Philips HDT8520 review



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Philips HDT8520
  • Philips HDT8520
  • Philips HDT8520
  • Philips HDT8520
  • Philips HDT8520
  • Philips HDT8520
  • Philips HDT8520
  • Philips HDT8520
  • Philips HDT8520
  • Philips HDT8520
  • Philips HDT8520
  • HDT8520 Freeview HD Digital TV Recorder (500GB)


Our Score:


Despite being launched under the Philips brand name, this Freeview HD recorder was actually designed by Pace, who launched the UK’s first ever twin-tuner Freeview PVR (the Pace Twin) and also makes the Sky+HD box – surely a good omen. This 500B, twin-tuner hard-disk recorder can be found online for around £220, which makes it much cheaper than the similarly capacious TVonics DTR-HD500 we reviewed last week.

Its external design is excellent. While not as snazzy or radical as the DTR-HD500, the HDT8520’s build quality is a cut above the usual Freeview receiver fare. It’s weighty, solidly bolted together and features a gorgeous brushed top panel. And while the black box shape could have been rather dull in the wrong hands, here it gives the unit a distinctive coolness that sets it apart from rivals.

We also like the little row of buttons along the left of the front panel, the dot matrix display in the middle that shows the channel name and number, plus the blue ‘HD’ icon that lights up when you’re watching a hi-def channel. The only aesthetic faux pas is the glaring white light that runs around the front and sides, which mercifully can be turned off.

On the rear panel is an adequate selection of sockets, including that all-important HDMI output, but it’s a shame there are no HDMI inputs as found on the TVonics recorder. That means you can’t use the Philips as a switcher, but even more disappointing is the news that you can’t use either of the unit’s two USB ports (on the back and side) for digital media playback – they’re for software updates only, which is a missed opportunity. There’s also an Ethernet port that currently serves no purpose, although it could facilitate IPTV services in the future. Completing the line-up are aerial input and loopthrough, optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, analogue stereo output and a Scart output, which only outputs TV pictures and not any of the unit’s menus (the screen goes black when you access the setup menu).

The big attraction behind this unit is its ability to receive and record hi-def channels, and with a 500GB hard disk you can store a lot of them – almost 130 hours’ worth, to be precise, or 259 hours of standard-definition programmes. Inside the box are two DVB-T2 tuners, which allow you to record one channel while watching another, and as a welcome surprise you can even record two channels while watching a third.

And like any good PVR, the HDR8520 offers all those essential tricks that most people can’t live without these days, such as pause/rewind live TV and the ability to watch a programme from the start while it’s still being recorded. When live TV is paused, the ‘time shift bar’ appears and helps you keep track of where you are, while functions like Instant Replay and Commercial Skip let you jump backwards and forwards in 15 or 30 second chunks. You can scan at x4, x32 and x128 or watch in slow-motion. The buffer holds three hours of programmes, and a handy list shows you the names of programmes stored within it.


September 29, 2010, 2:31 pm

Is there much content with 5.1 soundtrack broadcast on Freeview HD? I've got freesat and rarely see much 5.1... in any case shouldn't it be pretty straightforward for the box to convert 5.1 HE AAC sound into 5.1 PCM for the hdmi connection? Wouldn't you only need to transcode to Dolby Digital if you wanted to output via S/PDIF?


September 30, 2010, 4:55 am

Hey, whada ya know - you won't build Freeview into your TVs because you want us to buy it from you separately. And attached to a massive 500GB of storage too. Not my cup of tea. Just integrate the receiver into the telly and make it PVR ready so I can decide when how much storage I need, just like everyone else does, thank you.


September 30, 2010, 4:04 pm

@goldenguy roflcopter: I couldnt have said it better myself...


October 2, 2010, 5:58 pm

Philips PVRs generally suffer from huge amounts of software and firmware bugs. Wouldn't dare buy one of these; had enough of being a second class beta tester with Windows Mobile.


October 6, 2010, 2:23 pm

With two tuners, how can you record 2 channels while watching a third? Presumably this only works if 2 of the channels are in the same multiplex?


December 31, 2011, 4:38 am

Worst mistake of my life was to buy a Philips HDT8520 from John Lewis. It continually jams, almost impossible to access recordings. Customer service is appalling - only open 9.00 - 5.00 Mon -Fri so impossible to contact if you work. I eventually took time off work to phone them and was told that the problem I have is not really that bad as it only affects a small percentage of the sets!! When I asked them what I should do they said 'take it back to John Lewis'! Unfortunately I don't have the receipt so I'm the loser. So disappointed that John Lewis are selling such a poor machine.

the near side

April 27, 2012, 12:08 am

I bought for one of these for £129, but, 3 months later it jammed on (the light wrapped round the top was on all the time, but no picture - just a blank screen). I took it back to John Lewis, and they were very helpful and offered me my money back, or a credit of £189 ( the last price that they sold the device for). I took the credit and bought the humax which was then £245, about £50 cheaper than when I bought the Phillips device. And with a 2 year guarantee. The philips' picture was very good, and the unit functioned perfectly until it failed comletely. IThe Humax is definitely significantly better. I consider myself lucky to have bought from John Lewis.

not impressed

September 18, 2012, 1:53 pm

As a long time fan of Philips, this is the brand I purchase - way back from the video recorder, to 2 LCD TV's (my current Philips HD TV is great) and a shaver, so it was my natural choice to opt for the Philips HDT8520 to make use of Freeview channels.

Bad choice! Last night was the last straw and prompted my review! Two family programs set to record and not for the 1st time neither were recorded! How do I explain that to the family!

The unit can't be 100% relied on to record programs it's just not dependable, to add to that if you are recording one program and then choose to pause another, on occasion it can just stop the program you are watching, this seems to happen when the program you are recording ends, great that especially when you've been watching a film, so a waste of an hour or so.

Then sometimes although rarely, programs it has recorded are unplayable. Again very frustrating.

Another frustration is it can become "confused" and just not follow remote control requests, so you end up having to unplug and start again!

Oh one more issue, sometimes the rewind/forward facility can be awkward it can just stall or go too far or too little.

I now see the free helpline is now an 0845 number when it used to be 0800, so it will cost to call and then be referred to the Pace helpline to be queried on the latest install of software!

Marked out of 10 it just has to get a 3 from me. Pity. I would not recommend.


November 30, 2013, 5:52 pm

well,mine keeps freezing and turning its self off !!!!! it is so maddening !!!!!


February 6, 2014, 11:10 pm

This had worked well for us for over a year, but I accidentally powered it off for a few seconds and all recordings have been lost and it now won't record either. Went to Philips web site looking for support information - I can't even find it looking for the correct model number HDT852005. Very poor. A page on Philips site that Google found just comes up blank.

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