Review Price free/subscription
Philips DVDR5520H DVD/HDD Recorder
We recently reviewed the Philips DVDR5570H, which turned out to be a very impressive DVD/HDD recorder with one or two caveats. But if its 250GB hard-disk capacity is too big for your budget, then this 160GB version might be a more suitable option.
That 160GB capacity allows you to record up to 180 hours' worth of TV programmes, as well as up to 150 DivX movies, 4,500 songs or 11,000 photos as part of the recorder's jukebox functionality. This effectively turns the unit into a multimedia hub, enabling you to keep your content in one place and play it all through your home cinema system.
Apart from the smaller hard-disk capacity, the DVDR5520H boasts all the same features as its 250GB sibling, including an integrated Freeview tuner and support for DVD-RW/-R, DVD+RW/+R and DVD+R (Double Layer) discs, but not DVD-RAM or DVD-R (DL). The best feature you'll find is the Time Shift Buffer, which uses a portion of the hard disk to continually record what you're watching (for up to 6 hours), allowing you to pause and rewind live TV or skip back and record a programme retrospectively. Philips is one of the only DVD/HDD recorder manufacturers offering this level of flexibility, which makes a real difference during everyday TV viewing.
Another of the DVDR5520's main attractions is its stunning design and high build quality. Its black finish, interspersed with flashes of silver and alluring red and blue lights, gives it cutting-edge chic that should compliment your flat panel TV nicely. The central display panel manages to squeeze in the programme name and channel, while a flap on the fascia flips down to reveal the auxiliary inputs (including FireWire, S-video, composite and stereo audio) and a USB port, which is one way of transferring media files onto the hard disk.
Among the rear connections is the now familiar sight of an HDMI output that pipes 1080p, 1080i and 720p video to a suitably-equipped TV, plus component video output, offering the next-best picture quality. Aside from regular sockets like composite, S-video, stereo audio and coaxial digital audio outputs, you'll also find a coaxial digital audio input that enables you to record 5.1-channel sound from an external source, such as a Sky+ box (though you'll need an optical to coaxial converter).
Satellite and cable set-top boxes can be connected to the RGB-capable SCART input and, thanks to Guide Plus EPG and supplied G-Link infra-red transmitter, you can make timer recordings from any satellite or cable channel. The deck remotely changes the set-top box to the right channel at the programmed time. It's also worth noting that if Freeview isn't available where you live, then you can still pick up analogue broadcasts thanks to the hybrid tuner (with separate RF inputs and outputs for digital and analogue). Therefore this deck makes a great way to plug the gap until switchover is completed in your area.