DVD recorders aren't typically pretty devices, but to their credit, the designers at Philips have tried fairly hard with the DVDR3360H; it's a bright silver unit (435x65x340mm) in a reasonably slim casing for a DVD recorder. The one main eyecatching feature of the DVDR3360H is the pair of glowing "rings" on the front right hand side; one that glows blue to indicate that the hard drive buffer is active, and a second red ring that glows when recording content to either the hard disk or recordable DVD media. The rear of the DVDR3360H houses connections for component, S-Video and composite connections, and in common with many other recorders, there's also a drop-down panel that hides a secondary set of composite, S-Video and Firewire input connectors.
There's clearly a factory somewhere pumping out Philips remotes, because, aside from a glossy silver sheen and the necessary buttons to shift between hard disk, DVD and tuner capabilities, the remote for the DVDR3360H is identical to just about every other Philips DVD remote we've ever seen. This also gives it a distinct limitation; like most Philips remotes the button that's used for chapter shifting is also the fast forward button. A tap shifts chapters while holding it down will fast forward, which can lead to frustration if you're fast forwarding and accidentally only tap.
The DVDR3360H supports progressive scan playback through component video only. It'll also play back MP3 CDs, Audio CDs, VCDs, SVCDs and DiVx video discs. On the recording front, it will record to DVD+/-R/RW media at a variety of recording quality modes that give you between one to six hours on a recordable disk. It doesn't support DVD-RAM, and if you want DVD DL support, you'll need to buy the costlier DVDR7300H model. As you'd expect, recording quality dips sharply at anything more than two hours per disc, depending on the source material. Philips claims that its Dual Media Recording technology will automatically burn discs at a suitable speed depending on the media inserted, which should in theory lead to fewer coasters being created by the DVDR3360H.
Most hard disk recorders offer a buffering feature for playback and pausing live TV, although the DVDR3360H takes this a step further, as it automatically starts buffering for up to three hours through the unit's 160GB hard drive the moment that the recorder's switched on. It's also quite easy to then record buffered TV content to the hard disk for later archiving. The hard disk itself will record between 34 hours at high quality and 204 hours at Super Long Play quality.
Playback quality from the DVDR3360H in our testing was a very mixed experience. While image quality was excellent, especially through progressive scan, we hit a couple of instances where the player simply froze during playback, and could only be revived by unplugging the unit entirely.
Recording was decidely more simple and problem free, whether it was to recordable disc or hard drive. For what it's worth, the DVDR3360H managed to record flawlessly to all of our test discs, although we lacked any really cheap media to really push Philips' claims about its Dual Media recording technology.
When copying content from the inbuilt hard disk to DVD we did hit some of the Philips DVDR3360H's more puzzling limitations and onscreen display omissions. On the plus side, it's exceptionally easy to copy content onto a disc, as you just have to select it from the hard disk content menu and it'll copy it over automatically. You still need to finalise every disc through a different menu -- it'd be nice if you could access this more simply than through switching disc modes. More annoyingly, while Philips touts the high speed dubbing of the recorder, there's no onscreen progress bar or other indicator to show how much longer you've got to wait; a simple spinning animation and the ring of light at the front of the recorder is all you've got to go on. Once your discs are recorded, you can alter chapter and title settings, but again a really weird limitation pops up. The instruction manual claims that hard disk titles can be up to 255 characters long, but only 12 characters will display onscreen at any time. We struggled to get the recorder to register more than 12 characters total, no matter what we tried. The limitations on recordable media is even more marked; you can only have disc titles of 9 characters or less.
With an RRP of AU$799 (and no doubt a few bargains to be wheedled out of your local electronics emporium), the DVDR3360H competes reasonably well with other hard disk enabled recorders, although it's hardly a true bargain in the current competitive marketplace. Combine that with the infrequent lockups we encountered and the limitations on disc titling and recording, and it makes the DVDR3360H a less than enticing recorder.
Editor's Note: Philip's companion DVDR7300H DVD recorder (RRP AU$1,149) has a hard drive capacity of 250GB, a 6-hour buffer, and HDMi output with video up-scaling to 1080i. It can also record onto double layer discs so you can archive up to 15 hours of content from the hard drive to a DVD+R double layer disc.