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At this time last year, my faithful DVD recorder (A Panasonic I had nicknamed Penelope) gave up the ghost and decided, due to no sensible reason, to refuse to read DVDs of any kind. I was heartbroken - how was I going to watch programmes I had recorded from all those obscure channels found at the other end of the satellite spectrum (like UKTV TopGear sorry, I mean Dave)?
I shot off, and went to my local electrical retailer (in that order) and had a look at what I could get to replace Penelope. I was a little confused - did I want a machine that could refine Einstein's first Law of Relativity or one that could make a perfect capuccino with a combined triple salchow and landing with a half-pike. I was utterly bemused.
And then it happened - our I clapped eyes on it across the crowded showroom. It was a brand that I had never considered before. It was a Philips DVDR3590. The main thing that caught my eye was it had a built-in Hard Disk Drive (HDD) for recording things onto as well. The size of the hard drive was 250GB. But, I asked myself, is this enough? Is it too much? Does size matter?
The machine itself cost me £110, which I did not think was too bad at all, particularly as it had £20 off its retail price. I paid my money, and walked out with a box that was going to bring me so much personal satisfaction (Jeremy Clarkson was becoming impatient).
Upon opening the box I took out a machine that looked like any other machine, or so I thought...
Connecting the machine is not easy, or at least I did not find it at all easy. On the back there are two SCART sockets, essentially one input (satellite receiver or VCR) and one output (TV). I connected up the recorder as it suggested for my system (SCART Lead from Satellite box to VCR, and then another lead from VCR to the recorder) and lo and behold, I could not get a signal to display. I am determined to sort this out one day (I will actually try it tomorrow - the anniversary of my purchase). Therefore I merely plugged my satellite box into the recorder and got a picture to come through. Hurray!
I went through all the menus on the recorder and set it up. I did not tune in the recorder for analogue TV channels as I only have a satellite system at home, but that looked relatively straightforward.
I decided which recording mode I wanted to use for recordings (I will go into this in more detail later), and then I looked at the remote control...
The remote control
This is one baffling piece of equipment (the remote, I mean). It features all the usual controls you would expect to find on a remote control for a DVD player bar two. Firstly, it does not have an eject button (annoying) and secondly it does not have a control to revert back to the 'home menu' for a DVD (very annoying).
The remote does, however, feature controls for the TSB (I thought that was a now-defunct bank but apparently it means Time-Shift Buffer), and timer programming.
The recorder will accept DVD+ R and DVD+RW, as well as DVD-R and DVD-RW(Penelope would not use DVD+RW). I am not an expert on the finer aspects of each of the disc types, but at least it means that I cannot buy the wrong type of blank DVD.
There are 7 (yes, I repeat, 7) different recording speeds, that all have an impact on DVDs and the HDD
Mode DVD Capacity HDD Capacity
------- ----------------- ------------------
High-Quality 1hr 40hrs
Standard 2hrs 77hrs
Standard Plus 2.5hrs 96hrs
Long Play 3hrs 115hrs
Extended 4hrs 153hrs
Super Long 6hrs 230hrs
Super Extended 8hrs 300hrs
I know from prior experience that DVD players cannot cope with much more than 4 hours per disc. I wanted to make sure that I was not cornered into buying a Philips machine again and again, so I opted for Extended Play, as it seemed to offer a mix of good capacity and good picture quality.
The time-shift buffer acts pretty much the same was as a Sky+ box in that it affords the user the opportunity to pause live TV, to repeat a segment etc etc. It does not, however, have a series link recording function, as it is not digital and does not, therefore, provide access to an EPG (Electronic Programme Guide).
I find the machine very useful. If I suddenly see something I want to record for posterity, or even longer, I just have to press record on the remote and it starts recording. I can either opt, later on, to protect it on the HDD, to discard it, or to copy it to DVD or a USB stick.
My old Video Collection
I have quite a few VHS cassettes. I am slowly going through them and putting them onto the HDD with a view to later putting them on DVD. It wil take time, but I will get there eventually.
One very good thing is that the machine appears to remember when it last watched a disc, and offers the facility of resuming viewing, even if it is a few weekssince I last watched it.
Only one or two niggles still exist. The machine occasionally seizes when I am watching a film (it did it to the last episode of 'Blackadder goes Fourth' and, most recently, to 'The Right Stuff'). Really and truly I should not call that a niggle - it is absolutely ******* annoying!
This is a fairly good machine. It is good value for money and does what it aims to do. If it resolved the niggles, had a simpler remote control with access to menus and an eject button and could connect up as it says it can, I would call it a very good machine!