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INTRODUCTION: Well where do you start with a machine like this......the beginning I guess - so here goes, we are previously heavy VCR users taping programmes galore on a daily basis for using and viewing between two VCR's in two separate rooms, and using a (rather sadly) 14 tape (two per day) recording and indexing system so organised and disciplined it would put NASA to shame, so after watching the advent of HDD/DVD players develop and drop in price over the past couple of years the decision to switch over was gingerly undertaken. The basic criteria being two units required - one for both rooms - preferably the same type for compatibility purposes of DVD's once written (as I know these machines are notorious for not liking other machines discs), must be HDD for convenience and having the ability to dub to DVD disc to be able to take to the other room - the last criteria being the price as we're obviously buying two.
SHOPPING AROUND & PURCHASING: After searching online, reading reviews, deciding on the minimum spec we found a 100% seller on eBay accepting best offers on this machine and secured two units guaranteed at a total cost of £170 (best offer accepted) which we were astounded at. Previous best price seen at was around £140 each at I believe Comet or Curry's which I thought was still pretty good value and could have been tempted at.
INSTALLATION & SET UP Well the deed done, the boxes arrived by next day Courier and the packaging excitedly opened, first thing I noticed was the physical size, although extremely slim at only 5cm high and quite acceptable at 33cm deep I was surprised at the width of 43cm compared to others on the market although in itself not a problem for us as it fitted happily into our main TV unit and the secondary TV wall bracket, the aesthetics themselves being very pleasing at a subtle 'brushed ' silver finish with a jet black front fascia for the buttons and DVD drawer.
The second thing as always a good indication of a well though out product were the included accessories which very happily included scart lead, aerial coax lead hefty (albeit pretty small print) instruction book right down to the batteries for the slim but rather cheap feeling but button laden remote.
Did the obligatory scratching the head spaghetti wiring up of connections between this, the SKY box, Dolby A/V receiver, TV and VCR whilst the missus and the rabbit cowered in the far corner of the garden awaiting this Novembers second firework display, but surprisingly and painlessly, all connected first time following the detailed instructions, switch on, TV to AV1 and bingo -there's the set up menu for the Akura.
Followed the auto programme scan, found all the channels, did a quick TV channel reorganise via the VERY clear and user friendly on screen menus and within minutes was recording my first OTR timeslip recording. Once set up, it was a simple matter of replicating the second unit set up in the second room.
INITIAL THOUGHTS & USE: Now the best bit of a newly set up toy or gadget : feet up on the sofa, pint of Guinness in one hand, remote in the other and instruction book in the other (three hands ?) play with the buttons and explore. Once again the highly clear and self-explanatory menus came into their own with little reference required of the instruction book, only for clarification here and there.
Once mastered, the acid test was how easy it was for my other half to master with my highly polished supplementary tutelage, this was fairly painless and limited conflict ensued, positively harmonious in fact, so all in all a truly painless transgression from VCR to DVDRW over a couple of hours.
GOOD BITS : Timeslip recording (being able to record whilst watching another title, pausing live recording for a cuppa or a loo break then picking it up where you left off), set your own 'chapter' lengths for easy skipping through programmes to find reference points (default being 10 mins and good enough), editing and splitting of titles with the ability to change index picture so you can see at a glance on the HDD menu what the programmes are out of twenty or so stored programmes, parental settings for adult content DVD's, ability to 'lock' a recording to prevent accidental erasing (but you need the default password 0000 to unlock be warned if you change the password to note it down), 2 scart sockets, camcorder connections to the front (under a door), connection for external decoder (D2Mac ?) for further satellite/Cable opportunities, DIVX/CD/IMAGE(photo disc) playback............where do I stop.
BAD BITS : size, cheapish remote, small print instructions, HDD recordings have far more editing options than DVD recordings such as dubbing, index picture change, split title etc, blue standby light is *very* bright at night enough to light a room up (I've covered ours with a small piece of black electrical tape), no Video plus, PDC or USB with this model although I think there is on the model up - the 160GB version at around (I believe another £50 or so), slow start up once switched on and DVD + media format only for recording although it plays back 'minus' format (allegedly - not tried) and double layer 'plus' again not tried.
MEDIA: We purchased a 10 pack of Tesco own brand DVD+RW discs at around a £1 each which both units are quite happy with, although they don't seem to like the 'press it' labels being applied so we found it best to stick to using a CD pen to write directly on the discs.
RECORDING QUALITY: There are five recording qualities directly relating to storage on the 80GB HD capacity from HQ 18 hours down to SLP 104 hours, we having personally found the best trade off acceptable to us for everday useage being second lowest EP at 70 hours on the HD and 4 hours on the standard DVD, although if we were recording something for permanent posterity on its own disc we'd use a higher setting for quality.
SUMMARY & CONCLUSION: Phew that's about it, not much more I can write, it's a mind boggling piece of kit for the price, and the long overdue transgression from VCR went smoothly and thus far without regret.
If you're still here after this incessant ramble, hope you found this review of use and it gives you the confidence to take the plunge, if not with this model, the exciting world of DVD recording.
If you leave a space between your paragraphs you will find it makes the review easier to read and also gives a nice presentation of the review. Hope you don't mind the tip. If you would like to add more details to the review in the future you can do this by pressing the edit link at the top centre of the page as you read your review. Fiona