RDR-GX7 DVD Recorder

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Price Paid: $999 CDN

Purchase at: Future Shop

Strengths
– Records on 3 out of the 4 popular consumer formats (-R/RW, +RW; I don’t consider DVD-RAM to be a “popular” consumer format)
– The first Sony progressive DVD player that does NOT have the chroma upsampling error!!
– Excellent de-interlacer; able to handle the bad-edit problems in TV series that are shot on film.

Weakness
– No +R recording support.
– No +VR support on +RW discs. (ie. You can’t perform advanced editing features such as adding chapters)
– No MP3 playback.
– Resume feature is very limited (once the disc is ejected, the resume memory is lost)
– “Play” on-screen-display is shown whenever a layer-change happens – very annoying!
– Sync-Record doesn’t seem to work with Bell ExpressVu receivers.

Comments/Review
I’ve been holding off on buying a DVD Recorder this year, as they’re still in that “early adopter” stage and have a few bugs to work out. However, when I saw that Future Shop dropped the price of this unit from $1299 CDN to $999, I had to pick it up for an evaluation. (Thank goodness for their 30-day no-questions-asked return policy!)

Before buying, I asked the salesperson if the unit played MP3 discs, since that capability wasn’t shown on the display. Without hesitation, the salesguy responded with a resounding “Yes!”. Naturally, when I brought the unit home, the first thing I tried playing on it was an MP3 disc. To my dismay, it did not work. Big disappointment, I’ll take 10 points off the score right there. Come on, Sony! Every single DVD player out today plays MP3 CDs! If I’m going to spend $1000 on a unit, it had better do everything that a $60 unit does!

Anyway, I proceeded with the choma upsampling error (CUE) test. CUE is a defect in many DVD MPEG decoders that causes striping or banding in strong colors (especially red). You can read more information about it at www.hometheaterhifi.com. Sony has a terrible reputation with all their progressive scan players having the CUE bug. I used the TRON DVD as the test platform, as it’s filled with lots of red lines on the characters, vehicles and sets. To my pleasant surprise, I found the CUE bug to be non existent in this unit! Excellent job, Sony! Plus 10 points!

Next, I tested the “Bad Edit” problem that exists on TV shows that were shot on film but then edited on video. On bad deinterlacers, camera angle changes can cause a “combing” effect on the screen for at least one frame while the deinterlacer tries to regain the 3:2 pulldown cadence. I tested this using the opening credits to Buffy using Disc 1 of the Season 3 set. The player passed with flying colors here, showing no evidence of combing during this torture test. 5 extra points added.

Next up: the layer change test. Unfortunately, this player takes about 1.5 seconds to change layers. In addition, if you have the Auto Display turned on in setup (your on-screen display), you’ll see “Play” come up after the layer change completes! Also, it takes a second for the deinterlacer to get back into film mode so you’ll see combing after the layer change. Very annoying, -5 points.

The last playback feature I tested was the resume feature. This is very important when watching TV shows that have very long FBI warnings and introduction screens that you can’t skip, such as the Rocky & Bullwinkle and Transformers TV sets. If I watch 1 or 2 episodes and decide to watch the rest of them later, I want the DVD player to remember where I was. Unfortunately, the GX7 only remembers what it’s played if you have the DVD in the drive. The moment you eject the disc, that’s it, syanarra. -5 more points.

Now on to the recording features. Recording itself is fairly easy, but I must say I don’t like having all the record buttons hidden in a seperate compartment on the remote. Why did they make two pause and stop buttons (1 for playback, 1 for record)? This just makes it more difficult to program the buttons on my AV3000 remote. Anyway, the timer recording feature was very easy to work with, and the plethora of 6 recording “speeds” to choose from makes for great choice depending on what you’re recording. I would suggest EP for your TV time shifting and SP/HSP for archiving. I’ll give Sony +15 points for recording features but -5 points for poor remote control planning.

Now the bad stuff… reading through the manual’s “Advanced Editing” section, I see that most of the features require -RW discs running in VR mode. This is disappointing since I’m a supporter of the +R/RW format and I currently only have +RW discs to work with. I find this very strange since Sony was a strong advocator of the +R/RW format and the fact that the +VR mode wasn’t included is yet another disappointment. Unlike the -VR format, +VR is supposed to be readable on DVD-Rom drives and is more compatible with standard DVD players than -VR (see www.dvdplusrw.org for more details). Sorry Sony, subtract another 10 points for that blunder.

I tried the Sync-Record feature with my Bell ExpressVu 3100 receiver. The GX7 is supposed to detect when the receiver turns on and a video signal comes in through Line 1 to start recording. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to work. I guess the GX7’s detection isn’t very strong. -5 points.

All-in-all, this player fails my expectations. I ended up with a score of -10 for this review. I will be returning this unit, but not before I transfer some VHS stuff over to DVD. I have 30 days to return it, after all! I hope that Sony’s 2004 recorder is more promising… you don’t really get what you pay for with this model!

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