Pros: Easy to use, quality product
Cons: Don't forget to finish DVDs to play elsewhere
I received the Sony RDR-VX500 VCR and DVD recorder as a Christmas gift back in 2005. Since then, I have recorded dozens of DVDs both from VHS tapes and from live programming with DirecTV.
This combo is very easy to set up, and the remote very intuitive. The only shortcoming I found is that the unit and the remote have to be in the same mode (i.e. frequency). Last week, I changed the mode by mistake in the remote, and my Logitech universal remote stopped working with the unit. I realized my mistake after downloading the manual and going over the troubleshooting section.
Besides being able to play progressive DVDs, the unit offers both an optical and coaxial digital output for audio. I find this very smart, as not all receivers have room for more than one optical or coaxial connection. My Onkyo, for example, only has one coaxial input, which I use to connect to my computer.
In regards to recording DVDs, one simply puts in a new DVD and the unit automatically formats the in lead and records the program. It gets a little complicated when the program is more than two hours; and the user has to set the recorders quality accordingly, to fit more data. The unit will record more than three hours worth, but the quality drops considerably. One shortcoming at the end of the recording is that the unit doesnt warn you to finish the DVD (write the lead out). If the DVD is not finished, it wont play in other DVD players. Not even a PC is able to recognize the DVD (I use them both, hand in hand, to edit and record videos). You have to remember to go to the menu and select finish.
Someone complained about the poor quality of the VHS player. I disagree that its poor. Most likely, the problem is that either DVDs are so much better, and we have become spoiled; or the medium you are watching TV on is so big (for example, I use an 8 foot screen via a BenQ projector) that anything less than DVD quality will look horrible. Furthermore, VHS tapes loose quality over time, while DVDs can last as much as 100 years without any loss (time will tell). Indeed, I can barely watch regular quality TV on my screen. Its when watching HD signals that it shines beautifully.
Overall, I find this unit very easy to use. The back has a good layout; the front has a three RCA inputs, along with S video for easy connection of portable devices; and it includes a firewire connection for DV cameras. The manual is easy to read, and the remote very functional. Note that you dont need the remote to record a DVD, but you do need it to finish the DVD.
My one bitter complaint about this unit is that the DVD drive is extremely slow to open (i.e. eject). Sometimes, it takes more than a minute or at least it feels like it.
Feel free to contact me with any questions via e-mail.