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Philips DVDRW720 DVD Player with 120 GB Digital Video Recorder

Philips DVDRW720 DVD Player with 120 GB Digital Video Recorder

List Price: $599.99
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Product Info Reviews

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Rating: 1 stars
Summary: Customer Service ???????
Review: I spent a total of over 3 hours on the phone with their tech support, and found that I knew more about the machine than they did. Three different calls for three different problems yielded no results from tech support. I fiddled around with remote control until I stumbled across my own fixes. One rep even told me that the unit was a new product line and he couldn't help me. The average idiot such as myself would have assumed they train their tech reps on their own products. How stupid of me to make such a ludicrus assumption. Would have given it four stars if I didn't factor in tech support.

Rating: 4 stars
Summary: Good product, bad manual
Review: All the advertised features do work once you figure out how. Even the On-screen TV Guide (I don't have cable or satellite). Download the latest manual from the Philips web site -- the one in the box has key info missing. Prepare to be frustrated for 3 days -- but once you learn to use it, you'll feel a sense of real accomplishment.

Things I learned
1) Hit REC once for each 30 minutes you want to record when using rear input jacks. I couldn't get it to record indefinitely.
2) Recording starts from the time you switched channel last, even when switching to EXT2 so you'll have to edit out the beginning of the recording when recording from VHS.
3) You have to turn the unit off and on again to get the portion of the time shift buffer you marked as a recording to get it saved to the HDD. Then you can edit the recording before saving to DVD. This may be different when using the front jacks.
4) DVD recordings play fine in a neighbor's Sony player.

Great price for all the features. Hello Philips, think about hiring a new technical writer--but then I wouldn't get the sense of satisfaction of figuring this thing out for myself.

Rating: 1 stars
Summary: Warning: outdated
Review: Careful! The DVD720 is an outdated model. It has less functionality than the model that succeeded it (the DVD520), yet is more expensive. The essential difference is that one can not record directly to DVD disc on the 720 (or 725), only to the hard disc, and it is not possible to record to the hard disc from a DVD disc. The latter makes it impossible to make a copies of the DVD discs you have made by going via the hard disc. The 520 model has both functions, but I found it so noisy on playback of R & RW discs (and crash prone) that I returned the one I bought.

Rating: 4 stars
Summary: good machine , minor flaws
Review: I bought this machine for my birthday in november, after months of research and reading reviews.the minor set backs to this machine is that the manual does not fully expain all of the issues with the unit for example ,i hook the recorder to my tv via a motorala cable box and hooked up a vcr to the recorder , so when i tried to change the recorder to the inputs for the vcr it would not change,so after taking it back (twice)and calling philips, i learned that i could not switch the recorder to an external input with the recorder is setup to control the cable box, so for me to record from a vcr i would have to A. go in to setup and tell to recorder that i do not have a cable box,that way a I can switch channels on the recorder and not the cable box or B. set the timer to record from external input. But overall i like this machine, good hard drive space , remote controller could be better layed out, but this is a good unit

Rating: 1 stars
Summary: WARNING: Doesn't work with DirectTV or DishNetwork!
Review: I have been trying to get my HDRW720/17 to download and use DirectTV's programming info (their 'TV Guide') to no avail since Christmas. Finally, today I gave up and called Phillips. A tech rep finally told me that the unit is not compatible with any Hughes Satellite service (such as DirectTV, Dish Network, etc). He explained that it was optimized for Comcast Cable, so unless you have Comcast or a compatible cable service you are likely to have problems with it. I guess I'll list it on eBay and buy the Tivo/DVD marketed by DirectTV.

Rating: 1 stars
Summary: Not Ready For Prime Time (or my time)
Review: I noticed in reading other user's reviews of this item that people tended to love it, or hate it. When I saw the potential this unit had for allowing me to reduce the linear yards of LPs, cassettes, VHS and Hi8 tapes I pocess to CD/DVD formats, I figured how bad can it be? Well folks, it's really bad!
Without providing a play-by-play account of all the glitches I encountered in trying to use this device, I'll describe some which relate to its most basic functions. Pages 4 and 12 of the so-called Owner's Manual (a typographic train wreck) state that you must first enter a code to make the remote function for your brand of television. At no point, however, are you let in on the little secret on how to enter the appropriate code! My household cable functions on channel 4, but I could do nothing to switch the DVDR/HDD from its setting on channel 3, making it impossible for me to integrate any VHS or other DVD components.
If I were a member of some focus group doing beta testing on this product, I could understand some of these problems and shortcomings, and expect that they would be ironed out when it hit the open market. It is suprising to me that Phillips, which I assume would like to maintain its world-wide reputation, would continue to use its customers as guinea pigs by continuing to market this unit with such poor documentation and user support. My advice is to consider any of the other DVDR/HDs out there before wasting any time on this one.

