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Greg's experiences with the Digitrex GKX-9000 DVD recorder
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Summary

This page describes the problems I had with the Digitrex GKX-9000 DVD recorder in 2004. Partially as a result of this documentation, the seller refunded the purchase price. He did not ask me to return the unit, and from time to time it still comes in handy.

This unit apparently has a basic design flaw that frequently causes it to “freeze” during recording. The unit will not respond until the power is cycled (turned off and on again). Any partial recording is lost.

I returned my unit for repair in July 2004. On return, it had not been repaired; instead, the service report contained the statement

REPLACED THE NOISY FAN AND CHECK ALL FUNCTIONS,
THIS DVD PLAYER IS NORMAL AND CONDITIONS AS DESCRIBED IS USUAL FOR
THIS MODEL.

Based on this claim, I arranged for a refund of my purchase price.

The rest of this page gives more details and may be of interest if you have a Digitrex unit that is either working well (if you have one that has never “frozen”, please let me know) or that is out of warranty.

How to use the recorder: Greg's simplified instructions

The story begins

On 19 March 2004 I finally received the Digitrex GKX-9000 DVD recorder that I had bought on Ebay nearly two weeks earlier. It appears to be the same as the Apex DRX-9000, barely warmed over for Australian conditions (for example, the date format is the wrong way round). Note that the Australian site claims it will record on DVD-R and DVD-RW media. I don't believe this.

First, the summary: the unit I have received has set an all-time record for unreliability. Of 20 attempted recordings up to 11 April, 7 failed because of product defects (the system hung up), a 35% failure rate. When it does work, the programming sets all-time records for difficulty of use. This does not seem to be an isolated case: the Digitrex forum reports many similar incidents. Based on my experience with this unit, I would strongly recommend against purchasing one of these devices. I asked Digitrex for a statement about their reliability, but after four months, I find my expectations confirmed: they haven't replied to me.

The good news: it works, at least some of the time. Like many modern embedded designs, it looks hurried and rushed. The manual and the on-screen displays were obviously written by somebody who doesn't speak English very well:

5. In five minutes before it is ready to record the scheduled, it appears a Record Prompt dialog, affirm press OK, abolish press CANCEL, and if without operation for a moment it will record the scheduled automatically.

I'm curious about the background of that text; I'd suspect Eastern European.

Within a few minutes of installation, I managed to shoot myself in the foot: the player supports “progressive scan”, a new way to say “non-interlaced video”. I didn't know if my TV supported progressive scan, so I tried it. It didn't. Then, of course, I couldn't access the on-screen display, and the non-intuitive method of access (hint: in case of doubt, try Select and look for the tiny error message at the right of the screen) made it impossible to get a display again. It took a while to find the button I/P on the remote control, which toggles between interlaced and non-interlaced video.

Things weren't exactly plain sailing after that. I'm still trying to work out what's going on, but by the end of the evening, I had established:

  1. It's rather obtrusive. It has a loud fan, and the power LED is bright blue, about 2cm wide and 5 mm high. I've covered it over.
  2. It's very slow. Functions like channel change have a noticeable delay, and some functions (stop recording, power down) seem to require accessing the DVD+RW: the latter takes about 30 seconds. The on-screen text suggests that it's writing to the DVD+RW, even when no write access seems necessary. It doesn't seem to do any harm, tough.
  3. Interrupting it while it is recording is a Bad Idea. I managed to make a coaster out of a DVD+R like that.
  4. I also managed to hang a recording on a DVD+RW, and the only way to get any reaction was to power cycle it. This was the first of many hangs; see below.
  5. Power cycling makes it forget the date and time.
  6. The user interface is very confusing. To change anything, you need to press Select. Do that at the wrong time and you'll erase what was there before (this applies particularly to things like recording dates and times).

Other observations

I've been looking round on the Digitrex forum and discovered some interesting gotchas and issues:

The show-stopper: continuous hangs

There are a number of irritations about this device, but by far the worst could be summed up as: “It doesn't work”. Between 19 March and 10 April 2004, just over three weeks, the system hung six times during recording and did not respond to any input. The partial recording was lost. The only way to recover is to power cycle, which coincidentally causes it to forget the time. This is clearly broken.

It's not clear whether this is a software (design) problem or a hardware (quality control) problem. On 10 April 2004 I sent a report to Digitrex via their contact page, asking them:

This device appears to suffer from a design fault which causes it to hang up at random
during recordings.  Please contact me by 16 April to inform me whether you will repair or
replace it.

Maybe I'm cynical, but I don't really expect to hear anything back from them. If I do, I shall report it here.

This is really quite a problem. Yes, I could probably send it back and get a refund, but then I either need a new DVD recorder (typically costing twice as much), or I end up sitting on 100 DVD+R and DVD+RW disks. Both are not very satisfactory.

