I started with a $79 Liteon (1105-HC) which was excellent except the best input connectons it had was composite. I also wished it had a flexible recording mode so content shorter than 2 hours and content a little too long to fit on a DVD in SP mode would fit on a DVD with the best possible picture quality.
But it started not recognizing blank DVDs suddenly after burning a few hundred and maybe playing another 50.
Liteon happily RMAed it.
Not wanting to wait for the RMA and wanting to get one with S-video input. I bought a Liteon LVC-9016-G at Costco. I got a VCR-combo because I also have a bunch of old sports programs on VHS I need to convert.
The 9016 had a much better remote and slightly better user interface. As expected, the s-video input made for slightly better recordings off satelite.
A few days latter, Costco started carrying the Panasonic DMR-ES45-V and since they have a no-questions return policy I picked up one of them and planned to return whichever one I liked least. The Panasonic cost nearly $100 more, but flexible recording mode alone would have been worth that to me.
Unfortunately, the Panasonic also came with some drawbacks that I did not expect. Those might not matter to some people but they were complete showstoppers for what I needed.
Showstopper #1: The Panasonic would record no more than exactly 120 minutes in SP. Both Liteons record about 124.5 minutes on a DVD in SP. For us that was a big deal. You would be surprised how many movies are just a few minutes over 2 hours. With the Panasonic, those would no longer record in SP mode. Setting up to record all such movies in Flexible recording mode would be an annoiance plus that mode did not have quite as good picture quality as SP on the Liteon.
Showstopper #2: A lot (all?) Panasonics use a proprietary hybrid compression method. I thought that could be a good thing if it gave better picture quality. I could not tell the difference in PQ between the Liteon and Panasonic BUT the DVDs burned on the Panasonic caused problems when editing them on a PC. The hybrid compression made the content incompatible with Nero Smart Encoding (and I assume other similar software). With Smart Encoding, you can edit out comercials, etc. and reburn with no loss of quality as fast as your PC burner can write. Since Smart Encoding couldn't deal with the hybrid compression of the Panasonic, the programs had to be re-encoded. That significantly hurts picture quality and turns a 5 minute reburn into an hour and a half, 100% CPU, re-encode!
Showstopper #3: This one is kinda apples and oranges since the Liteon doesn't do DL, but the DL support on the Panasonic is next to worthless for how I intended to use it. It won't record continuously from one layer to the next! Yes, you read that right.
Needless to say, the Panasonic was the one that went back. Of course some people never do post-editting on a PC or record things slightly over 2 hours and if I was one I might have kept it.
FWIW, some Panasonics let you turn off the hybrid compression but this model didn't give that option.