Rating: 4 stars
Summary: Say Good-bye to Tivo 'cause this DVD Recorder Rocks!
Review: My review will try to capture as much useful information as I can to help anyone who is either considering buying this recorder, or already owns one, and may be having some trouble. There are 2 sections to my review: "The Bottom-Line" and the supporting "Details".

First off...
Pro's: Great Value! Works as advertised! An awesome DVR comparable to most of what Tivo has to offer. In addition it has loads of recording space. So much, in fact, that I will probably hardly ever record anything to a DVD other than to share a recording with friends. The On Screen TV Guide functionality is a core feature. If it doesn't work for you, consider returning the recorder. It is integral to the unit and makes programming the unit an absolute breeze! The initial learning curve is not that intense and I do not agree with the frustration others had when trying operate and program this recorder. Copying from the HDD to the DVD happens fast! (Something like 24x faster than normal speed.) I was able to record and finalize a 1-hour program recorded in M2x to a blank DVD+RW in under 10 minutes. (It would have taken my high-end computer nearly 30 minutes to do the same task.) Editing is nominally easy to perform and the resulting output is better than other recorders I have used. Menus are Spartan and efficient. (If you want elaborate menus, use a computer.)

Cons: Does not record in DVD-R or DVD-RW. Does not do two-way recording between internal DVD drive and internal HDD. Does not allow you to "step-down" the quality of HDD recording when transferring them to disc. Does not support photo cd's. User's Guide is poorly written and difficult to understand at times.
Does not record in Dolby digital. Remote difficult to see in low light.

I purchased this recorder from Amazon.com for Christmas. It took me several attempts at performing the initial setup and trying to record a TV program to figure out the unit I received was defective. The trouble was that the recorder would go through the complete system setup without a hitch, but as soon as I went to record anything, or navigate the menus, or even try to turn the recorder on-and-off with the remote, it would give me problems. The machine either did not respond, or responded so sporadically you couldn't tell what would happen next. (Another reviewer on Amazon.com said it would take him 2 or 3 tries with the remote to turn the recorder on/off. I'm betting his unit was defective, too!)

Here's what I did when I thought the unit was defective...
I contacted Philips and tried the firmware upgrade I saw other reviewers had mentioned, but that didn't help. The Philips support website (www.p4c.philips.com) suggests a self diagnostic test to determine if the unit may be defective, and sure enough, the diagnostics test 'failed', indicating an error code and a serious problem.

You can find out the full details of how to perform the self diagnostic test on the Philips support website (www.p4c.philips.com) by looking up the troubleshooting information for the HDRRW720/17. It's under the topic of what to do if you think your unit is defective.

(For those of you anxious to perform the test on your own machine, what you do is: with your machine turned off, you unplug the cord from the back of the unit, then while pressing and holding the 'play' button on the front of the recorder, plug the unit back in. Do not release the play button until the display shows the unit has begun running through a series of tests. The tests take about 2 minutes and should end successfully. If the test fails, you will get a message that says 'failed' with some code number on the recorder's display window. At this point, all indications are that you have a serious problem and likely a defective unit.)

I immediately contacted Amazon.com and returned the recorder for an even exchange.

Let me take a minute to praise the outstanding customer support and response I received from the people at Amazon.com. This is the first time that I ever had to return something that was defective. Their desire to satisfy me, as their customer, was unbelievable! It is some of the best customer service I have ever received.

Now, to continue with the details...

The second recorder I received acted nothing like the first. This one worked!

After performing the initial setup, I immediately installed the Philips firmware upgrade (v2.6) and after the upgrade completed, I waited the 24hrs for the TV Guide information to download. By the next morning, I was able to record shows as easy as 1-2-3.

Here is some information everyone may find useful:

1.) The User's Guide on the Philips Support website and the User's Guide that I received in the box, are the same. I compared them side-by-side and saw no differences. (They even had the same poor spelling and misuse of the English language that money obviously didn't buy, at Philips.)

Some other reviewers indicated that their User's Guide differed from the website's version. Mine didn't, but you may want to check anyway, to be sure.

