[Hamble] boat DVD + DVBT Recorders

A short review

Initially we decided to buy a Goodmans GDVDR305DVBT because this offered exactly what we wanted: to be able to record from Freeview DVBT onto removable media..
We then wanted to be able then to take the DVDs to one of the other two DVD players and three PCs with DVD-ROM drives in them which we have in the house. This is instead of the hard-disk PVR which is pretty useless without a 100 base T Ethernet socket so we could at least stream the video around the house network. Ok.. we have 802.11g wireless but not many (zero)  WiFi equipped TV sets.
We gave up on watching soaps after they canned the laughably bad El Dorado, so we dont need to record hours of episodes on a HDD every week. If we miss something good it will probably be repeated in the end ...

Both of the DVD recorder  units were not purchased at the cheapest Internet price possible but instead at mainstream retailers in Southampton . Unfortunately, this turned out to be a good thing.

Goodmans GDVDR305DVBT.

This unit exactly met our requirements of cost and basic functionality.
The Goodmans machine cost £149 and we took it home and set it up without too much trouble. We knew what we were getting was a Freeview box attached to a DVD recorder with fairly simple integration. What we found was a very complex multi-modal interface with long delays when selections were made. Part of that is due to its use of DVD+R or +RW media which require some additional preparation of the media and finalisation of the media when recordings are finished. As a DVB-T tuner, the box was certainly a lot quicker than our old On/ITV Digital IDTV which takes up to 20 seconds to change channel to the BBC multiplex.

The user manual had lots of screen shots but not many words. Sometimes it was a bit like someone got bored after doing the fun bits. Some features were hard to locate using the manual but eventually we got the logic, although we often ended up having heated discussions about what to do to get the root menu of a DVD back once we had cancelled it, and gone back to Freeview. Sometimes I think the unit was already failing..

Timer edit bug

The Goodmans recorder has 7 day EPG with easy selection of recording from the EPG. It also has a bug in its timer list display which only allows you to delete the first timer entry rather than edit or delete it. If there is only one timer entry then you can edit it by selecting the second empty timer slot and then the edit option gives you the first and only timer setting. If there is more than one timer entry then one ends up editing the second timer slot as expected.

Recordings made at first were playable with ease on other DVD players that supporter +RW reading (one Compaq 711 laptop cant cope). MPEG artifacts were more visible even with highest quality 1 hour recording along with a shimmering background interference probably caused by Digital-> analog -> Digital processing.
Recordings from Hi-8 S-Video were as good as the original. One could scale DVD playback to zoom in on eg film credits.

The Goodmans box has no fan. In use it was placed in a media shelving unit with a glass front door and an open back. The case did not get hot but we noticed the first unit showing signs of difficulty after a week. Eventually it wrote coasters and then it wouldnt load a prerecorded disk.

So we changed it for another one . A week later after playing all three LOTR theatrical edition DVDS on succesive evenings  this one went wrong as well in the same way as I tried to load LOTR extended edition ... and I noticed a gust of hot air from the front slot as I lifted it up and opened the tray to remove the disc. The store manager said that he had sold over 10 of the units and I was the only person to return two units.  I got my money back with no problem and went on the hunt for something similar. A pity, I had come to like the Goodmans unit but I was getting bored with losing sailing days to DVD recorder returns.

Score 8/10 functionality : 7/10 picture quality : 1/10 reliabilty   short lifetime (180 hours) in our experience.

Panasonic DMRES20D

This is a DVD-RAM based unit with other DVD recording formats supported . It cost £250.  When I plugged it in it set itself up completely and correctly.  It can record at 4 different quality levels, being 1hr, 2hrs 4hrs or 8hrs on a 4.7 GB disk..
The top feature of this recorder is the PVR functionality it brings with a DVD-RAM in the drive. It can play and record simultaneously from different titles on the currently inserted DVD-RAM disk. In this mode it is like a HDD PVR but with the advantage that a DVD-RAM of 'adult' content can be removed from the machine and be kept away from children. The downside compared with a unit combining DVD and HDD functions in the same box is that you cant watch a pre-recorded DVD and record a TV program at the same time . For that we still have the VHS recorder wired to be able to record the output of the TV set.

There is a non-DVBT version, the DMRES10D. We nearly bought that but then we remembered we wanted to record DVBT when the analogue switchoff happens.

