Thinking of buying a Gateway AV-230 DVD recorder?

My recommendation: DON'T!

I bought a Gateway AV-230 in mid January 2004 ... at first, I thought "charmingly bad user manual, but the unit seems to work".

That was until I started trying to do timer recordings (e.g., record channel 66 at 2:00 PM tomorrow).

The unit fails to do timer recordings about 1/2 the time ... the status code is usually "disc full", even when the disc is clearly *not* full (in some cases, the +RW disc had just been formatted by the unit; in other cases, the unit had already recorded an hour (SP) on the +RW disc (which should leave 1/2 the disc available))

(We're using quality media: TDK, Verbatim, Maxell)

Yesterday, I tried 6 times in a row (with +RW discs) ... 2 failures, 4 successes.

Note: in the very limited number of times I've done timer recordings onto DVD+R we haven't had a problem. However, my wife and I don't want to use many DVD+R s... they're hard to recycle.

We've had a couple of discs that appeared to have recorded correctly, but which would repeatedly freeze at some particular (repeatable) spot during playback. (A "chapter skip" could skip over such a spot, but only if requested prior to the freeze.) In both cases, these were DVD+RW discs ... we re-formatted them and the disc recorded successfully when used later. (I can't recall if we duplicated the freeze on another player.)

The manual sucks. There's no mention, for example of the "status" field for timer recordings, or a description of the various possible status errors.

For the curious, on the page, the right-most column is headed "Status" and will say "OK" or "FAIL". If you move the cursor to a "FAIL" entry and press you'll see a terse status code (e.g., "disc full").

Other annoyances ... note: I have no experience with other DVD recorders to compare them with ... maybe *everyone* has the same problems :)

Gateway "support" has been solidly less than helpful. The support person I talked to on the phone had absolutely no interest in taking a bug report against the user manual. The web-based support person said "sorry, you had 15 days to return it" along with words to the effect of "tough luck".

If you bought one less than 30 days ago, and want to return it, *CALL* and talk to a manager. Gateway people tell me that first level managers are allowed to authorize refunds up to 30 days after purchase.

After 30 days, you're shit-out-of-luck. The Gateway "managers" I've spoken to swear they have no way to contact a higher level manager. Yeah, right.

My status: I'm still trying to return it for a refund. I'll certainly never buy from Gateway again.

Sure, some percentage of people will have problems that fall outside the "easy to fix zone". It's how companies handle *those* problems that can make or break their reputation. For us, Gateway just damaged their reputation, probably irreparably.