The features don’t end there. The deck is DivX Ultra certified, which means it plays all versions of the video compression codec along with advanced features like subtitles and alternate audio tracks. MP3, WMA and JPEG are also supported, plus the unit is compatible with Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks (available in bitstream form from the coaxial digital output). And while we’re discussing format support, it happily spins any recordable DVD you throw at it (except DVD-RAM) plus CD-R, CD-RW and Video CDs.
Having recently waded through the wealth of easy-to-use editing functions on the latest Panasonic recorders, we found Philips’ editing options very limited and not exactly intuitive. The unit is hamstrung by its linear way of working – you can’t, for instance, take clips from any recording and piece them together in a new sequence. You can remove chapters by setting markers as the video plays and then ‘hide’ them so it skips that section when played back, but the results aren’t always accurate.
However, it makes up for this with a brilliant feature called Commercial Block, which will be a godsend to those of you who hate adverts (i.e. everyone). With Smart chaptering activated, the unit automatically inserts chapter points at the beginning and end of every ad break, allowing you to jump past them by pressing the chapter skip key. In action it works magnificently, both with recordings from an external set-top box or the built-in tuner, placing markers in exactly the right place. It even works with programmes on Five, where the logo that flashes up between each advert could have been a problem. On the downside, it has to process the video in standby before the feature is available (a 30-minute recording takes one hour to process) but it’s definitely worth the wait.
In operation, the DVDR5520H is a touch hesitant and some key features (such as the recording mode and HDMI resolution settings) are buried in submenus rather than being given their own buttons on the remote. But it would have been a lot worse had the remote not been such a work of genius – it’s fitted with a control wheel that makes it easy to search through the Time Shift Buffer and setup menus, plus the other buttons are ideally placed.
For recordings, you can choose from seven recording quality settings – the best is HQ, which is good for 23 hours recording time on the hard-disk, and offers deep, rich colours and a decent amount of detail, demonstrated by the garish colour schemes of daytime TV studios and intricate patterns of the presenters’ tasteless attire. Straight lines are slightly jagged and block noise is visible but the overall results are still impressive.