2.) Some users indicated that the firmware was only available by calling Philips' 1-800 Customer Support line. This was true when I tried acquired the upgrade, BUT this is no longer the case. The firmware upgrade to version 2.6 is now available for free on the p4c.philips.com website.

According to the documentation, this upgrade is required if you have any hopes of getting the machine to record from the On-Screen TV Guide feature. (One of the first things I did BEFORE trying to record my first program was to install the upgrade.)

3.) Everything discussed in the User's Guide works, as described, however, the descriptions kinda stink!

Here's what typically happens... You follow the cryptic steps in the User's Guide "to-the-tee", then, when you see how the function works, you say to yourself, "Oh, that's what they were trying to tell me!"

4.) Regarding the Time Shift Buffer...Think of the TimeShift Buffer as a clearinghouse for the HDD that all recordings of any kind must go through first. If you do, then it's a little easier to figure out what's going on behind the scenes.

Every recording must go through this clearinghouse first before they are stored on the "real" HDD. This includes all shows that you instantly record with One-Touch Recording, or preprogrammed, timer recordings. Once they pass through the clearinghouse, they are "officially" stored on the HDD. This clearinghouse can store 1, 2, 3, or 6 hours worth of video before it must begin offloading to the HDD. You can offload to the HDD and continue to record to the clearinghouse (buffer) at the same time, never missing a beat. (Fortunately, this is all seamless to the user.)

5.) This recorder supports VCRplus code entry. Good for quick programming if you've got the code handy.

6.) You can tell a show to start a few minutes early and end a few minutes late, so as to record from, say: 8:58 - 10:02 instead of the show's scheduled 9:00 - 10:00 time slot. This is very useful for slight variances in television scheduling for those important recordings...I use this feature all the time. It works like a charm!

7.) One Touch Recording (OTR) is "show-based" rather than "time-based" (like a VCR's OTR), if you use the TV Guide System. This is a much more practical approach to OTR-ing. Additionally, if you press OTR twice, then both the current and the next show will be recorded. Press it 3 times and it records the current show and the next 2, etc...

8.) The TV Guide onscreen programming gets it's information from several different channel sources, so definitely give it a try, BUT you will need to know your cable listing both with and without the converter box, depending how you set the device up. (For example, my cable service has MSNBC on channel 58 without the cable box connected. It's on channel 66 through the cable box.)

9.) The recorder warns you of overlapped recordings and gives you several options to correct the problem.

10.) You can lock individual recording to keep the kiddies away.

11.) You can protect recordings on the HDD from accidental erasure.

12.) You can mark a show as a favorite, then anytime it is on, it will put a pop-up on the screen to tell you and give the choice to switch to that channel and watch the show.

13.) The recorder does support DTS as well as Dolby Digital. (many still don't realize DTS is a better format than Dolby Digital...always has been, always will be...do the research online and find out for yourself!)

14.) If you get true HDTV or satellite TV, you may be interested to know this recorder only records audio in Dolby ProLogic, NOT 5.1Dolby Digital. (Only a few recorders actually record in true Dolby Digital. Those that do still cost several hundred dollars more than this unit.)

15.) This recorder does accept Component inputs and does perform true 480i/480p progressive scan recording as well as playback. This is unusual for a recorder in this price range.

16.) This recorder plays a variety of DVD formats including all DVD+ and DVD- formats, SVD's, VCD's and region-free DVD's. It plays all CD formats including DVD-Audio and SACD (both in their low standard mode). It plays MP3's. NOTE: This unit does NOT play DVD-RAM discs and it does NOT play photo cd's.

17.) This recorder only records in DVD+R and DVD+RW formats. It does NOT record in any other format (ie.: DVD-R, DVD-RW).

To me, this is probably the biggest disappointment about this recorder. There is really no reasonable explanation not to support both DVD plus and minus formats.

BTW...if you want the explanation, here it is... Philips/Magnavox invented the DVD+ format, but not the minus formats, and to me, it's just their arrogance not to support both.

18.) You can not record from the internal DVD drive to the internal HDD. Recording is only one-way, from the HDD to the DVD drive.

To me, this is a minor inconvenience, but still, two-way recording between the internal DVD drive and the internal HDD should have been supported and counts against the unit, overall.

On a positive note, however, you can hook up another external DVD player to the input jacks of the Philips recorder and record from the external DVD player to Philips Recorder's HDD. (If you have the right equipment, you can even copy movies from rented or store bought dvd's without any custom mod chips or special software, but that's another story for another time...I will tell you that I have tried it, and it works, flawlessly!)

