"Works great first time; every time so far"4.5 starson by JanaB
Pros: Easy to record from TV, VCR, TiVo; good tuner; excellent tech support 7-days a week; bonus RAM disk.
Cons: Manual could be a lot better; inputting chapters takes a lot of button pushing
Summary: This is my first DVD recorder and I read a lot of reviews before I bought it. I was nervous because it seemed like there were lots of complaints about every model out there. This one is a jewel. For under $200 (it was $199 less 10% off sale at BestBuy.com and I picked it up at my local store) it can do everything I want.
I'd heard that DVD recorders could be very finicky about which blank DVDs they used, with some units only accepting certain very specific brands. This one worked perfectly with the Sonys I bought. Later, when talking to their technical support I was told they recommend Panasonic (of course--but at $38 for 10, forget it!) and also Pioner and TDK disks. They also recommend buying them in jewel cases rather than on spindles because any warping or flaws are much more critical and more likely to cause failure then when burning CDs.
Basically the unit works very much like a VCR (and it even has VCR+ built in, though with TiVo, I don't need that feature). I have recorded from TiVo (to permanently keep programs and clear space for new ones on TiVo), from VCR tapes, and from TV. All worked flawlessly.
The RAM disk they supply with the unit allows you to record over and over 100,000 times they say. I find it useful for recording from TV occasionally and I also used it for practicing before I burned "real" DVDs (since DVD-Rs allow you to erase a program on them but not reclaim the space I didn't want to waste them).
Set up on a normal system is very easy--mine is rather complicated with all my different components so I called their tech support for guidance. I only had to wait 5 minutes and got excellent assistance. Later I called again because there were several things I didn't understand in the manual. Again I waited only a few minutes and got patient answers to all my questions.
About the manual--it seems like it was written by someone with attention deficit disorder. It jumps around a lot and although it has plenty of information, it's rather confusing, especially if you're not familiar with recording to DVDs. The manual is the reason I rate the product a 9 instead of a 10.
You can select images from the programs to use as menu thumbnails and you can edit the chapter titles using an onscreen sort of keyboard. My wrist got prettty tired moving up and down the layout picking letters, but it is workable.
Overall, I'm very glad I bought it. It is a lot easier to use than I thought it would be and works a lot better than all the reviews I'd read of other units led me to believe it would.