A generally bad review of Liteon LVW-5005 “All write” DVD recorder

These sort of machines are what's intended to replace the VCR, using a disc instead of a tape.  Some of the more expensive units record to a hard drive, and then you can copy what you want to keep onto a disc (a much better, but more expensive, arrangement).

Here's how you use it

As you can see, it's easy to use if you don't want to do anything special.  There's not much else that you can do, other than give a name to each title recorded on the disc (each new recording is a “title”, pausing in the middle of a recording doesn't create a new title).  You can delete recordings from discs, though you need to be using rewriteable discs if you want to reuse the space.  And you can erase whole discs in one go (again, it requires you to be using rewritable discs).

NB:  “Recordable” discs can only be recorded to once.  Anything written to them is a permanent recording, and cannot be erased.



Disc compatibility

The recorder's manual mentions a few discs that it's compatible with, though I don't think that any of them were available for purchase anywhere that I looked, and a DVD recorder really needs to work with all standard discs.  And non-standard discs shouldn't be on sale, anywhere, they're just going to cause problems for everyone.

These (below) are some of the discs that I've tried.  The better ones are the ones that read back well on the same machine or others, and were nippy while skipping between chapters.  The poorer ones would have trouble starting to play a disc (lots of servo hunting could be heard, and it took longer to be ready to play), and have trouble skipping between chapters (skating about trying to find the next part on the disc).  And some would jam during playback, fast-forward, or rewind, and sometimes never unjam (requiring the mains power to be unplugged—to reset the recorder—before you could do anything else with it).

Brand Disc identification Comment
Laser DVD-R mediocre
DGM 1×–4× DVD-R white inkjet printable mediocre
Shintaro DVD-R discs reasonable
Shintaro DVD+R discs quite good
Shintaro DVD-R discs seriously bad
Strathfield SDVDMR 4× DVD-R red Strathfield.com discs mediocre
Strathfield SDVDPR 4× DVD+R red Strathfield.com discs mediocre
Sony 1×–8× DVD+R AccuCORE DPR47S2 seems good, but still testing
TDK 1×–4× DVD-R (R4.7) reasonable
TDK 1×–2× DVD-RW47EB quite good
TDK 1×–4× DVD+RW47MEB quite good
Verbatim 1×–8× DataLifePlus DVD+R (reorder #94799) very good (the best, so far)

Looking at the other Liteon DVD recorder models, it seems that they're primarily “plus” models, with the “minus” variations being a bit of an extra feature.  So I'd hazard a guess that you're better off using plus discs with their recorders.


The cons seriously outweigh the pros on this machine.  Don't buy this unless you can get it really cheap and don't mind not being able to play back discs in other machines.  Even if you don't intend to play discs in other people's machines, think about what you're going to do when the machine wears out and you have to buy another machine (will you be able to play your own discs?).

I've already had one unit swapped over, just to see if I had a lemon, but the replacement is the same.  I had enough of an argument with the salesman just to do that, I don't fancy my chances at getting them to take it back—as far as they were concerned if they could play the discs recorded back on it on some of their players, the machine was fine, they're not concerned that the disc won't play back on some machines, even if some of those non-playing decks were some of their own.

All in all, this particular machine is a lemon, and the whole manner of how personal DVD recorders work is ill-conceived.  Not only is the technology ill-suited to the task (inadequate recording length, entire recordings being so easily ruined), the widespread lack of compatibility in something without a properly defined working standard is a major shortcoming (there isn't just a DVD disc, where if you record something to DVD it's playable in anything else that says it's a DVD player; there's a plethora of variations on the formats, many of which aren't identified to you, nor even standardised—for instance, the DVD plus format is not a formal standard).

Although you can usually tell whether a disc is a “plus” or “minus” disc, many players don't mention if they can handle them, and you're relying on chance that a machine that wasn't designed for them can manage to play them.  Then there's the case of whether it's standard DVD-video, or DVD-VR (video recording), which again probably isn't identified on either the player or the recorder.

I know that if I make a VHS recording that all fairly-well functioning players can play the tape, but it's pot luck if anything else will be able to play your DVDs.  VHS players just need to be able to play VHS tapes, with just a few variations:  The addition of optional improved Hi-Fi audio tracks, or having to deal with a different tape speeds (many who've tried to play someone else's recording knows the disaster that long-play recording modes can cause).  But to be able to handle playing personally recorded DVDs, a player needs to handle all of the following variations:  DVD-Video (the standard video mode, as used on all the movies you buy or rent), DVD-VR (newer, non-standard, video recording mode), DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM.

For more information on those variations, I have an info page about the various different DVD formats.

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