101 of 103 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2006
I need to first say that I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this unit and have spent a great deal of time researching previous models XS-32/34/52/54, and read many, many, many user reviews on them, as well as downloaded and reviewed the installation and operation user manuals for most of them.
After all my research I narrowed it down to 2 models which best suited my needs, the XS52 and this one, XS35. They are both very similar using the same 160 GB HD, same IR blaster funtion to set top cable/sat box, and same navigation software, but there are a few major differences. The XS52 will only burn to -R/-RAM while the XS35 will burn to -R/-RW and -RAM. Why they left -RW out of XS52, I don't know. The other thing is that the XS52 uses the VCR+ Plus timer recording feature where the XS35 uses the TVGuide OnScreen system. VCR+ Plus codes are not listed in my local paper or guide, so this would be a pain for me to have to search for and setup, although I am sure it works fine, the TVGOS is much easier for me. The last difference I could see is the XS52 offers an HDMI output and upconversion on DVD playback to 480p, 720p and 1080i for "near-HD" quality.
The only thing I didn't like about the XS35 was that it didn't have the upconversion like the XS52, but was I really missing something here??? I wanted to know if I should get the XS52 for the upconversion, so I brought home a Toshiba upconverting DVD player to see if I could tell the difference in quality between it and the XS35's progressive scan DVD player. After watching my favourite scenes on many DVD's I decided that I could not tell any difference which made my choice much easier. I wanted to save my HDMI input on my TV for later this year or next year when HD DVD/Blu-ray become more available, those DVD's will make a huge difference. So I went out and bought the XS35.
Some of the features of the XS35:
1) TVGOS program guide: A lot of people have been reporting problems with this on older versions. I cannot say that I have had any problems with this. In fact it was the easiest thing to set up. It simply asks for your zip/postal code and within 24 hours of setup it has downloaded all the channels to it's guide and all the programming for 8 days. This is very convienient to use with the timer programming, I can tape "Lost" weekly and "South Park" daily and it will do it for me. So far I really enjoy this system since I don't have cable or satellite and I don't have a guide, this is really nice to see what is on next.
If I did have a Cable/Sat box I could use the IR blaster to change to channel 405 at 10:00 pm then to channel 253 at 12:00 pm and it would do it. This is what the manual says and although I have not used this feature it is a nice one to have for potential future use.
You can also just press REC and start recording to the HDD instantly instead of setting up a timed recording. Just press stop to stop it.
2) DVD - the playback is as good as I could imagine. I had been using my Xbox as a DVD player. I can't say I see any huge differences or improvements, but it isn't worse either. Both are great for me.
The benefit is that I can burn to DVD anything I want to keep, (superbowl, movies on tv, seasons of tv shows, etc.)
It does support both DVD-R/RW and RAM unlike XS52 which only supports -R and -RAM.
3) The fan does not run all the time, like many have said about the XS54. It is very quiet when it does run. The lights on the front make it easy to see what you are doing at the moment. If you are recording there is a red light ring around one of the buttons on the front of the unit. If you are on the HDD a blue light is on and when on the DVD it lights up green. There are separate lights too not just one so if you are color blind (like my dad) you are not confused by only one light position.
4) The easy-navi button gets you right into the list of programs you have saved and is easy to use. Easy to delete when finished with a certain recording and it tells you how much time you have left to use on the disk to manage your files.
5) Playback - Great playback features. You can playback a recording while recording another program live. You can also pause live TV with the Timeslip feature and then skip through commercials in 5s, 10s, 30s or 5 minute intervals to catch up to the live feed, also skip back at 5 s intervals if you missed something.
All in all I am happy with this HDD/DVD recorder and despite not having the HDMI upconversion for DVD playback (which I can't see a difference in anyway) it has everything I think you could want.
There are going to be other units Panasonic/Pioneer available that do similar things but I like the way this one works.
5 stars from me...good luck!
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2006
My wife and I purchased this unit as a co-anniversary present to each other. We wanted to replace a VCR that was used to occasionally tape TV shows, the news, etc., so we decided on a DVD recorder that had a hard drive for DVR recording. I read reviews on various models, and decided on this one. I haven't been disappointed.
