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After years of sterling service I retired my Philips DVDR70 DVD recorder for a newer model. As I had recently updated my TV to a HD-Ready 1080i LCD panel I thought I would opt for one that offered both video-upscaling to 1080i and HDMI connectivity. I chose to look among those models of DVD recorder manufactured by Philips, after all they did invent the CD/DVD technology upon which all players and recorders are based together with my great experience living with my first Philips DVDR70 DVD recorder.
The DVDR 5500 not only offered a built-in Freeview tuner but also one for analogue TV reception, until the analogue "switch-off" looming in the upcoming years, making recording both analogue and digital TV so simple. The Freeview has a full 5-day EPG for you to review the upcoming digital schedule as well as program the recorder direct from the programme listings allows the recorder to oversee all the channel switching and timers. Unfortunately, they still have not found away to pause the recording process to eliminate recording the adverts! The onscreen display guides you through all the functions available on this recorder and creates attractive menus for playback of your TV recordings. In addition, the recorder features USB Direct for quick and easy transfer of photos and music. This allows me to connect both my USB multi-card reader and my digital camera directly to the DVD recorder for viewing on the TV without using the computer.
My Virgin cable service box connects to the DVDR 5500 via SCART and to then recorder then the TV connects to it using both SCART and HDMI cables. This allows me to watch my Cable TV service on the SCART loop through connection to the TV when the recorder is switched off or upscaled to 1080i via the HDMI connection when it is switched on without the need for an HD cable subscription. You could sacrifice the SCART loop through to upscale a second SCART source.
S-Video connectivity together with composite video connection affords any reasonable connection to his recorder. This recorder records and plays all your movies and music in a mind-boggling range of formats (DivX, MP3, WMA and JPEG) on most DVD media (DVD+-R/RW, DVD+R Dual Layer). You can choose to record video in a range of quality settings allowing you to tyre-iron up to eight hours of VHS-quality video onto a single DVD. This recorder will handle everything from audio CDs, to DivX DVDs. I have even played a DVDR crammed with MP3 music files from almost 80 albums. This is a truly remarkable recorder from the true innovators of the art. Originally these were sold for around £180 but I secured a new one from an e-bay shop for £75. The recorder is currently available (26 January 2009) from Debenhams.com for a price of £99. So bag yourself a real bargain!
It should be relatively simple. All I want to be able to do is to copy some of my old camcorder recordings to DVD. All I should need is a video player and a DVD recorder. If they could be combined into a single unit, so much the better. Of course, being me, I would have some additional requirements as well wouldn't I? I have a flat screen HD TV so an HDMI connection was also essential. I would also like to be able to play DVDs containing DiVX video. Not too much to ask is it?
But, trying to find a unit with all of these features seems to be a struggle. You may have read my review of the Daewoo DRVT-40 Combi VCR/DVD Recorder that I posted on Dooyoo earlier this year. Despite VCR technology being more or less dead now, like many people, we still have boxes and boxes of video tapes that hold memories of our past, holidays, children growing up, family now no longer with us.
Sadly, the Daewoo turned out to be something of a lemon. Despite trying two of them, they both demonstrated the same basic fault that made its purchase a waste of money. However, I still needed a machine to transfer some old video tapes. Fortunately my daughter had an old video recorder she no longer used or needed so I now no longer needed to buy a combi unit. All I needed was a straight DVD Recorder.
I went and did the rounds of the local electronics stores such as Currys and Comet and eventually the one device that seemed to have everything I wanted emerged as the Philips DVDR5500/05 DVD Recorder. It was a bit more expensive than I was expecting, at just under £180 from Comet, but with little else that I could identify it seemed I had little choice. Anyway, as far as I was aware, Philips is generally considered a reputable and reliable brand. Little did I know...!
The Philips is a low profile device, standing little more than a couple of centimetres high on the shelf. However, what it lacks in height it makes up for in width and depth. It really is much wider and deeper than I would have thought necessary, but then I don't know what goes on inside it its true.
The front panel contains the DVD disk tray on the left with a Standby button on one side of it and the Open/Close button on the other. In the middle is the LCD panel that tells you what's going on and to the right of that the DVD control buttons. Finally, on the far right, behind a flap is a set of sockets through which to connect external devices such as camcorders and USB flash drives.
