"Solid product, but has some quirks"3.5 starson by rcpotter
Pros: Clear Digital Picture, LP mode records well. Good VCR unit. Does DL (well, sorta)
Cons: Can't record digital directly onto VCR, poor NTSC tuner, hung up on one DL disk
Summary: I've had this recorder now for several weeks. I'm basically satisfied with it, but it does have some annoying quirks. The quality that comes with the Panasonic brand name is obvious.
It tunes digital (ATSC) well and the picture quality is very good. If you've been using only an analog (NTSC) tuner you'll be astounded by the better picture quality, especially if you live in a "fringe" area. Drop-outs and audio blips are acceptably rare, but do occur, in my location 45 miles from the brodcasting tower.
The LP mode (4 hours) is very sharp and almost as good as the SP mode(2 hours); so it is possible to store more programs on one disk, unless recording in very high quality is an over-riding concern.
It also records in DL (double layer) mode which allows storing about 7 hours and 20 minutes of programming on one disk, if you use the LP mode. However, the unit locked up on me while I was recording a DL disk. Not only did it erase the program I was recording, but everything thing else I had previously recorded on the disk was lost. I'm now sticking to the regular-length (2 hours in SP, 4 hours in LP) disks, even though this means I'll have to buy and store more of them.
It also has the worst analog (NTSC) tuner I've ever seen on any TV, VCR, or DVDR. I can't even get some of the channels, that I normally get clearly. Even my battery-powered portable with a whip antenna comes in much more clearly, than this unit does with a roof-mounted antenna. However, depending on who you listen to: NTSC may be going away, in two (or a few) years.
The VCR unit gives one of the sharpest pictures in re-play I have ever seen off a VCR. It is almost like a DVD recorder, at least in one of the medium-quality modes. It also features a lightning-fast rewind and fast-forward. The Rewind and Fast-Forward modes are actually too fast, I almost always overshoot the start of the program I want, and have to back up.
Also quite annoying - the VCR unit cannot record digital (ATSC) directly off the air. I don't know if this is due to some obscure legistlative requirement, or some hair-brained design criteria. I missed recording a couple of shows before I was aware of this; because the unit refused to record directly onto the VCR. There are instances in which it might be desired to record onto the VCR first; and then dub onto a DVD afterward. This feature rather limits the versatility of this unit.