While some reviewers mention the fan noise as a problem, I haven't seen it as such. The fan (apparently) is temp-controlled, because it seems to get louder when using the unit, and stays louder for a few minutes after the unit is shut off. It's not incredibly loud, but it is noticeable.
The one negative I have to agree with other reviewers on is the manual and on-screen guide. They are not user intuitive at all. I am a highly technical person, and spent quite a while the first night trying to figure out how to play a DVD, even after thumbing through the manual.
Now that I've figured out how to use the DVD player, I've watched a dozen or so DVDs, and have absolutely no complaints. The video and sound playback are excellent.
I've used the DVR a half dozen times, and love it. I don't know how I survived without it. You simply go to a show on the TV guide on-screen, and press the record button. That is, after you've set up the basic recorder settings when you first unpack the unit. Once the unit records, you go to the 'content menu' which shows the shows you've recorded, the title, channel, etc, and even shows a screenshot! To play it back, you navigate to the one you want to watch and press 'play'. The coolest thing about it, and the DVD player, is that when you stop a show or disk, turn the unit off, and come back later, the unit knows exactly where you were when you stopped, and resumes from there. Sweet!
I'm set up to record a show using the DVR, that I will burn to a DVD. I will update my review once that is done, so that I can give my impression of that part of the unit, which is the only thing I've yet to do with it.
12-4-06 - Update
Now that I've had the unit for a couple of months, I wanted to update my review, especially having had time to play with the DVD authoring aspect of the unit, which for me was a secondary item. I wanted the unit mostly for the ability to DVR without having to pay TiVo a monthly fee. The DVR works flawlessly, and I couldn't be happier with it.
I've burned a handful of DVD disks using the unit and found it not particularly easy to do, although not overtly so. The manual, as previously noted, is not a lot of help. Of the 5 disks that I've burned, three of them were 'fully authored', meaning that I went in and manually added chapter breaks, created thumbnails for each chapter and for the main menu for each episode. This is VERY time consuming, so I didn't do it on the last two disks. The fourth disk causes any DVD player I put it in to lockup after five minutes or so. I don't know if this is because the unit automatically puts in chapter breaks at 5 minute intervals or what. I'm going to edit the content of that fourth disk, and burn it again to see if that makes the difference.
As a side note, I found that the unit will not recognize DVD+R disks, so you have to make sure you use DVD-R or DVD-RW formatted ones.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2006
Wanted to buy a hard drive based DVD recorder last year, but saw so many bad reviews of most brands/units that I decided to wait. I bought a low end Toshiba recorder (D-R4) and have been happy with it. Thus I decided to try this new model without benefit of reviews. Had it a couple of weeks and I have to say I'm impressed. I have experienced no problems. The menu system is similar to my D-R4 so it was quick for me to learn. The TV Guide took two days for 1st download, but has been perfect since (have Charter Cable). Have recorded to HD from TV Guide and burned to DVD; copied existing DVD to HD, edited and burned new DVD; and copied programs from two existing DVD's to HD, changed bit rate to fit them both on one DVD (unit calculated new bit rate for me automatically). Editing out commercials on the HD is very straight forward. High speed dubbing will burn a football game to DVD in about 10 minutes.
In short, it has done everything I bought it to do flawlessly. The only reason I didn't give it five stars was the pain of reorganizing the TV Guide Channels after the 1st download to match our cable box order and the copy protection on HBO, VCR tapes (that I'd like to archive to DVD), etc. Of course I know that they pretty much have to implement the copy protection, but I don't like it anyway.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2006
I don't get why companies make products that are feature rich, but don't send them home with test groups to fine-tune the detailed problems.
I had to send this unit back because it was so non-intuitive and not user-friendly at all. The pause live tv function was useless, and I encountered a bug that locked my system up every time (see this product's discussion forum below). How many more bugs might I find? This thing had to go back.
The feeling I got from this unit was that Toshiba tried to implement as many features as possible (by as many different people) without making any attempt to integrate them.
For instance, the TV Guide On-screen feature was most important to me, as it was a guide that comes over the air or cable for free -- no subscriptions required, and no digital cable box required. Great! However, it was as if TV Guide just sent Toshiba an applet to run on the machine that was basically set in its own world as far as the RD-XS35 was concerned. The only integration was the fact that I could press the record button to record something from the guide. The guide was slow, awkward, and hard to use. Info from the guide was not provided on a given channel unless you started the TV guide applet again.
