Summary: Great little unit - But..
Review: I'm pretty happy with the unit after about a month. It's very easy to use, and the quality of the recordings seem good. (I've only tried it in SP mode).
Something I would point out, and I never thought to check, is with all of the inputs, none are for digital sound. Since most of what I plan to use it for, it doesen't matter, it's okay for me, but be aware.
Also, the user manual could be MUCH better. Several functions are not explained at all. What is explained is VERY basic.
Other than that, it's a nice one for the price.
Summary: Not Friendly A/V
Review: I am an a\v nut for over 40 years and have awards for amatuer and professional videos. This dvd recorder does not make it as user friendly. The instruction book is not helpful and the tech help had just a little more knowledge than I had concerning the AR230. Store personnel had only one person that had been trained on it. The title menu is limited to 8 characters, what good is that .... I would not recommend this for anyone.
Summary: Unreliable. Bizarre Gateway service.
Review: Usage was delightful in its simplicity. Its logically organized menus were colorful and legible. Would make an excellent and very inexpensive VCR substitute...
However, anything multiplied by zero equals zero, and zero is what the AR-230 gets from us. Being limited to a 15-day return window, we tried various DVD+RW recordings on both the included Mitsubishi media and a 5-pack of recommended Imation. Roughly a little over half of the recordings were faulty (random freeze-ups) or totally unplayable. Scrutiny in a PC of one of the unplayable discs showed that data was recorded, but that there were unreadable sectors.
After 7 days of trying all kinds of work-arounds, we gave up. We drove up to the Gateway store, hoping to exchange our AR-230 for a non-defective unit. The AR-230 and packaging were intact. Imagine our amazement when we were told that it would not be a simple exchange, and that it would take at least two weeks for our credit card to be credited with a refund.
Summary: Good solid product
Review: This is an interesting product. It's a cross between a VHS VCR and a fully functioning digital DVD recorder.
The higher priced digital recorders have hard drives built in to give them Tivo features like the ability to record temporarily for many hours, watch a program from the beginning while the unit is still recording the end, instant replay, pause live TV, etc. The fully loaded recorders also have some sort of Tivo-like program guide.
The AR-230 has none of these things, but it costs a lot less as well. It's an interesting mix of high and low end VCR features plus an adequate DVD+R/RW recorder. The high end is reflected by the number of different inputs and outputs: Composite, S-Video, Component, Firewire, Coax and Optical audio. The low end is reflected by the timer: Only 5 programs, no Mon-Fri mode, no VCR+.
As a simple DVD replacement for a VCR, it fulfills it's function very well. The remote is easy to use. The quality of the DVD image is equal to the quality of the video input. It won't allow you to create you're own chapters, but you can set it to automatically create chapters every 1 - 12 minutes.
There are 4 program modes: 1hr, 2hrs, 4hrs & 6hrs. I've tried the 2 and 4 hour modes and both are fine. Choosing from titles on the disc is much easier than scanning a VCR tape for the start of a new program. Also scanning by chapter and fast forward/reverse work very well - a big improvement over tape.
The AR-230 records only on "Plus" media, but reads/plays just about everything. BEWARE: The DVD recordable industry is borderline insane. They're locked in a betamax/vhs type war of competing incompatible formats called "Plus" and "Minus". Not only are there different recorders that record each format, but the blank media are different for each format. A "Minus" disc won't work in a "Plus" recorder.
If you've got a set top DVD player you may want to check which format it supports. If your DVD player only plays "Minus" discs it won't be able to play DVD's you produce from the AR-230.
Summary: A bit tricky to use, powerful features
Review: I found it easy to get started using, and had few problems with basic recording to DVD+R or DVD+RW disks. There are some technical challenges if you want to copy the disks made with the AR-230 - it can be done, but takes some learning. The recorded disks played in 9 out of 10 DVD players I tried them in. In this price range, it has nice features like firewire input, PAL to NTSC playback conversion, built-in TV tuner, and component output.
But the big plus on this player is that it can bypass copy protection on DVD's and VHS movies.(Firmware 1139, Dec 2003) This earns it an extra star from me. Amazon probably won't let me tell how here, but those interested can easily find the info on the internet.
Summary: 286 of DVD recorders
Review: after reading the reviews i decided to purchase this dvd recorder and really expected a lot more. the unit takes forever to load a disk, hangs on a regular basis, and by the way includes copy protection so you really cannot use it to backup those old vhs tapes. the concept is good and i have sucessfully recorded some dvds but you always hold your breath to see if some totally uncomprehensible error message will appear. it really reminds me of my 286 running windows 98, sometime it works somtimes it crashes... needs a lot more work. this is even true on playing regular commercial dvds where it will hang for no reason. you have to pull the power plug to reset it....should sound familiar. if you want a low cost dvd recorder it is probably ok but do not expect much.
Summary: Thrown in the trash
Review: The first recorder gradually lost capabilities over the first two days after delivery. We had to return it at our cost and a used unit was sent out. We could not get the remote to work - critical since that's how setup is accomplished. Our TV did not recognize a signal from the recorder and when we attempted to send the recorder's signal through our VCR to get to the TV it completed wiped out the setup of our VCR. We had to disconnect the VCR from power for an hour and then plug it back in and redo its setup. We tried composite as well as coaxial connections to no avail. Gateway would not take the recorder back because the time limit of 14 days was used up by waiting for the second machine to get to us. We threw the recorder in the trash - an expensive lesson.
Summary: Great value for the price
Review: I admit mine was very low cost...$199 after Gateway's $100 coupon offer....never expected to be able to buy a dvd recorder for this price this year. Picture quality is excellent, fairly easy to figure out the controls, a real boon for time-shifters, who are tired of seeing their vhs tapes degrade almost before they can get around to watching them! Certainly less bells and whistles than the pricier models, but more than I expected. Thanks, Gateway!
Review: I use it a player not a recorder it is not a good buy
Summary: Easy, Great Value
Review: I love this product. I plugged it in and it worked. The menus were easy to navigate and the remote control was easy to use. I love the value versus others on the market and I prefer to buy brands that I trust. This is a great product, everyone should buy one.