By combining an 80GB digital video recorder (DVR) with a DVD recorder, the Toshiba RD-XS32 seeks to make your VCR a thing of the past. The 80GB hard drive can store 103 hours of programming and content that can be easily dubbed onto a DVD-R. The Toshiba RD-XS32 is currently available for less than $500.
Upside: The RD-XS32's included IR blaster controls cable and satellite boxes, so you'll be able to record any of the hundreds of channels to which you subscribe (no need to remember to leave the box on channel 201 before you head out to work). And unlike standalone DVRs, the RD-XS32 enables easy high-speed dubbing from hard drive to DVD-R, DVD-RW, or DVD-RAM media, so archiving your favorite shows is a snap. The RD-XS32 also includes a FireWire input for easy transfer of home movies to DVD.
Downside: Instead of the TV Guide On-Screen electronic programming guide (EPG) found on some competing models, the RD-XS32's programming options are strictly manual (albeit streamlined by VCR Plus+ compatibility). And while it doesn't need a phone connection or a monthly fee, the RD-XS32 lacks the convenience and usability of Toshiba's TiVo-powered . Furthermore, the lack of video-editing features means you can't cut out commercials before you burn TV shows to disc.
Outlook: If you want to record and archive your favorite shows but you're not willing to pay for the enhanced functionality offered by a TiVo device, the Toshiba RD-X32 is worth consideration. Videophiles will also want to check out the step-up model, the RD-XS53, which doubles the size of the hard drive and adds high-def upconversion via its HDMI output.