Philips HDRW720 review: Philips HDRW720

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The Good Excellent recording quality; pauses and rewinds live video; great connectivity options; cable box control via included IR blaster.

The Bad TV Guide-powered programming guide won't work with digital cable or satellite; can't record directly to DVD; nonintuitive menus.

The Bottom Line Saddled with a crippled electronic programming guide and hard-to-browse menus, Philips's new DVR-DVD recorder is more trouble than it's worth.

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5.4 Overall
  • Design 3
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

Philips HDRW720

On paper, Philips's new DVR-DVD recorder looks like the ideal combination. Boasting a 120GB hard drive, the slick-looking HDRW720 pauses and rewinds live video and archives your shows to DVD+R/+RW. Unfortunately, the deck comes saddled with some crippling limitations, including an electronic programming guide (EPG) that won't work with digital cable or satellite receivers, needlessly arcane onscreen menus, and the inability to record directly to DVD. If you're looking for a DVR/DVD recorder combo with a working EPG, steer clear of the Philips and try the TiVo-enabled Humax DRT800 or the Toshiba RS-TX20 instead.

Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.

The silver, mirrored front of the Philips HDRW720 (which measures a standard 17 inches wide by 3 high by 13 deep) looks pretty slick. We especially liked the look of the two circular, five-way navigational keypads on the right side of the front panel; one of them lets you navigate the player's hard drive browser, while the other has playback controls and a one-touch record button. Just below the twin controls is a small panel; flip it open, and you'll find a set of camcorder and A/V inputs.

The deck's compact, nonbacklit remote does a fair job. The five-way navigational control is right in the middle, just above the largish Play button and flanked by the hard drive browser and programming guide buttons, while the one-touch Record button is on the top-left of the remote. Some of the buttons are confusing (what's the difference between Select and OK, for example?) but we eventually got the hang of it.

Philips is notorious for its labyrinthine menus, and the HDRW720 is a chip off the old block. The hard drive and DVD menus are easy enough to figure out, but the various system and settings menus are tough to navigate and offer little help for beginners. (The menu system on the Sony RDR-HX900--a similar DVR/DVD combo deck--is much slicker and easier to use.) After several head-scratching hours of trial and error and flipping through the poorly written manual, we finally figured out the menus, but novices are in for a steep learning curve.

The Philips HDRW720 makes for a nimble DVR. While it won't record two shows at once (indeed, only satellite and cable-specific DVRs have that desirable feature), it will pause and rewind live video, a critical feature missing in other standalone non-TiVo-based decks. You can set the hard drive buffer to hold between one and six hours of video. Like what you're watching? Just click the Record button to save the program to your hard drive.

Less impressive was the HDRW720's flawed TV Guide electronic programming guide (EPG). The free guide gets points for letting you browse--but not search for--programs alphabetically or by genre, while warning you of recording conflicts. That's all well and good, but here's the catch: this EPG doesn't work with digital cable or satellite receivers. The included IR blaster will change the channels on your set-top box, but without the EPG data, it's a wasted feature. See Performance for more details.

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