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).
Connect up the signal you want to record from (television antenna, or a video signal from some other equipment).
Select the right input source and press record, or press the “Guider” button and follow the prompts.
Pause and unpause, if you want to, while recording.
Press stop when you've finished recording.
Remove and swap discs, if you want to.
“Finalise” the disc when you've finished recording onto a disc (i.e you're not going to record anything more on that disc), and if you want to be able to play them in other machines.
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.
Moderately simple to operate.
Better picture quality than VHS tape, even though it's substantially the same resolution.
Two composite video inputs (front and back panels), one S-video input (back panel), DV input (front panel), two audio inputs (front and back panels), one composite video output (back panel), one S-video output (back panel), and one separated luminance and colour difference signal component output (three RCA sockets on the back). All the output sockets appear to work simultaneously and independently of each other).
Going by the delay of the picture and sound coming out of the unit, compared to the input source material (e.g. another nearby television on the same channel), the output signal appears to be the result of the input signal going through all of the processing to be encoded for recording and then decoded during playback, meaning that you really should be seeing the way it's going to be recorded (no surprises, unlike how most VHS recorders just pipe the video and audio signals through while monitor, without showing any of the processing that will actually occur to the signal). But there is a slight difference in the noise visible in the picture if you swap between recording and pausing.
Can record on almost all the current variations of discs: DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW. (It doesn't support DVD-RAM.)
It records using the DVD-VR (video recording) scheme, which isn't compatible with most of the older players (which expect DVD-Video), nor specifically supported on many of the new ones.
Discs wouldn't play back properly in nearly every DVD player that I tried them in (this includes players that will happily play discs recorded in a different recorder, and without any playback problems).
Some wouldn't play back the discs at all, others could only “play” the discs (try and fast-forward or reverse search and it couldn't read the disc, so the player would foul up). This could be due to the usual problems of trying to play self-made discs in DVD players (many weren't designed for recordable discs, nor the DVD-VR format used by this recorder on them), or that the recorder doesn't adequately burn to the discs (this notion seems supported by the inability of other decks to even detect anything on various discs recorded by this machine, even though they're designed to be able to handle all of the current variations of DVD formats). Even VCD or SVCD format discs recorded by this unit wouldn't play back properly on other players.
I've tried just about all the discs that I can buy locally, including the expensive brand name ones, so if it requires something special it's useless to me.
Really poor quality television tuner:
All the channels are badly tuned in at the default (they're supposedly preset to the standard frequencies), and channel 10 is overloaded by the sound carrier to the point that the picture is blacked out. Manual fine-tuning restores reception to channel 10, but all channels give poor pictures (over-peaked edges) unless detuned to the point where the chroma signal is distorted, and the manual tuning is quite poor (it only steps in rather large increments, and you can only see a small preview window while fine-tuning).
The recorder interferes with its own tuner, making very noticeable distortions to the picture. It's easily demonstrated, you can make them come and go by toggling pause on and off while recording.
The tuner only has mono sound.
Recording length may not be long enough for some things. The high quality mode only records around one hour, the standard quality mode two hours. The long-play/low-quality modes are really attrocious, certainly not something you'd want to endure while watching a movie.
Sound quality is markedly inferior to the original source, it lacks a lot of the sibilance. This is inferior to HiFi video tapes recordings, but still a lot better than the non-HiFi ones (mono or linear stereo).
The thumbnail pictures it uses for each title recorded on the disc are taken from the first frame that's grabbed, giving what's usually a useless thumbnail for the recording, instead of taking one from somewhere within the title, where it could really be representative of what the recording was (even more so if you could pick what frame to use yourself). You only get one thumbnail per title, you don't get thumbnails for the chapter marks within a title.
It's yet another machine that's useless without the remote control.
You can't really replace a VCR with it. For example:
It's unpredictable how long it will take to start recording. It takes longer to start if the disc wasn't already spinning. The disc keeps spinning for a while after an operation, then spins down. Deliberately waking it up will delay you even more before you can begin recording. You could miss anything from a few seconds to half a minute from the start of something that you wanted to record, and there's no way to erase the machine's blunders and re-do recordings on non-rewritable discs, not to mention it being impossible to fix up missing the start of something that cannot be repeated (live television, or recording live action to disc).
It takes about twenty seconds to stop recording (it closes off the current file, and makes it playable). During this time you can't do anything else with the machine.
You can't change channels or inputs without, first, stopping recording. Just pausing won't do.
You can't stop recording, then wind back and record over the end of something you didn't want (e.g. neatly removing advert breaks while recording off-air TV).
If the power fails during a recording, you lose the entire recording, including anything else that was previously recorded on the disc. If the machine fouls up while recording, which I've just experienced now, you lose everything that was written to that disc.
The recording length, when using decent quality settings, is too short to record many movies, and the longer recording modes are too poor in quality.
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).
|DGM||1×–4× DVD-R white inkjet printable||mediocre|
|Shintaro||4× DVD-R discs||reasonable|
|Shintaro||8× DVD+R discs||quite good|
|Shintaro||8× 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.