Experts and users say that DVD recorders with hard-disk drives are the easiest to use and leave owners most satisfied. Unfortunately, most manufacturers have stopped offering these in the U.S. The remaining models, such as the Magnavox MDR515H/F7, fall well short of earlier hard-drive DVD recorders but are still good performers. The Magnavox MDR515H/F7 includes a spacious 500 GB hard drive that allows it to hold up to 620 hours of programming at the lowest-quality setting and 103 hours at the highest. Other features include an integrated digital/clear QAM tuner and the ability to pause live TV. However, it lacks the elegant interface and programming guide of true digital video recorders such as the TiVo Premier (*Est. $300 plus monthly subscription service), and recordings have to be programmed manually, just like a VCR.
The Magnavox MDR513H/F7 (*Est. $400) is similar but has a smaller, 320 GB hard drive and skips some refinements, such as an upgraded remote control, that have earned positive feedback from enthusiasts. It has also become hard to find at retail, so its price has drifted upwards to the point where it's currently a poor value compared to the MDR515H/F7. For those needing a less expensive option, the Toshiba DR430 (*Est. $95) lacks its own tuner, making it a poor choice for those who get programming over the air. It also lacks a built-in hard drive. However, it has useful features like chasing playback, time-slip playback and commercial skip, and does better in owners' eyes than most basic DVD recorders of its type.
Though professionals haven't done a great job providing feedback on the Magnavox MDR515H/F7, there are plenty of user reviews, including more than 650 at Walmart.com. The recorder is also extensively discussed at AVSForum.com.
More than 650 owners report on the Magnavox MDR515H/F7 here, giving it a rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars. Not everyone is happy, however, with most complaints centering on defective units or challenges in setting up or using the recorder. However, those complaints are greatly outnumbered by satisfied owners, most of whom say that the MDR515H/F7 works well and is a good value. More than 85 percent of owners say they would recommend this DVD recorder.
Review: Magnavox MDR515H/F7 500GB HDD and DVD-R with Digital Tuner, Contributors to Walmart.com
The Magnavox MDR515H/F7 is discussed at length at this enthusiast website. In addition to scads of informal reviews, there's tons of practical information, including an FAQ on the recorder and its predecessors and a table that neatly summarizes the changes and upgrades that this HDD DVD recorder features. Forum members (sign-up is free) are also able to ask specific questions.
Review: DVD Recorders, Contributors to AVSForum.com