The second most important feature to me was being able to "pause live tv" like a Tivo box, or a cable or satellite DVR does. Their implementation of this feature is HORRIBLE. It is nerfed to the point that this feature is useless. You see, in order for you to pause what you're watching, you have to enter "timeslip mode" which takes about 10 seconds to start! It will start recording the channel, bump you back 10 seconds, and LOCK YOU ON THAT CHANNEL UNTIL YOU EXIT THE MODE! You can, at that point, pause, REW, and FF what you're watching. But you have to exit the mode (which takes another 10 seconds and two confirmation messages) to change the channel and restart the whole process over again elsewhere. INCREDIBLY dissapointing and worthless.
Lastly, there is a "menu" button, an "EASY NAVI menu" button, a "content menu" button and a "Quick menu" button all on the remote, and all of which do different things, none of which are integrated. What the heck? Can they make operation of this thing more confusing? It was as if some engineer on one side of their R&D building says "ooh I have an idea for a main menu button" and he puts in in. Then another engineer on the other side of the building says "oooh *I* have an idea for a menu button" and he puts it in as well, but neither of them talk to each other at any point in the process.
There are 13 thousand ways to enter the setup menu of the device but only one way to exit it. With the exit button? NO, that would make too much sense. You have to open a hatch on the remote and find the setup button in the lower left hand corner and press it. Great. And there are a million buttons under that hatch, none of which seem to do anything useful.
The "info" button really pretty much does nothing, except in the TV Guide mode.
My advice - save your money for something that actually does what you need it to do. Why spend so much money just to be frustrated? Private DVRs are about to boom big time, and *someone* out there is going to get it right. Toshiba definitely did not.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2006
This was a birthday present to myself so, I had the unit barely a month.
[Update 03.07.07 - Almost a year later and still going strong!]
My unit gets cable directly from a wire coming out the wall, no cable box. (I have a funny story how that wire was a really good antennae...) That said, the TVGOS worked within 24hrs, I've had no problem since. Very nice to have a week's teeevee listings and not need the teeevee guide in the paper. The TVGOS allows searching for shows by alphabetical, keyword, genre or just scanning the grid for listings.
The manual is more like a magazine, I would advise you to work with this machine frequently, and keep the manual nearby. I didn't have much problem with the language of the manual, and everything is pretty much laid out straightforwardly. My only criticism re: the manual is that it could use an index.
This is not the most intuitive machine in the world, it is complicated, and it'll be a while before you get things doped out. The unit provides a handful of indicators of it's activity at any given moment, and indicates whether you are working with the HDD or the DVD drive. One thing that is good is that there are usually a few methods and menus to do similar actions.
To date, I have recorded shows using the TVGOS, recorded shows just by hitting the "Rec" button on the remote and I have recorded shows from one of my VCRs directly to the HDD. At present, I have started to record to DVD-RAM discs in order to not used the HDD extensively. You can edit on either disc drive (Update 03.07.07 - provided you use a DVD-RAM disc). I have also loaded DVD-RAM discs from my old DVD recorder, though programs from those discs must be loaded on to the HDD to do any editing. I have copied back and forth between discs and copied edited programs to DVD-R/RW for finalization. This can be done in a "high speed" mode or in some cases you have to do it in real time.
The deal is that you have an "Original" program that you set edit points within, and then edit together the "chapters" that you wish to make your final program which the unit calls a "Playlist". If you are satisfied with the playlist, then you make a copy and the "Playlist" becomes an "Original". DON'T delete the "Original" before making your "Playlist" an "Original" or you will have nothing.
Re: The Program Editor Mode
I find it a little clunky. You can set edit points with four rocker switches on the remote which set the points forward or back at various speeds. CAVEAT! The edit points wind up being a little sloppy on the finished discs, they don't wind up exactly where you want them, they kind of wind up maybe a few frames earlier than you have set them for. YMMV, I like to take out the commercials and leave a little more dark space than most broadcasters provide (Usually less than a second!) so you may wind up with the last frame or two of the end of a commercial.
[Update 03.07.07 - When setting the edit points after any given commercial break, you should allow a buffer of about 13 frames after the end of the last commercial and the resumption of the program. If you don't do this, then you will see about half a second of the end of the last commercial. Nitpicky, yes, but you may want a smoother transition between scenes and you DID want to edit out the commercials...]
