Like most of its kind, Philips's deck lacks an, so you'll have to program VHS or DVD recordings manually or with the help of VCR Plus. Since there's no IR blaster to change the channel on your cable or satellite set-top box, you'll have to make sure the channel is set correctly for your shows to record.
The DVD recorder works only with DVD+R/RW discs--a bit disappointing, as quad-format DVD recorders such as theand the are becoming more prevalent--but it packs in a reasonable set of recording and editing features. You can divide titles with DVD+RW discs, and with both DVD+Rs and +RWs, you can insert and delete chapter marks, hide chapters, or set a new thumbnail--not bad, especially considering the paltry editing options write-once DVDs typically get. The DVD deck has six recording modes, ranging from M1 (for one hour on a disc) to M6 (six hours), as well as the 2.5-hour M2x mode. Unfortunately, there's no flexible recording option as is found on Panasonic's decks for squeezing odd-timed recordings such as, say, a 160-minute film onto a disc using the best video quality possible.
The Philips DVDR600VR's connections are impressive for a VHS-DVD recorder. In back, you get component-video outputs and inputs--Philips is still the only DVD recorder manufacturer to offer component-video (interlaced only) inputs--and a set of A/V inputs and outputs with S-Video, along with the standard RF input and output jacks and a coaxial digital audio output. Up front you'll find the FireWire input for digital camcorders and an A/V input with S-Video. We would have liked an extra S-Video input and an optical digital audio input in back, but those are just quibbles.
The Philips DVDR600VR's VHS-to-DVD video quality was shockingly bad, by far the worst we've seen in a VHS/DVD combo recorder. Many recent tape/disc combo decks have incorporated some type of video-processing technology to clean up the video on older VHS tapes, but Philips seems to have skipped that for the DVDR600VR. Even worse, the deck could never find the right tracking setting for our 12-year-old test tape, resulting in a noisy, snow-covered image that was marred further by distorted audio. We tried again with a cleaner, 4-year-old cassette; again, the picture was rife with video noise.
The deck's DVD recordings from other external sources were on a par with the competition. In our resolution tests, the Philips scored good marks in its one- and two-hour M1 and M2 recording modes, capturing about 450 lines of horizontal resolution. The recorder's 150-minute M2x recordings also looked sharp, if a shade softer than the M1 and M2 recordings, while our M3 and M4 clip dropped to a much softer 250 lines, as expected. The deck captured fewer than 250 lines in the six-hour M6 modes, but we were surprised by the smooth action of the image, as opposed to the juttery, low-frame-rate images we've seen in other recorders.
Our test recordings of Star Trek: Insurrection looked quite good. The bright, sunlit scene with the flying probes kidnapping the fleeing peasants looked rock-solid in M1 and M2 modes, with some slight background blockiness evident in the M2x mode. The image looked much softer when we cranked down to the M3 speed, with severe blocky MPEG artifacts in the M4 and M6 modes, although we were pleased by the lack of jutter in the action. The deck had a tougher time rendering the smoke during the scenes of the dark, damaged Enterprise bridge; even in the high-quality M1 mode, we noticed some false contouring in the smoke and tiling in the showers of sparks.
The Philips DVDR600VR handles 2:3 pull-down with aplomb, rendering the haystacks and bridges at the beginning of Insurrection with no sign of jaggies.