19.) Bye-bye Tivo...This recorder does virtually everything Tivo does without the monthly service fee. It does everything Tivo does except the following:
a.) TV Guide's "season-pass" function is not as elaborate as Tivo's, but you can say tell it to record every episode of "The Sopranos", for example, and it will.(Tivo's "Season-Pass" will record regardless of TV channel and will not record duplicate episodes.)
b.) Tivo's television listing is for 2-weeks. TV Guide's listing is for 8-days. (This has absolutely no bearing on your ability to record programs, however. You can program up 15 different shows up to 1-year in advance on the Philips.)
c.) No network connectivity like Tivo. (So you can't sign on from the internet and program your Philips recorder from a remote location in case you forgot to record something.)

I consider these Tivo features nice, but not at $12.95+tax per month!! (BTW...the free Tivo Basic service does not give you "season-pass" service and the TV listing is only for 3-days, so the free TV-Guide service is way better than the free Tivo Basic service.)

20.) Built-in editing functions of this recorder do not compete with a computer and a good reputable video editing software package. HOWEVER, when comparing the editing functions of this recorder to the editing functions of other recorders, this recorder's editing capabilities are very comprehensive and easy to use. Menu's are easy to create, although Spartan in appearance and content. They function well, overall, in DVD players that support the DVD+ format. It is very easy to edit commercials out of programs and store multiple programs on a disc to build your own video library.
(I have not tried to make videos from my mini-DV camcorder yet, so I don't know how good a job that does, as compared to my computer, but I anticipate the computer will do a better job if my overall intent is to edit the footage vs. just copy it to a DVD.)

21.) Recording Speed - 7 recording speeds are supported. They are refereed to as M1, M2, M2x, M3, M4, M6, and M8. This translates as follows: an M1 recording will only store 1 hour of video on a single sided DVD. M2 - two hours, M2x - 2.5 hours, etc...

There is a down side here, and that is you MUST record to the DVD burner in whatever speed you recorded the show to the HDD. So if you recorded it in M1, you must burn it in M1. You can't "step it down" to M4, for example, to fit 4-M1 HDD recordings onto a single DVD as 4-M4 recordings.
To me, this is the second biggest let down with this recorder. A much better solution would have been to allow you to "Step-down" the recording quality from the HDD to allow you to fit more content on a disc. Sacrificing video quality over quantity should have been my choice, not Philips.

22.) This recorder only records on single sided DVD's, dual layer DVD+R media is supported, but you have to manually flip them over and each side is treated as individual, single-sided disks. (No real advantage to using dual layer media considering it's current cost.)

23.) Lastly, there were complaints about the remote. I agree the remote is difficult to see under dim light and all the buttons are relatively the same shape and size, a real minus.
Philips missed an opportunity to stand out from the crowd here, and they blew it!

On the reality side if things, however, the buttons are laid out fairly logically and they are pretty easy to navigate after using it a few times.

The remote is programmable and will support the basic controls of most major brand TV's. Programming the remote is fully covered in the User's Guide. (Something earlier User's Guides were apparently missing, but was corrected in my version.)

Rating: 1 stars
Summary: I'm Returning it Today
Review: One reviewer said it's great once you get it working. Mine still isn't working, after I spent HOURS on the phone with technicians. One call was actually 3 hours long and others were 2 or more hours. I am not at all a technophobe, I'm a computer scientist, and in my early career did a lot of programming and documentation. I know user friendly and this is not.

The manual is very poorly written, and nothing works as it says.

Last straw: they sent me the firmware upgrade. To begin with, the instructions for saving the system's info before loading the firmware did not match what really happened at all. In other words, the menus that were supposed to be there simply were not there. The same thing happened when I was on the phone with the technician. He was trying to use the manual and some other instructions to guide me through the process, and we did it all painstakingly, but results seldom were as expected.

NOTE: I get a "prohibited during this operation" error that is not written anywhere in the manuals or online documentation.

Don't buy this item. I'm sure Philips has some good products, but they did not engineer this one well at all. It should not be on the market.

Rating: 4 stars
Summary: Difficult to master, but pretty good
Review: The manual sucks, not enough pictures for multiple component hookups. The downloadable pdf files are up to date but you need to go to this website http://www.p4c.philips.com/cgi-bin/dcbint/cpproduct_selector.pl to select the latest files.