So far, I am happy with the machine, I haven't had any of the problems with the fan being loud, didn't even notice it till I had to change some wires and I was directly behind the thing.
[Update 03.07.07 - I did have a problem once with the Program Editor Mode where the time elapsed indicator wouldn't indicate the elapsed time and the window showing the program being edited in progress wouldn't work properly. The time elapsed on the program being viewed wouldn't be indicated on the front of the unit, and a few other features wouldn't operate.
I phoned Toshiba, got a prompt answer from a live operator who had me unplug, then re-plug the machine. I did so and all functionality returned to the machine and I lost none of the programs I had on HDD.]
I made sure to get a 2 year extended service contract though...
One thing: The volume level when using the RCA jacks directly into the audio in of my teeevee is really low. This does not affect the finished product when I put it in my plain old DVD player I use strictly for playing DVDs.
Edit: Another thing: DO NOT (!) use Verbatim brand DVD-RW discs on the spindle, I have moved to Memorex brand in the individual jewel cases, presumably non-spindle discs are manufactured to a higher tolerance. The Verbatim discs typically wouldn't Format, or would Format after 3 tries, but the disc would fail on Finalize mode, creating another drink coaster.
[Update 03.07.07 - I stand my my recommendation of Memorex brand discs, and have used TDK as well to near 100% success, even using those on a spindle.]
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2006
I have only had this DVR/DVD Recorder for a few days, but so far I have found it not particularly user friendly. I haven't used the DVD burner yet, so I'll only review the DVR part at the moment.
I was really only looking for a DVD Recorder, but I love the DVR supplied by Cox cable and thought it would be great to have one in the bedroom. The fan noise was a big concern since it was going in the bedroom. So far, the fan has NOT shut off even with the unit in Standby mode. I don't expect that it ever will. It's pretty loud, but a very consistent white noise. I would say it is softer than a bathroom exhaust fan, but louder than a ceiling fan on its highest speed, if that helps anyone. I use those examples since those noises are also in the same proximity. I will say that the fan noise is better than the noise from the cable DVR, which is a chattering noise from the hard drive since it is always recording and is much more annoying in a quiet room.
The interface is very clunky compared to the cable DVR and ease of use in not even in the same continent as the cable DVR. The TVGOS is terrible in my opinion because viewing other channels in the guide actually changes the channels in the guide, so you can't watch a program and surf the guide to see if something better is on. That's the way it works on the cable DVR and we have become very spoiled by that function. I also have not found a way to bring up info for the program currently being viewed in an unobtrusive way except to go all the way to the guide. You'd think the INFO button on the remote would work that way. Like I said early, we have become very spoiled by the cable DVR and I could go on an on about what functions it does better than this unit, but I don't have the time. One more thing I will say is that I also don't like the inability to rewind live TV on a whim. You have to remember to hit the Time Slip button when you start watching so you can rewind back to that point in the future.
Finally, a reviewer complained that the audio was really low on the TV and I had a similar problem, but I believe the TV is the culprit. I often find the audio low even with the volume turned up and believe it to be caused by the auto sound level feature on the TV (the one that keeps the sound at about the same level when you change channels or over an zealous advertiser comes on. If I turn the TV off and then back on, the sound level is back to normal. Now I just make sure the unit is on before turning on the TV (btw, it's a Samsung 32" LCD HDTV). I hope this helps.
