John P. Falcone is an executive editor at CNET, where he coordinates a group of more than 20 editors and writers based in New York and San Francisco as they cover the latest and greatest products in consumer technology. He's been a CNET editor since 2003.
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Toshiba's $699 RS-TX20 combines a 120GB TiVo hard disk digital video recorder (DVR) and a DVD recorder in one unit. At its highest quality setting, the RS-TX20 will be able to record about 40 hours of programming to its internal hard drive (at its lowest video quality, that capacity jumps to 140 hours). The RS-TX60, which features a larger 200-hour maximum capacity, sells for $100 more.
Upside: Unlike with Toshiba's earlier SD-H400, anything recorded on the RS-TX20's hard drive can be archived to a DVD-R at the touch of a button. And while the RS-TX20 will function almost identically to the Pioneer DVR-810H, the Toshiba includes some notable enhancements: a FireWire input will allow easy transfer of home movies from any DV camcorder, and a larger hard drive will let the unit store 50 percent more video than the Pioneer can.
Downside: Unfortunately for hard-core archivists, commercials can't be edited out before burning a DVD. Toshiba teases you with a 45-day free preview of the TiVo Plus service, but maintaining access to that full range of TiVo conveniences--such as 14-day programming guides, Season Pass recording options, WishList keyword searches, and the cool Home Media Option--will cost you either $13 per month or $300 for the lifetime of the unit. Otherwise, the stripped-down (but free) TiVo Basic service will have to suffice.
Outlook: The Pioneer DVR-810H is CNET's highest-rated combo DVD recorder, and the Toshiba RS-TX20 adds a larger hard drive and easy camcorder connectivity for a lower price. We'll have to reserve judgment until we get our hands on one, but the "ToshiVo" looks promising indeed.