First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
Never before has a product both impressed and infuriated us like the Philips DVDR725H. While Philips has managed to design an incredibly powerful recording unit that combines true PVR functionality with a DVD recorder, certain key features are omitted that prevent this productfrom achieving its full potential. A complicated interface further detracts from what could have been an exceptional offering.
- True PVR recording functionality, effective range of features
- Disjointed and confusing interface, no TV to DVD recording, no DVD to Hard Drive recording
The DVDR725H delivers exceptionally powerful PVR-style recording, but is let down by a poorly integrated interface and the omission of a few notable features.
Price$ 1,299.00 (AUD)
The real highlight of the DVDR725H is its recording functionality. Utilising its Time Shift Buffer, the recorder creates a temporary rolling recording of whatever the viewer is watching, up to six hours long. This allows the viewer to rewind back through their evening's viewing, to pause live TV, and even fast forward to catch up to the recording. The temporary recording, or parts of it, can later be marked for storage, as opposed to deletion, provided that it hasn't already been cleared by the buffer. This is only the first of several incredibly useful features which defines the DVDR725H as a very powerful recording device.
The addition of a DVD+R/+RW burner vastly increases the recording power of the DVDR725H, allowing users to permanently store titles that have been recorded on the hard drive. The lack of support for DVD-R/-RW media is a disadvantage here, but a relatively minor annoyance since there are no substantial differences between the DVD types. Recording titles to DVD from the hard drive is for the most part incredibly easy, and can be done at the touch of a button through the on-screen interface. Recording television to DVD is more complicated, since the recorder lacks the ability to record directly to DVD from television. Titles must instead be saved onto the hard disk first, before they can be archived to DVD. This is unnecessarily time consuming at best and flat-out restrictive at worst. This extra step can be especially prohibitive if the 160 gigabyte hard drive is full.
To complicate matters further, DVDs cannot be copied to the hard drive - even those which aren't copy protected. This is a big omission on the part of Philips, and is a significant restriction on the unit's versatility. Essentially, it makes recording on the 725H a one-way process; recordings are made from TV to hard drive, and then archived to DVD when required. Granted, the 725H probably performs these functions better than any other recorder we've seen, but in an industry that's constantly expanding in terms of flexibility and compatibility, reducing functionality seems to us a step in the wrong direction.
Despite its above average (though albeit limited) recording capabilities, the DVDR725H is marred by a confusing interface. Too many menus and poor labeling of functions left us frustrated as we flicked through various sub-menus and options, struggling to find the settings we were looking for. We found that the visual representation of the Time Shift Buffer to be a little unclear, and users who enjoy sitting a reasonable distance from their television will find themselves having to move closer in order to see the details exactly. A poorly laid out remote further confused matters, and this combined with the disjointed on-screen interface left us almost battling with the controls in an attempt to elicit the functions we required.
Once mastered however, the interface revealed an impressive range of features, including seven recording quality modes. As with the DVDR560H, we felt that the non-standard labeling of these modes was slightly detrimental. We tested the timer function, and were pleased to note that it was implemented and able to be set up quite quickly. Editing titles can be a little complicated, but dividing, merging, renaming and redefining chapter markers is all possible. A solid range of connection options rounds off this unit nicely.
Making a definitive statement about the DVDR725H is a rather subjective exercise. Users who want true PVR functionality, including the ability to pause and rewind live TV, will find that the 725H is an excellent option, especially when considering the ability to archive titles to DVD. But as a standard DVD/Hard Drive combination recorder, the Philips is lacking the both versatility and flexibility that make combination recorders so attractive. A better implemented interface and expanded recording functionality would have truly made the DVDR725H a standout product.
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