Buying a DVD Recorder

I recently purchased a like-new RCA DRC8060N DVD Recorder for $99 (MSRP $299.99) on eBay (there were a lot more the last time I checked). I read about it in a recent issue of Sound & Vision magazine but, despite the glowing review, I really saw no need for what I considered essentially a fancy VCR that used expensive recordable DVD+R/DVD+RW discs instead of videotapes. Furthermore, I was convinced using the device would be a major PITA (pain in the…) and assumed the discs were unlikely to play in any other DVD player or computer DVD-ROM drive.

What led to the change of heart? I am glad you asked…

TB watches Oprah. Oprah comes on TV a lot. The storage capacity of our Comcast DVR is quite anemic. TB routinely gets behind a dozen or so episodes of Oprah. TB does not like to delete the stale episodes of Oprah. Our DVR starts complaining about lacking the space required to record upcoming shows I care about. TB reigns supreme over the TV/DVR so either my shows have to go or I needed to find a way to archive that inane backlog of Oprah episodes. (No, I’m not bitter.)

I was given carte blanche to buy a new gadget. The Sound & Vision review was very positive and several features of this player really stood out including:

  1. Automatic removal of commercials while saving to disc. We have had a Tivo or DVR for many years and have learned to detest commercials and abhor live network television. A device that could zap the commercials from the archived content as well had a huge advantage in my book.
  2. HDMI and optical digital audio outputs. We have been using a “vintage” Xbox for watching DVDs after selling all our home theater equipment with our previous home. Therefore, any DVD recorder I purchased would also become our primary DVD player as well. Since this player has the best outputs for connection to a high-end display and audio system, it would be a keeper should we decide to go hi-def and hi-fi again before the HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray debacle is resolved.
  3. DivX support. We have been using Netflix since the company started (one perk we get as original customers is our 4-at-a-time subscription costs $17.99/month vs. $23.99). When it is time to hit the road, I rip the discs to my laptop using DivX compression to watch en route and return the DVDs to Netflix. In some situations we don’t watch all the movies during our trip and have no desire to huddle around the computer to watch them when we return home. DivX support on this player means we can save the movies back to CD/DVD and watch them on our TV without waiting for the movie to be sent again from Netflix. Disclosure: We do not redistribute the movies and always delete them after watching since I have no desire to end up on any FBI most wanted lists. If Netflix or the MPAA has a problem with this, we will just keep the DVDs until we have watched them which will affect other customers waiting for those movies more than it affects us. I will create a short primer on DivX in a future post for anyone who is interested.
  4. The price. At $99 + shipping/handling on eBay it would be tough to complain if the player was half as good as the review indicated.

So, the player arrived from Texas in 4 days via UPS Ground. I had also ordered 100 blank DVD+R discs from NewEgg for $25 with free 3-day shipping (try buying 100 blank videotapes for $25) which arrived the same day. I guess those discs aren’t as expensive as I thought. Getting everything connected was a bigger chore than I expected since I did not have all the necessary cables for my rig. This was my fault not RCA’s since they included just about every cable you need for several configurations.

I queued up one of the old episodes of Oprah, hit record on the DVD recorder and, an hour later, the episode had been burned to the DVD with all the commercials marked as hidden tracks allowing for commercial free playback. I finalized the disc (to make it playable on other devices) inserted it into my computer and it worked!

Finally, I did what any true nerd would do, and, for no reason, converted the new Oprah DVD to DivX. That worked too. I went ahead and archived a few more episodes at two episodes per blank DVD.

Now everyone is happy including the Comcast DVR.

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