I will try to remember to update this review as I use more features. At this point though, I can't say I'm very happy with this purchase. From reading reviews of other manufacturer's similar units, I do believe that this unit is about as good as it gets in the mid-price range DVR/DVD Recorders, so I can't say that there is anything better.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2007
I had recently had my Panasonic E85H DVR/DVD die about two weeks ago and I was then in the market to remplace. I've found that a DVR is something that I can't live without (OK I can, but why would you?) and I did want a replacement. Given the issues with my past unit and some firmware issues I started looking at the Toshiba and without getting into other choices I'll jump into why I selected the XS35. It has a HUGE hard drive (160 GB), which will store plenty of programs at the highest resolution, it has optical and component video out (so it matched my inputs well), it was significantly cheaper (although listed at $400 it can be had for around $310), and it comes with the TV Guide (like TIVO, but no monthly service fees). The one thing that I felt was missing was a HDMI output (which is on the xs55, but it is a couple hundred more), but the picture quality is excellent on my HDTV (although the signal from the XS35 isn't HD). Regarding past complaints from other reviews I can see and respect there points of view, but there was nothing that would have stopped me from purchasing and no buyers remorse after owning for about a week. To that point there were some who thought that the unit was noisy, I would agree to the point that it does sound like a pc running and I don't think that I would want the unit sitting next to bed as I was trying to sleep, but in any family room setting the noise isn't really noticable. To the point that the unit is too hard to figure out, read the manual (the big 170+ page manual), but after you spend some time with the unit you will find that the unit functions well and have more options than most would use, but the ones you are looking for are there. The remote seems very busy with buttons all over, although different they are well placed and will make sense after a day or so. I've done several records and found them to be of excellent quality (both video and audio) and I do like the navigation as it allows me to choose from what's been recorded, jump to a channel, or set up a recording. DVD playback is excellent as well. Like I said it took me a few days to get over the learning curve, but the unit delivered as promised and I got every dollars worth that I spent. If you are interested in purchasing, I'm not sure if strong demand, low production, or a combination of both has led to them being hard to find. At the time I purchased, all of the electronic stores in the Milwaukee area were out and a couple of the online stores no longer had stock either. I'm glad I purchased when I did and at this time I could not be more satisfied with my purchase.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2006
I researched different DVR units with DVD recording capabilities for a long time (it was getting ridiculous), and I have been happy with this unit since I bought it a month ago. The free TV Guide has worked well, but it did take several days to populate the schedule (not 24 hours as advertised) when first set up.
-- Great image quality for content recorded on the SP mode (I have not tried anything else).
-- DVD recording from the hard drive is easy and very fast.
-- DVD playback is tolerant of minor disc scratches and disc copies (e.g. DVD Shrink back-ups)
-- Ample inputs/outputs, attractive design, front display control of content and brightness.
-- Ability to record onto hard drive while watching something else from the hard drive.
-- Non-intuitive remote control with important functions poorly represented amongst a morass of infrequently used buttons.
-- I fear that the flip-up lid on the remote will break if my kids ever get a hold of it (seems too fragile).
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2006
I have to say I was surprised with the quality and the product after reading so many negative reviews of other DVD recorders. It wasn't hard to set up, I've recorded various sources to the harddrive, made chapter divisions, and recorded to DVD's. They have also played on other DVD devices. I don't read instructions unless I have to, but other than the hidden compartment on the remote, everything works like I'd expect it to. I was skeptical and bought the longest warranty I could buy, but I am pleasantly pleased, and would highly recommend purchase to others who are looking for more than a low end machine.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2006
I own many Toshiba products, including a new laptop, dvd players etc... When 2 different liteon 5045s both broke in 28 and 29 days respectfully, I decided to stick with a good brand that has worked for us over the years.
I have to say they (Toshiba) thought of everything in the design of this unit. It is impressive when you read the manual and find out the many ways this unit may be customised for both; quality of audio and video (together and independantly!), and control of the appearance of the menu screens.
The TV Guide aspect is one that should be able to be bypassed if one chooses to get around the problems associated with it. However, you must deal with it.
After the first couple hours of viewing, we noticed that the sound would drop out for a split second. This problem is persistant and very annoying. Parts of words are completely missed. This does not make for good recording!
The other major problem is that recordings fail right in the middle of the program. The message beeps twice and tells you to contact service if it persists. It has! Many times!
As a result of the above problems, I am returning it. I may give another try at the same model. Haven't decided yet. On the whole, the shipping costs of the dvd recorders that have failed are enough to bleed anyone monetarily and time-wise.
If I get another of the same model, I will add to this to let people know if I fared any better.
ammended may 14th********
I finally got it to record a couple of movies and found another major problem that I did not have with the other dvd recorders we have owned. If you plan on recording from HBO, Showtime etc...DON'T!!!!!!!!!! It will not let you burn it to disk. All movies recorded on those channels are automatically "write protected". Unbelievable!!! Also, the picture quality is not as good as the "no-name" brands.
I am done with Toshiba!