I’m in the market for a new DVD recorder as well. When trying to compare analog (as w/component) picture quality without a live demo, look at the digital-to-analog converter’s maximum frequency sampling and effective number of bits. The DMR-ES15S, for example, has a superior 12-bit/108MHz video DAC compared to the LVW-5006’s 10-bit/56MHz video DAC. That alone should give you good enough idea as to a unit’s picture quality for the low-medium end units. The ES15S’s video DAC beats the pants off anything else in the price range, so I’ll definitely be going with that.
As someone else said, yeah, despite having equal video DAC specs, the Pioneer will have better picture still, but it’s also about 4x the price. Following from that, there are other considerations to take into account with respect to picture quality and even the DAC’s themselves, but that information is often difficult to find. If anyone can find info on the ADC of the ES15S, for example, I would be amazed.
One more thing, if you’re REALLY concerned about playback, pick up a Denon DVD player (the 1930CI is real nice) for the playback purposes of finalized discs only. They’re better than even the Pioneer Elites.