I used to use standard disks, but I got spoiled by the RAM disks. it allows you to use the recorder like a DVR.
you don't have to wait for a program to finish before you can see it. you can start watching a program while it is recording.
and you can watch previous recording while a current program is recording.
most things I record, I use Windows Media Center, but when there is a time conflict I use the Panasonic and sometimes there is a show or scene I want to keep or copy for someone. if there isn't another showing I can record with Windows Media Center the only other method I currently have is play it in real time and re-record to my computer.
I have already installed that firmware update. it's a real pain. one thing they don't tell you is that when you do a firmware update it wipes out all your setup and you have to run channel setup which is really slow process.