Forget using DVD +RW's if you want to look at your shows on other DVD players. I have a Norcent, Samsung, Pioneer, Apex and a second DVD +R, +RW Liteon recorder.

I can get Philips DVD+R's (when finalized properly) to work on everything, except the Samsung, which only works marginally. The DVD+R's from the Liteon recorder do not work well either, so it is the Samsung's problem.

Also, for some reason, DVD+R's that are recorded and finalized from the Liteon recorder, will not fast forward on the Philips (the chapters work). Yet the finalized DVD+R's from the Philips will fast forward on the Liteon and the finalized Philips DVD+R's will fast forward on the other plain DVD players.

Curious? I cannot tell if the problem is with the Liteon or the Philips.

There is a "Flush Buffer" in the setup mode that will cause all your settings to return to factory BE CAREFUL!!

The TV Guide listings are pretty good, but sometimes you need to manually teach the unit the listings and channels for your zip code. I had to do this at the first setup and it took me about an hour to get everything right. Then a week later I hit the "Flush Buffer" described above and reset the recorder. Even though I was PO'd at myself, I knew it was my fault. But curiously, when I started the process of setting up the TV Guide again, one of the options did show the correct channel names and numbers for my area. It wasn't there the first time when I got the unit, which is why I needed to set the channels manually.

The second time around was a breeze.

Now why I like it.

I like the ultra easy setup for manual or TV Guide programming for shows. I like the DVD+R's that work on my other players. Since I found Memorex DVD+R's for 34 cents each (for 100) it is great. I can record the shows and then burn a DVD for the future (they call it Archive, whatever!).

I am still trying to master the "edit mode", it seems very difficult. I think you need to keep a log of the timeline on paper, then go back in the edit mode and hide / unhide, according to your master timeline. Seems like a lot of work. Funny thing is, I have a 5-year-old SVHS recorder from Panasonic that marks the commercials and is correct about 90% of the time. When playing back a tape, it fast-forwards to the next scene. Then you can watch the show and skip the commercials with little effort. This technology should be incorporated in this DVD recorder.

I can already see that I need to buy another remote as a spare, because everything is controlled from the remote and when it dies, and the all do eventually, the recorder will be almost useless.

Now for the great part, the shows recorded off my digital cable box in the 2-hour mode look like perfect DVD's. My TV is a 10-year-old 35" Proscan and the best video input on the unit is S Video. Yet the picture is still great, it may even be better than when I had other DVD players hooked up.

The downside is on the first 99 channels from my cable company, the signals are blah! Analog, and part of the problem is probably the coax in this 16-year-old townhouse. I cannot change the cables in the walls because of the construction and I am not sure that it would help anyway, it could be the signal coming into the development and that are spilt off from the fiber optic box. We have fiber to the entrance of the development and 20-year-old cable underground to the distribution boxes behind the units.

So I have to live with a medium VHS quality from 1 - 99. Yes, I have put on a 25db signal booster that brought the signal quality up from "annoying" to "watchable".

I will be moving this year so I don't care, at least I know that my recorder can give me great pictures when the signals are clear.

It will be interesting to see what it looks like when I finally upgrade to HDTV. Yes I already know that this recorder is not a HD Recorder.

Hope this helped.

Rating: 4 stars
Summary: Great once you figure out how to work it
Review: This is a great device that has horrible documentation and some quirky aspects. The manual that comes with it is horrible. Typically I have no problem hooking up/working with electronics, but this product was a challenge. It took me a week to figure it all out. But now that it's set up, I will never think of tv the same. It allows for complete flexibility when watching or recording. The best feature is that you can use it like a tivo (without the monthly charge OR Tivo's ability to suggest titles). My one complaint is that the DVD's created have an ugly menu that includes the formatting of the disk. I'm being picky and this won't bother most. If you want a simple recorder then this is not for you. If you'd like to time shift programs you'll love Philips. Be warned that a lot of people are returning these devices because they are tough to figure out. Take your time and read the manual many times and you will be time shifting tv like a pro.

Allows you to watch a DVD or tv from hard drive while recording current tv program
All shows recorded as you watch them which allows you to pause live tv then skip past commercials
When the TV Guide on-screen works it is a great feature
Looks great - with nice lights and info screen
Great for the price

Very poor documentation - makes use difficult
difficult set-up but you only have to do this once
Created DVD's have a strange menu, but that has no impact other than visual

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