from the former's hard drive to the latter's. "Why?" I hear you ask. So I can edit out the adverts and other undesirables, and then commit it (and maybe several other episodes) to DVD, that's why.
I've plugged my digital camera in and copied over 286 jpeg files, and then run a slide show. There doesn't seem any way to rotate certain photos through 90 degrees, so make sure they are all landscapes!
I've created a back up of certain recorded programmes onto a DVD-R, the end result having equal quality to the original.
I've played and copied a CD to hard drive. Annoyingly, this does NOT 'rip' the files into mp3 format, so an 80 minute CD can use about 1/200th of my disk space just for the privilege of laying my hands on its tracks quickly. You can of course download whole CD-ROMs of mp3 files, and at least this way, the track names aid navigation unlike 'track 1 of disk 1' as you'd get with a real copy of a CD.
I've transferred mp3 files from my Zen to the Sony via the USB lead.
I can't yet dub from my camcorder - stuck at first base by having the right kind of kit but the wrong lead!
This machine accepts all manner of recorded video media, including the popular DivX format.
The actual recording media list has now been tweaked to accept 'dual layer' DVD+ and DVD-R disks, and their rewritable equivalents.
Even the rare DVD-RAM can be played back but not recorded.
Those in possession of some other decoder box (mainly in places where Canal Plus is available) can use a different EPG called Guide+ to programme the other box's recordings to the Sony's hard drive. They give you an infra-red adapter which you place strategically over the decoder's front panel, so that starting it, selecting its channel and stopping it can be done by the Sony coinciding with its setting its own hard drive to record from the SCART lead (i.e what's on the decoder).
It's at times like this you realise why it needs a 172-page manual!
As with most other hard-drive solutions for Freeview, you can 'Pause Live TV'. You can also watch a previous recording whilst recording something else - you just can't watch something else live, that's all.
LIMITATIONS & OTHER FRUSTRATIONS
Most notably there's that 'single tuner' thing. Under no circumstances should anyone with only an analogue TV regard this as their introduction to Freeview, without perhaps buying another (cheap) set top box too.
Despite the HDMI output, it's not HD and never will be. There are faint whisperings that this MAY be on its way via Freeview, but if you waited for what's just round the corner every time, you'd still be listening to London 2LO through a crystal set.
Out of the box, it's a Region 2 DVD player only, but I'm working on it! (There is a very complicated key sequence that you can try to input, or you can rent a special remote for £20, but I'd be loath to do this whilst it's under warranty)
If you've a poor Freeview reception, don't expect this to cure it - Sony digital tuners have a good reputation, but they can't work miracles; sort your aerial out first before committing to spending 200 smackers.
It's a trifle noisier than I'm used to - maybe nowhere near as much as a desk-top PC but comparisons to my Topfield PVR show it up a bit. It's not helped by the fact that hard drive noise is added to by that of a cooling fan.
It has no slot for a subscription card, so TopUpTV et al can go whistle. Maybe this should be filed under 'Advantages'.
172 pages of instructions - need I say more?
BRIEF SUMMARY OF SPECIFICATION
1 Freeview tuner, one analogue tuner
160 gigabyte hard drive (approx 70 hours at Standard, but up to 455 hours are possible if you don't mind looking at grainy pictures!).
DVD Recorder/Region 2 Player, accepts DVD- and +R disks including dual layered.
Front panel has connections for USB devices (Jpeg files on a stick, mp3 players), iLink camcorders, and Pictbridge printers. A third AV (line 3) connection can be used for analogue connections (from a non-iLink camcorder or VCR maybe).
Rear connections include a SCART-IN, a SCART-OUT, S-Video socket, stereo phono plugs, an HDMI socket, two aerial-in and two aerial-out sockets, separate red green and blue phono sockets for progressive scan TV output and a coaxial digital output for both Dolby Digital and DTS sound.
Most importantly, it carries the official 'Digital Tick' mark of approval. Pity is doesn't carry an 'analogue cross' too, so they'd have room (given the inclination) to put that second tuner in it
For something that's also going to replace my errant DVD player, what it does sounds good value at £200 (Tescos are asking £249, phnaaaah, phnaaah!)
I can at last make DVDs of not only TV programmes that are worth keeping, but I can dust off my camcorder and edit those bloody MiniDV tapes to DVDs finally!
Who knows, I may start taking it on holiday again? Oh nooooo!!!!
p.s I've given this an excellent rating, but only because I knew the limitations in advance.