The RDR GX3 is Sony’s second DVD recorder on the Australian market, and a ‘budget’ one at that. However, the truth is, it’s rather hard to say anything new about it once you’ve written about the Sony RDR GX7. Indeed, our GX7 review should be read in conjunction – the main differences are the things that are missing.
The most obvious omission is dollars, as the RDR GX3 costs $300 less than the RDR GX7. The question is what the savings costs in terms of features. To start with, the RDR GX3 is lighter by 400 grams (5.3 kg vs. 5.7 kg), and apart from weight, it’s missing a DV/i.LINK input and optical digital audio output. There are still front panel A/V inputs, however, but DV camcorder enthusiasts will have to go the analog S-Video route, although there’s still a coaxial digital audio output.
You do get an input SCART socket, which supports RGB-quality recording from a suitable digital TV receiver and the ability to specify the playback aspect ratio of your DVDs. This is not something to be skipped over lightly, because it determines the compatibility of DVD-Rs that you record for friends. If your friends have a widescreen display, then they can typically override the display setting for your DVD. But if they have a standard 4:3 aspect ratio TV, as so many people do, then an incorrect aspect ratio setting on a title will distort the display.
This can be overcome by temporarily changing the DVD player’s setup menu to tell it you have a 16:9 display. If a 16:9 image is incorrectly marked 4:3, there is no way of correcting it. This will display on a 4:3 TV as a full frame image, with your children tall and skinny. As a result, Sony should be applauded for including this feature.
Less impressive is the retention of the dead boring title menu system used in the RDR GX7. The text-only grey on gloomy grey design could certainly use some spicing up. The RDR GX3 also retains the very slow disc finalisation used to mark all DVD-R discs, which takes as little as 90 seconds on some other models. The RDR GX3 warned me that a five chapter DVD would take five minutes to finalise, when in fact it took about six and a half minutes!
Against these complaints, though, the RDR GX3 does deliver a completely reliable performance. It did precisely what it was told, when it was told, and the discs produced were clean and carried very high quality images, subject only to the quality settings I selected. Once again, while the 1.5 hour setting is useful, a 2.5 hour setting would also be helpful. If your program is more than two hours long you have to use the three hour setting, and this halves the picture resolution.
Overall, the Sony RDR GX3 is a solid, reliable machine from a reputable brand, but for the money, you can get a better feature set (including DV input) from Pioneer.