Why virtualise your NAS environment?
- Quick TV time shifting, HDMI and 1080i support, loads of great features, 250GB of storage space
- Analogue tuner, unfriendly menus.
The Philips DVDR 7300H would be one of the best hard disk recorders on the market if it came with a digital tuner, and the lack of it turns a great product into a mediocre one. Here's hoping a future release will see a digital version, and an update to the not quite user friendly menu system
Price$ 1,149.00 (AUD)
Philips' DVDR 7300H is a 250GB HDD/DVD recorder with more features than hooligans at an English soccer match. The lack of a digital tuner is a bit of a let down though, as is the unfriendly interface.
In addition to saving to the internal hard drive, the unit can also record directly to DVD. All the familiar formats are supported, including DVD-R/+R and DVD-RW/+RW. The compression options for recording are extensive, encompassing seven levels ranging from HQ (High Quality) at the top all the way down to SEP (Super Extended Play) at the bottom. For the hard drive, this means being able to store 47 hours and 400 hours respectively, though realistically the quality when using SEP means it isn't really a viable option.
The DVDR 7300H comes with a Firewire port located on the front to hook up digital camcorders and record direct to disk, which is a nice feature. It also features G-Code support, so you can type in a single number from your TV guide to record a particular program without the need to program in a time slot. In fact, the DVDR 7300H also bundles Guide Plus+, a free interactive program guide service that allows you to view and schedule programs - if you are in Europe. Guide Plus isn't supported in Australia, and with no digital tuner, other EPGs aren't an option, so for more comprehensive scheduled recording you are out of luck with this unit.
After connecting the device we set it searching for TV channels; it had no problems finding and locking on to stations. Considering the unit comes with an HDMI connection and is able to upscale images as far as 1080i, it's a pity a digital tuner wasn't included as this would really help the unit shine.
Pausing or 'timeshifting' TV works well, placing the currently selected channel on pause as if you were playing back a recording. The buffer used for time shifting is a set size on the hard drive, rather than the entire remaining space like many other recorders, and is limited to six hours (which, lets face it, is plenty for paused TV). Resuming playback simply requires pressing Play, though irritatingly the almost full screen recording dialog box will stay until removed by pressing the 'Info' button on the remote.
The remote itself is simple and well laid out. The channel up/down buttons are small, but located right where your thumb sits if holding the remote in your right hand. Clearly defined buttons at the top allow you to switch between TV, recorded programs, and the Firewire (digital camcorder) input.
Recording and playback
Recorded content is identical in quality to the original source when using the HQ mode. Although the interface isn't the most user friendly we've come across (more on this below), there are at least extensive options for sorting recorded material - ranging from recording date through to alphabetical and last played. Fast forwarding through recorded programs is a hit and miss affair - literally. Rather than incremental steps, the playback jumps to five-minute intervals across the length of the recorded material.
Output options are plentiful, featuring the usual 4:3 and 16:9 support as well as resolutions up to 1080i. Progressive scan can be toggled, HDMI can be set to YPbPr or RGB, horizontal positioning of the picture can be changed, and black levels can even be enhanced for NTSC-based DVDs if you happen to have some in your collection. Audio can be toggled between Dolby Digital and MPEG2 streams to PCM, and sound can be disabled on the HDMI out.
Other neat features include the disk library - a database of recorded shows you've burned to DVD, basic editing functions to merge programs or omit particular scenes (such as ads), the ability to playback slideshows of JPG images, and the option to zoom in on material during playback.
Specs and ports
The usual foray of connectivity options are present with an HDMI port, one component, one composite, digital coax and optical out, and two SCART connectors (one in and one out).
The design of the unit is quite conservative, with a silver finish and detailed display. Two control wheels allow navigation of the menus and control of record and playback from the fascia, one of which conveniently glows red to let you know when you're recording. It's a little heavy, weighing about 5kg, and is a little taller than some of the other units recently reviewed with dimensions measuring 435mm x 76mm x 335mm
Aside from the analogue tuner the biggest qualm we have with the unit is the menu interface, which is unfriendly and poorly laid out: menu sub-headings run in a line along the top bar, but only one or two are visible at a time - you need to scroll using the direction buttons horizontally to reveal the rest, which is not immediately apparent. Drop down functions for each then require vertical navigation and again not all options are immediately clear without extensive exploration. Then, when you want to change to a new sub-menu, you have to click all the way to the top again - you can't simply bypass one menu for the next. And all this is accompanied by what appears to be a graphic of the control wheel, though more closely resembles something an Atari might cough up. It's one of the worst interfaces we have seen on a hard disk recorder.
It's a pity the DVDR 7300H is hobbled by the use of an analogue tuner and its less then user-friendly interface, because these key features not withstanding the unit performs well, has a plethora of additional features, and delivers on what it promises as an easy way to record and time shift TV programs.
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