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Sony and DVD+RW are the way to go
on August 13, 2004
I had the Sony RDR-GX300 DVD recorder set up in less than half an hour. The remote control is fairly user-friendly, but there is one aspect that is not mentioned in the user manual. There is a panel at the bottom of the remote control which you must slide towards you to reveal the buttons for recording. Most user manuals for electronic products are disorganized and this is no exception. The DVD recorder itself is excellent. I purchased a Philips DVDR985A DVD recorder last year which has a few features that the Sony RDR-GX300 doesn't have. However, the RDR-GX300 is the best choice especially since all Philips DVD recorder suffer from DISC ERROR and DISC WARNING problems no matter which brand of blank DVD media is used. I use Verbatim DataLife Plus DVD+RW blank media with both the Sony and the Philips, and I've had no problems with the Sony RDR-GX300. Here are the pros and cons of this unit:
The RDR-GX300 can record on all four DVD formats: DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-R, DVD+RW. I use DVD+RW because it is the most versatile and doesn't require finalization which takes several minutes on the other formats. Also, rewritable disks can be rewritten about 1,000 times.
Recording modes on the Sony RDR-GX300:
HQ = 1 hour
HSP = 1.5 hours
SP = 2 hours
LP = 3 hours
EP = 4 hours
SLP = 6 hours
The extended modes do not display much pixellation compared to the Philips DVDR985A. Sony's video capabilities have always been superb in all of their products.
After pressing the Record button, the RDR-GX300 starts recording immediately. The Philips DVDR985A takes a full second. If either unit has been idle for half an hour or more, they go into sleep mode, so pressing the Record button results in the recording starting 5 seconds later. Therefore, if the unit has been idle with a blank disk already inserted, you may want to eject the disk and insert it again so that there isn't a 5-second delay when you press Record.
The Sony RDR-GX300 automatically titles each recording with the name of the TV show or movie that was recorded. This is a big time saver. The maximum length of a title name is 64 characters. All alphanumeric and punctuation characters are allowed, as well as math and financial symbols such as the British pound and the Japanese yen.
There is an infrared device that extends over the top of the cable box and attaches by cord to the back of the DVD recorder. It allows the DVD recorder's remote control to change the channels on the cable box. It also allows timer recordings on different channels without user intervention on the cable box. During the initial setup, you'll need to enter the code of your cable box that is found in a chart in the back of the user manual.
VCR+ can be used if desired for timer recordings.
Timer recordings will be made regardless of whether or not the DVD recorder is on or off when the timer recording is scheduled to start. Also, if there is not enough room on a disk for a scheduled timer recording, the DVD recorder will automatically adjust the recording mode (SP, LP, EP, etc) so that the entire program will be recorded. And finally, you can extend the duration of a timer recording after it has already started (in case you made a mistake in setting the ending time).
You can fast-forward and fast-rewind at various speeds and each frame is played just like a VCR does. This is not the case with the Philips DVDR985A which doesn't play all frames in fast-forward, so the display jumps from scene to scene.
You can move frame by frame through a recording either forward or reverse. The Philips DVDR985A only goes frame by frame forward, not reverse.
As an option, chapter markers can be added automatically every 6 or 15 minutes during a recording.
Commercials can be edited from a recording on a DVD+RW disk, and they won't appear when played on another DVD player. Simply select Frame A and Frame B, and everything between those two frames will be deleted. This isn't possible with DVD-R, DVD-RW, and DVD+R. You can erase a block of video on a DVD-RW disk in VR mode, but you can only play the disk on this unit. That's why I always stick with DVD+RW.
You can play the beginning of a recording while it is still recording. This is called Chasing Playback. However, this function doesn't work on 1x-speed DVD-RW or in HQ or HSP recording modes.
You can play a previous recording while recording something else. However, this function doesn't work on 1x-speed DVD-RW or in HQ or HSP recording modes.
Some operations take a little longer than on other DVD recorders. For example, after inserting a formatted DVD+RW disk, you have to wait 21 seconds for the unit to read the disk even if it's empty. If the disk is not formatted, you have to wait an additional 1 minute and 27 seconds to format it. Therefore, if you insert an unformatted DVD+RW disk, you have to wait a total of 1 minute and 48 seconds to start recording. I format all of my DVD+RW disks ahead of time so that I can start recording 21 seconds after inserting the disk. Also, if you eject a DVD+RW disk after adding, deleting, or editing a title, you have to wait 35 seconds before the disk ejects because the unit has to update the disk. Keep this in mind if you want to record two movies back to back. You'll need a couple of minutes between movies. You won't run into the formatting delay with DVD-RW, but DVD-RW requires finalization which takes several minutes.
When a disk is formatted, the RDR-GX300 displays "Formatting" in a large white rectangle that covers half of the TV screen. The rectangle should be smaller so that you can watch the TV while the disk is formatting.
The Sony RDR-GX300 cannot split a recording into two separate titles on a DVD+RW disk. The Philips DVDR985A allows you to easily split a title. Why would you want to split a title? If you record a Star Trek marathon, you want to split the episodes into separate titles. Sony definitely needs to add this feature for DVD+RW disks.
There are no thumbnail images for each title on a DVD+RW disk -- only on a DVD-RW disk in VR mode which means you can only play it on this unit. The Philips DVDR985A assigns a default thumbnail image to each title on a DVD+RW disk; you can change the thumbnail images later and they will appear in the title menu when played on other DVD players. Sony definitely needs to add thumbnail images to DVD+RW disks.
The title list (i.e., the list of recordings) doesn't show the length in time of the recording. The title list shows the date that each recording was made, but it only shows the month and day, not the year.
It would be nice if the remote control had a button to toggle between uppercase and lowercase characters when entering a title name.
You cannot manually add chapter markers to DVD+RW. They can only be added to a DVD-RW disk in VR mode which means that the disk can only be played on this unit.
The front panel doesn't display the recording mode (SP, LP, EP, etc). You always need to check it after you insert a disk so that you don't accidentally record a 3-hour movie in 2-hour mode and lose part of the movie.
The front panel should permanently display the most severe error that occurred during formatting or recording. If you're not watching the TV when the error occurs, you won't know that an error occurred. This is true with some other DVD recorders as well.
There is no i.LINK (FireWire) interface to connect to camcorders. The Sony RDR-GX7 has this feature.
There is no hard disk. The Sony RDR-HX900 will be released in November or December with a 160GB hard disk as well as an i.LINK (FireWire) interface, but it will have a hefty price tag.
All in all, the Sony RDR-GX300 is an excellent DVD recorder, and my Philips DVD recorder is now collecting dust in the basement. I'll never buy another Philips product. Hopefully Sony will address some of the things that I've mentioned above. Nevertheless, the RDR-GX300 is top-of-the-line with great video and no problems whatsoever in recording. If you want to look at any of the manuals for Sony DVD recorders, go to [...] and click on Customer Support, then Product Support Site, then Documentation, and then enter the model number.