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Connecting the cables is relatively straightforward using the enclosed diagram. The first time I set it up, I couldnt get the electronic programme guide to work (probably because of a poor TV signal in my area), although I learned to live with it as I was still able to pre-programme recordings. When I moved house, setup went as described, so I must presume that my first negative experience was a glitch. The EPG works well now and is always up to date.
The DVDR-80 can record from two external receivers (satellite set-top boxes, to you and me). UK users beware, though: not all makes of satellite receiver appear in the setup process.
There are several recording modes. These range from M8 (the manufacturers describe this as video quality, though I think its better than any recording on my best VCR), giving you eight hours recording time on a 4.7GB DVD-R or DVD-RW disc to M1, which gives you an hour of ultra-high quality DVD. The average home user will be very happy with M6, giving you 6 hours of better-than-VCR quality.
Programming a recording is straightforward, using either Guideplus, Videoplus, manual programming or safe record. The Guideplus recording works well; but youll need to pay attention to the end times. Unlike the Videoplus, Guideplus doesnt seem to pick up the programme start and end signals, so you could end up missing something important, like finding out whodunit in a murder mystery, for example. Unfortunately the recorder doesnt auto select a blank area when youve programmed a recording; youll have to do that yourself or you may find youve overwritten something you really want to keep. The safe record function is also a mixed blessing. This works by pressing and holding the record button on the remote, at which point it defaults to the end of your disc fine if youve got a three hour slot at the end. If you havent you may find that youve only managed to capture 10 minutes of that vital programme.
With programmes youve recorded through Videoplus or manual programming, its easy to go into the disc menu and rename it to something youll remember. Pressing the numbers on the remote when in this mode provide a shortcut to certain letters.
When the recorder comes on theres usually a slight delay the on screen menu shows all the programmes on the disc.(This is exactly the same when loading the discs on your PC) Just use the up and down arrows on the remote to find the one you want, press OK and it loads. Fast forward and rewind buttons work well, though watch out for anything over 8 speed as you can find youve reached the end of the programme quite quickly. The chapter forward and back buttons tend to do about 6 minutes at a time, the default chapter setting.
Sound quality on playback is excellent at all recording settings, with no distortion at high volumes when played back through my hifi. Picture quality varies depending on the setting used, though even on M8 colours are crisp and clear. Fast motion tends to blur on the lower settings, though, so sports fans may want to record the big game on M2 or M1.
The monitor button on the remote control lets you switch between the disc and the TV tuner. This is especially useful when recording from an external set top box (such as a satellite receiver) as it allows you to check that youre recording what you think you are.
The disc manager (another button on the remote control) is a key feature. You can add discs to the disc manager (Ive named mine disc and the number) and then it stores information about all the recordings as they are made. You can then browse this list by title or by disc. Selecting a recording in this mode brings up a message telling you which disc to insert to play your chosen recording.
The disc menu stores an image of your programme as well as the date and length of recording. Typically, this is an image from the first few seconds of recording, so if the image showing is from an ad, you might want to change it for one relating to the programme. You can do this with favourite scene select tool on the remote control. This tool also allows you to divide up recordings (in case, for example, you left it running and have recorded several programmes) and to change chapters.
The most irritating feature is a tendency to freeze from time to time. I still havent figured out what sets this off, but pressing buttons repeatedly once its gone does NOT help. The only solution at that point is to pull the power cable out and start again. Dont worry, that doesnt mean starting the setup process again. Its simply a reboot and then back to normal
I was also not happy that it didnt integrate as promised with my Philips Freeview box. However, Ive learned to live without that.
In spite of my gripes, Ive never regretted buying this recorder. Apart from the minor annoyances, the only useful addition would be a hard disk as well, and Philips has another model with this feature.