Here's one DVR to pass up....
Last year I bought the Phillips DVDR3575H, a DVR with a DVD burner and a digital tuner. I mainly wanted to have a DVR for the ability to pause live TV or rewind whatever I was watching for a few minutes - simple stuff. The only fee-free options I saw out there were both at WalMart, the Philips and some Polaroid model for a bit less, so after disregarding some bad online reviews, I gave the Philips a try, because the Polaroid got even worse reviews. Here is what I found:
Every feature, and I mean EVERY feature, was harder to use than both the TiVo and Adelphia DVRs (Scientific Atlanta 9300) that I was used to. The chase feature (the one that allows you to rewind and pause live TV) had to be turned on by the user, then accessed through the "recorded programs" menu, and it didn't just record the last 30 or 60 minutes - it records until you hit "stop" or until the hard drive is full (then the show disappears completely). The (recorded) program list is not a list, but a page of thumbnail pictures, six to a page. You have to watch a few minutes of every show just to see what you have. Terrible design. And of course, since you pay no fee, you get no program guide, so it's like programming an old VCR - you have to set the time and the channel through the menu.
Like all DVD recorders, it won't let you record copy-protected VHS tapes to either DVD or the hard drive. It's kind of noisy, with a cooling fan in the back and a whirring hard drive, even when you aren't using it. And it's slow to respond, slow to load discs, etc.
The good points - both analog and digital tuners (NOT HD, just standard def digital, but the picture is still great). The actual recordings look great. Once you jump through all of the hoops, it works as advertised.
Like many others on this thread have said, you get what you pay for. That program guide alone is worth every penny. I think the best value is probably just buying a simple DVD recorder and using a TiVo or whatever DVR your cable company carries. TiVo, especially, has smoothed out the rough edges. My SA 9300 still does some mystery purges at times, but it's getting better (through online updates, I guess). You may be paying a monthly fee, but I paid $300 up front for my machine, and by the time those two costs would even out, there should be something better to buy. I'm wishing I had stuck with the TiVo.
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