History of hangs

Up to 11 April, we have managed 13 successful recordings on the unit and 7 failures, a spectacular 65% success rate.

Getting service

On Tuesday, 13 April I called the Digitrex customer support line. They don't seem to have their own customer support: the phone menu system announced itself as something like “Australian Warranty Support”. They take my prize for the most irritating hold “music”: radio commercials (which indicated that they're in Sydney) interrupted every minute by a loud beep and the information that I was still in the waiting queue. Finally spoke with Robert, who gave me the address of a local repair place, and also the information that there appeared to have been a lot of problems with hangs in the USA, but not too many here, and that it's probably hardware, either overheating (shouldn't be the case here) or defective components.

Now the problem: what do I do while it's being repaired? Wrote to Auctionbrokers, who sold me the unit, and asked them to replace it. I didn't get a reply.

Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2004 20:17:15 -0500
From: customerservice@auctionbrokers.com.au
To: grog
Subject: Re: Auctionbrokers - Tax Invoice & Delivery Information - lemisauctions [AAPTY: 416789]

Hi Greg,

I am sorry to hear you have encountered problems with your Digitrex item.

DIGITREX provide a 1 year standard warranty nationwide for their entire
range of products.  This means if the product breaks you will be able to
get it fixed or if it can not be fixed it will be replaced.

You can take a look at the Digitrex website www.digitrex.net or call their
hotline on the following number:

1300 366 144 - Australia Wide

They should also be able to give you a few hints and tips.  In the
meantime, if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to
contact me.  I will be happy to assist.

I also got a reply from my online enquiry to Digitrex on 19 April stating:

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2004 10:01:01 +1000
From: Michael Murdica <michaelm@digitrex.net>
To: "'grog" <grog>
Subject: RE: Digitrex Online Enquiry
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2657.72)

Hi Greg,

If the unit was purchased within 14days please see retailer and they will
replace it.  Please check Faqs on website first and check instruction manual
over first.  Over the 14day warranty period  please contact Telefix Australia
wide On 1300 366 144.You should have a warranty card in the box,Telefix will
be able to discuss any technical issues etc.

Unfortunately, my 14 days had already expired, so I held on. If anybody else should want to buy one of these device. it's obviously worth noting, though.

Compatibility issues

I had intended to keep the recorder until I had an alternative in place before sending it in for repair. During the next few months I found a number of other problems:

Giving up

By mid-July, I still didn't have a replacement for the recorder, but it was becoming clear that it wasn't worth keeping in the condition is was in. On some occasions three out of four recordings would fail. I resolved to bring it to the repairers, though I don't have much confidence that they'll be able to repair it: I believe it's a design issue.

Tuesday, 27 July 2004

On 27 July we brought the unit to Telefix in Adelaide. They initially quoted two weeks, but then claimed they had problems getting parts.

Thursday, 26 August 2004

We got a call on 25 August saying that the unit was finally ready for collection, and we picked it up on 26 August. When we got it home, I was astounded to discover on the service report (ATT: JIM):

REPLACED THE NOISY FAN AND CHECK ALL FUNCTIONS,
THIS DVD PLAYER IS NORMAL AND CONDITIONS AS DESCRIBED IS USUAL FOR
THIS MODEL.

My first impression was that Telefix had not found anything wrong with the unit, and it wasn't until some time later that I noticed that they didn't say that the unit didn't fail, just “CONDITIONS AS DESCRIBED IS USUAL FOR THIS MODEL.” The description is clear enough—I had supplied an older version of this web page, so effectively that's what I wrote above. This service report seems to be saying “it's normal for this model to lock up all the time”.

I called Telefix and spoke with Brett, their purchasing officer. He told me there was nobody by the name of Jim there. He didn't connect me to anybody who had worked on the unit, and just claimed to have done a 48 hour “soak test”. He was not able to answer how many recordings were done in this time, nor their outcome. I get the impression that they don't have any set procedure for this kind of test. I later discovered the exact details of the tests: since the unit doesn't erase recording information after completing the recording, the information was still in the recorder when I powered it on again. They made two recordings, both on 23 August, both on channel 28 (SBS). One was for one hour, from 7 pm to 8 pm, the other for 35 minutes, from 9 pm to 9:35 pm. With such short recordings, they had a good chance of success.

What now? I'm still wondering how to handle it. Telefix made a good initial impression, but this is ridiculous.

Sunday, 5 September 2004

In the ten days after getting the machine back, it didn't hang at all, a very long time by comparison with its prior behaviour. Today it did, however—exactly the same symptoms as before. In combination with the service report, I suppose that this means that the machine is not repairable, and that this problem is a known (and evidently irreparable) fault. I shall contact Digitrex and ask for them to refund my money.

This page is incomplete. I may update it some time. I did get a refund; see here for details.


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