Choosing a DVD+R/RW deck

pardon the length, but i have no one to discuss this with that knows anything about this subject! i just spent a few days studying the site & learned a lot from it during my research. now that DVD recorder decks are down to about $200 here in the US i have been researching the issues involved in the past week, and decided that the plus format is clearly superior to the kluge that the dash format seems to be.
one main concern if i purchase the new Philips DVDR615 recorder is if +R/+RW discs i record on it will play on my mother’s JVC DVD/VCR combo, a HR-XVC27U, and mine, a HR-XVS44U, neither of which are on the compatability list at +RW site. (and an older JVC combo a friend has.) looking in their manuals they have left the plus format off both the playable AND the unplayable lists of the discs they supposedly handle, as if the format doesn’t even exist. checking unofficial sites reveal conflicting, inconclusive information that they may play plus media, and recent JVC DVD players on the +RW site’s list indicate that they probably will. i do not know anyone that can provide me with +R and +RW discs so i can try them out in these (and other friends’) units and see if they will indeed play. is there anyone out there i can get one of each of these discs with some video on them so i can try them out? i could send you several blanks. (i also had all my friends send me the model #s of their DVD players and checked them for compatibility with plus media, and most were favorable.)
the other issue that bothers me is the one concerning the plus media recorders squeezing anamorphic widescreen video so that it will appear distorted on a 4:3 aspect ratio TV (which is discussed under compatability issues at the +RW site). this is simply ridiculous, and there seems no way around it. my mother has a wide screen plasma, so discs i send her will look right, but i have two new 4:3 ratio TVs (one a Philips!) neither of which have adjustments to stretch the picture out to 16:9. i will not be buying a widescreen HD set for years, so all of these recordings will look wrong on my TVs, and there are a lot of anamorphic widescreen TV shows on here in the US now. (perhaps i could get a device to add to my system to adjust the screen ratio?, but i have not seen such a thing, and this won’t solve the problem of giving a disc like this to someone that has a 4:3 TV.) this is almost enough to keep me from buying a plus format recorder. and i really don’t want a dash format one either, so i am in a real quandary. i don’t think the adjustments on my DVD player for pan & scan 4:3 is going to solve the problem either. i am really annoyed by this. whenever it comes to choosing a particular product/format there ALWAYS has to be some major fly in the ointment to make the choice an agonizing one. there is a lot of stuff on the web concerning this problem & a more detailed explanation of it at this link, but alas no solution.
i would appreciate it if anyone could steer me in the right direction as to how to acquire +R and +RW discs with some video on them to try in the DVD players i mentioned, and any further remarks anyone may have concerning the anamorphic recording problem.
thank you very much,
Matthew K. Smith
P.S: I considered the dual format Sony RDR-GX7, but after reading about it at the +RW site, and all the plus format features they dropped from it, it seems pointless. Also: if i am archiving video i would want to do it in the +R format, and the Sony only records in +RW. what the hell? and without a firewire input this seems like a real waste of money. the other thing that really pisses me off about virtually all of the dash format machines available is that they are proprietary, and won’t play plus media. the only one i have found is the Sharp DV-SR3U and it lacks a firewire input. it may get around that anamorphic recording problem, but i read the manual to this thing and it sounds like a nightmare, especially this video mode, vs. VR mode thing, and taking an hour to finalize discs! Fortunately i use a DVR built into my satellite receiver for 90% of my recording needs. i don’t archive much, but i want to quit using tape permanently, and i want to make the right choice.

shortly after writing my post i discovered a review of the new Lite-On LVW-5005 DVD recorder deck. i was not familiar w/ their brand. it has better all around customer reports and reviews than the Philips DVDR615 so i looked into it. that’s why i am adding to my post. the Lite-On appears to be an all around better product for the buck, and partially eliminates the problems i raised in my post. it records AND plays back in BOTH the +R/RW and -R/RW formats, has a more ergonomic remote and menu, and a firewire input, and goes for about $180! (and costs about $120 less than the dual format Sony.) if i run into a compatibility problem w/ people i send discs to not being able to play the plus format, i can try the dash format discs. and if i want to avoid the anamorphic widescreen squeeze problem, i can always record those particular shows w/ the dash format. still i wouldn’t mind acquiring a +R and a +RW disc w/ some video on them to try in some DVD players. opinions on the anamorphic squeeze problem, AND now most importantly: anyone’s experiences w/ this particular Lite-On model. here is a link to a review of it. the manual is available for download at the Lite-On site.

Ok, firstly, compatibility. If the older JVC combi plays DVD+ disks, likely the new ones will too. However I understand you want to check before making a purchase. Perhaps someone in your area can help you out with that. Bear in mind that the biggest single factor in achieving high compatibility is the quality of the media. Cheap, low quality DVD+R disks may not play on some players (as may be the case with -R media) but high quality disks may be fine. Try and use Ricoh or MCC dye disks for your tests.

Next point. Are you telling me that neither of your Philips TVs has a letterbox function? You said these were new TVs! With that function, you just play the disk, and adjust the TV aspect ratio as needed. The button on the remote to activate this function may look like a TV screen with a crosshair over the top of it with arrows on the ends of the hairs. You’ll get black bars top and bottom, but the aspect ratio will be correct. I’d be amazed if any new TV didn’t have this feature.


Loob: the 20" new Philips in the bedroom we have has a function where you can expand the 4:3 vertically for what stupid purpose i kno not (to get rid of letterboxing and make the image on the screen unnatural looking?!), but that would just exacerbate the problem! there is no 16:9 adjustment, but we got this as a cheap bedroom set. the 32" JVC i have in the living room doesn’t have it either, but it is a no frills model missing other things like color temp too. great picture tho. if i get the Lite-On (see my second post), i guess i can record widescreen stuff w/ the dash format kluge when i have to. if i understand this problem correctly: if i just record a show that is letterboxed, and then go play that disc in another DVD player it is going to appear squeezed? not just anamorphic stuff i would copy using the deck? i have read stuff on this over and over and still don’t think i understand it!

OK. First of all, the 5005 does record on everything…+R/RW and -R/RW and CD etc. That being said, the 5005 has “issues” (see the forum) that should be resolved ‘soon’.

After that, about wide screen etc. In my experience, if you record something with letterbox, you get a recording with letterbox and your TV shows a picture with letterbox. My 5005 does not stretch or squeeze the picture, it just plays what’s on the disc. (Back when I used to sell TVs, the stretching of the picture was done with the TV itself and not the video player.)

There can be compatability challenges with 5005 recorded discs, not so much related to whether it’s + or - but to it’s recording format which is DVD+VR not DVD-VIDEO. Most newer machines play it fine but some don’t. Except for my 2+ year old Pioneer 563A, I don’t know what others WON’T play DVD+VR format, so check around.

Now, in spite of the above, I love the 5005 because it is so flexible. I’ve never had a bad recording (for a standalone recorder) or a coaster. that being said, I only feed it FujiFilm brand -and + media (both R and especially RW, the RW is RICOHJPN and the R is TY) and it does fine with the very occasional TDK+R (CMC) that I throw at it.

Any more questions, just ask me or better yet use the 5005 forum. A lot of (generally) helpful and knowledgeable people there.