The user manual could do with some English refinement . One place it says 'press this button to do this item later'. I pressed the button 5 minutes later but actually they meant 'press this button to cancel'.  Again a two box in one box approach. e.g. DVD subtitles are accessed via a DVD  DISPLAY sub-menu, while DVB subtitles have their own  SUBTTL remote control key. There are others.
I was also confused by the two standby modes : Timer standby and Tuner standby. You need to put the unit in Timer standby to make timer recordings.
The Goodmans is more logical in that there is only one standby mode that is exited either by a timer event or a user activation request.
[December 2006] We discovered that once you have put the unit into timer standby, immediately (or later) pressing the Navigate key on the remote will return you to a list of recordings that have been made. You can then start playing any of the recordings on the disc, but can make no edits. The timed recordings will then take place when scheduled while you can continue watching either the already recorded media or time-shifting the active recording.

The DMRES20D has both analogue (with NICAM sound) and digital TV reception capability - so we could still record Southampton's analogue  SixTV if we ever needed to .... To help us record it has 7 day EPG on digital and Videoplus / PDC on analogue channels/
The EPG on the Goodmans also gave a short summary of  the program content  within the EPG ,  the Panasonic only gave a summary on the Now and Next view when watching or selecting a channel.

The timer is 10 event. No repeats are allowed, but PDC (analogue) or subtitle (digital) operation as well as recording formats  can be programmed. An additional recording format is available which gives the best quality recording for the amount of time available on the disk. Track titles are based on the program name but can be edited before recordings are made.

It can also record on DVD-R /-RW  formats and can play all formats of DVD video we are likely to encounter. It  is extremely focussed on DVD-RAM and in this mode it acts just like a Hard Disk PVR with a simultaneous record and playback facility of different sections of the DVD-RAM. Downside is that it is the only unit that can play DVD-RAM in our house at present.

This unit will go to record a currently selected channel to DVD-RAM in under one second and come up with the EPG in one second. A lot snappier than the Goodmans.

The DVD-RAM media can be used with or without  a caddy.  Having a caddy could be a good idea as the DVD-RAM disks get the most handling.

I have now tried the unit making DVD-RW disks and then finalising them (you cant trim tracks on DVD-RW , only delete them but you can fully edit them on DVD-RAM, making chapters and chopping off the ends is possible).

When I tried a disk recorded at the highest 1hr/disk quality it would play on a PC. If  I copied the VOB files from the DVD , renamed them to .mpg and dropped them into Pinnacle Studio they stopped after 5 seconds of playing. The PC couldnt work out how long the files were, and only recognised a few seconds of video at the beginning of a track. I tried using  several other media players and they couldnt play the file as MPEG2. These are for non-copyright files recorded from my camcorder.

The Video-DVD-RW created by the Panasonic can be read in a Philips 32x DVD/CDROM combo but not in a Benq DW1620 Dual layer DVD writer (claims drive is empty). It can be read in a Philips Freeline X20L DVD writer but not in the older Presario 711ES DVDROM drive.  It plays in other DVD players around the house.

The Panasonic also has a thermostatic cooling fan. It hasnt come on yet. You cant hear it running , its a lot quieter than the Goodmans.

Score 8/10 functionality  : 10/10 picture quality : 9/10 reliability (Still going after one month: havent owned it as long as the Goodmans !

December 2006 : PC compatibility at last

I have an old Packard Bell Easy One laptop which ended up inheriting a laptop combo drive resulting from a failed attempt to change a dodgy DVDROM drive in a Compaq 711 (the BIOS refuses any but the original drive type). This Panasonic drive plays DVD-RAM. Problem is a 500MHz K6 processor manages about 4FPS playing a DVD.
I found that re-using some bundled software from a now defunct LG combo drive I managed to read the DVD-RAM on the Packard Bell.
 I have subsequently purchased an Acer 5103WLMi laptop from Tescos when all I went to buy was some Christmas cards and some cooking oil for Christmas dinner. 
This has a "super multi-DVD dual layer" writer which happens also to read and write DVD-RAM. It comes with bundled DVD authoring and playback software that is reduced in functionality. In the as-delivered state the Cyberling PowerDVD player can play the DVD-RAM video and audio, but you cannot edit the video properly with the bundled semi-functional Cyberlink PowerProducer, as the Panasonic seems to use DTS audio by default. Once I paid Cyberlink £20 for an upgrade to Cyberlink PowerProducer 4 which included DTS audio (and in fact recording an audio track of any sort to the AV on the  DVD-RAM)  I was able to edit the DVD-RAMs made by the Panasonic and extract and insert video clips via the PC.  
Finally I can record videos from camcorder tapes using the Panasonic DVD recorder then assemble and edit them on the PC.

Page © Mike James 17th Oct, 12th Nov 2005, 29th Dec 2006
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