Philips DVDR890 DVD recorder review and test

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Philips DVDR890

While first-generation set-top DVD recorders were oversized and overpriced, there'll be some much more appealing machines in stores this Christmas. On paper, it looks like Philips has got things just right with the DVDR890 - but will its +R and +RW formats prove too limiting?

Computer Video's interest in the DVD authoring market has largely been focused on DVD burners for computer systems, and software applications for disc authoring. A good PC-based system - Windows or Mac - offers the greatest degree of control over DVD creation, but it can't be denied that a set-top DVD recorder is a great tool for making quick back-ups of video projects, supplying high-quality proofs to clients, or for fast and dirty edits.
Itís important to note, too, that the battle between Pioneer's DVD-R/RW recordable disc standard and Philips's DVD+R/+RW is likely to be won or lost in the mainstream home cinema arena rather than the IT or video-editing market.

This battle has started in earnest with the arrival of the Philips DVDR890. This machine sets a new standard for set-top DVD recorders, and does away with many of the gotchas that have plagued the market until now. Unlike its predecessor, the DVDR1000, this deck is a sensible size - 435(w) x 88(h) x 326(d)mm - about the same dimensions as a standard DVD player. It's a far more sensible price, too, weighing in at under £500. There's a cheaper version available as well - the DVDR880 (£448) - which differs only in its lack of DV FireWire input.

The DVDR890 will record to DVD+RW and DVD+R discs - making it the first DVD+R device we've seen here at Computer Video Towers. Our experiences with DVD+RW showed it to be incompatible with many DVD players, and so we were keen to see how Philips' write-once format fared.

Layout and design

To the left of the disc carriage is a fold down flap concealing inputs for S-video, composite video and L/R analogue stereo audio, plus an input for DV - a four-pin FireWire port. Above the drawer in the centre is a simple LED display panel.

Round the back is a pair of Scart sockets - one supporting AV input and output, the other providing RGB output to a TV or video monitor. The back also has outputs for S-video, composite video and analogue stereo audio, along with digital audio out. Sadly, thereís no digital audio input. Naturally, since the unit is intended to be a VCR replacement (and even includes full timer controls), there's also an RF aerial input, and an output to take broadcast signals to a TV set.


Despite regional restrictions and our minor gripes about the awkward menu structure and occasionally flat audio, the DVDR890 is a tremendous machine, and one that deserves to sell in large numbers. Philips has got just about everything right for the home market. Recording quality is excellent - far exceeding that of VHS tape - and the level of control allowed over content and chapter markers is first-rate.

The Philips is much more versatile than Pioneer's DVD-R/DVD-RW offering, the DVR-7000. And, while Panasonic's DVD-R/DVD-RAM recorder, the E20, provides excellent management tools, these are restricted to DVD-RAM - a format which canít be widely shared because it doesnít play on many set-top players or PC-based DVD units.

We think that it's indisputable that, with the DVDR890, Philips is now well ahead of the game in the home cinema market. And, if the high level of disc compatibility we saw turns out to be typical of a wider range of players, then DVD+R/RW look set to become very exciting formats indeed!

Peter Wells

Read the full review in December 2002's Computer Video magazine.


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