The back panel provides the various sockets for the connections to the "fixed" devices, such as TVs, video recorders and cable set top boxes. I addition to two SCART sockets there is, of course, since that's why I bought it, the HDMI socket for connection to our HD TV. Component video is also provided. The Philips has built-in analogue and digital Freeview tuners and so there are also aerial sockets for the feed from the aerial and for the loop-through to take the signal on to other devices.
Most activities will be controlled by the supplied remote control, for which batteries ARE provided. You also get a spare aerial lead, a SCART lead and, surprisingly, an HDMI cable. Most manufacturers seem to feel it unnecessary to supply one of these, even where the device has HDMI capability.
Plugging in the device and powering up was quite straight-forward I chose only to use one SCART as the output was to the TV via HDMI and, initially at least, I didn't want to complicate things by connecting up the video player as well. I wanted to check that recording stuff off of the Virgin Media V+ boxes's hard drive worked first of all. So, just a SCART lead between it and the DVD recorder was initially connected.
The V+ box has a very neat feature whereby you can select a recorded programme or a series of programmes and record them in the background to an external device. The V+ box has two SCART sockets (recording via HDMI is not possible) and when background recording is carried out, the programmes being replayed to the recorder only get sent to one of the two SCART sockets. The other SCART and the HDMI output continue to play the normal programmes.
One thing I discovered when setting up the recorder was that, whilst it does offer the ability to record different lengths of recording on a DVD, like most DVD recorders do, sacrificing quality for recording length, the length of recording on the Philips machine is set as an option rather than easily variable at the time that the recording is planned. Resetting the recording length is a real ordeal and so you tend to leave it at a suitable default. Not use-friendly!
I set the recorder to record a couple of programmes and I confess I forgot all about it for a day or so. When I came back to check the records I found that the Philips wouldn't respond to the remote or even to the buttons on the front of the device itself. It was well and truly frozen. The only solution was to unplug it from the mains and then allow it to reinitialise itself. It did and then I checked the recordings and all seemed to be in order.
I didn't use the DVD recorder again for a couple of days but when I next came back to it I found that it was once again frozen. Reinitialising was again the only way to bring it back into operation. This happened a few more times but never could I identify when and why it was happening. I checked the Philips website but the only thing I could identify was that the firmware level on the box was out-of-date. I downloaded the latest level and tried to apply it. The box refused to accept the DVD on which the firmware upgrade was written.
This began the first of many calls to Philips' Customer Support. I explained the problem and what I was trying to do to resolve it and they agreed to send me a disk with the code already written to it. This arrived a week or so later and I applied the upgrade. It made no difference.
Over the next month or two the problem reoccurred several times. On my next call to Philips they revealed that there was yet another firmware level available and they would like me to try this one first, please. Once again they sent me a disk with it on. Once again it made no difference.
Finally they agreed to take the recorder back for repair. Philips deals directly with its customers where repairs to its products are required. You don't take it back to the dealer from which you bought it. They arrange to have it shipped to them at no cost to you and return it to you once they have fixed it. I got the recorder back without an note so I assumed that it was now working.
The reality was that, not only was the original problem not fixed but now the recorder wouldn't even record properly. You could set it to record a programme. It would say it was going to record the programme but when you checked the DVD you found that no programme had been recorded.
By now it was clear that there was no way that this device was ever going to be fit for purpose. I took it back to Comet and they refunded the money. I had had it for about six months in total. I think you will agree that I gave Philips every chance. I perhaps could have taken a replacement and tried that but by this time I had lost all confidence in this product.
The best I can say about it is that when it did succeed in producing a recording, the recording it made was as good as you could want. I did try playing some DiVX encoded video on it and that worked fine as well. However, it just wasn't working often enough to be able to say anything more than that.
I have to say that I had absolutely no problem at all with Philips' Customer Support. The agents at the other end of the phone were always courteous and helpful but all the help in the world is of no use if the product is a lemon. If you have one of these machines and it works then maybe you've been lucky.
I clearly wasn't.