Philips has only recently started putting DVB-T tuners inside its recorders, but this neat set-top box looks conﬁdent enough to take you to digital switchover.
The Philips DTR-220 is remarkably slim and compact with minimal decoration and a design that is strangely fetching, even if its lightweight feel doesn't promise durability.
On the back panel is a predictably limited array of sockets that includes two Scart outputs (offering simultaneous video output). The DTR220 offers RGB, S-video and composite video output from the 'TV' Scart, and S-video or composite from the 'VCR' Scart. While not as good as RGB, S-video does deliver superior quality to composite when you have an external recorder plugged in.
Joining the two Scarts on the rear is a electrical digital audio output, which will pass on a Dolby Digital bitstream to your AV receiver if they ever come to Freeview. Completing the lineup is an RF input and loopthrough for passing the signal to other equipment.
The unit's First Time Installation mode guides you through the key Freeview conﬁguration settings, forcing you to set up the country, aspect ratio and video output up front, so you don't have to worry
about them later. This process takes less than ﬁve minutes.
The unit's onscreen presentation is exemplary. Hit the EPG button on the remote and you can search the TV schedules for up to a week ahead, and switch between a ﬁve-channel horizontal overview and a list of programmes on a single channel.
Presentation is snazzy and vibrant and puts you in a good mood as you surf the channels.
This striking design carries over into the other displays like the now/ next banners and the setup menu, and even more pleasing is the speed that the box scrolls through menus, changes channels and calls up digital text. Less impressive is the remote, which features a swarm of ﬁddly buttons that makes navigation less intuitive than it should be.
Among the features are digital text and interactive access, Audio Description support, subtitles, favourite lists, a timer mode (for use with an external recorder) and automatic software updates.
A Pulse Killer Chip is on board to protect the unit from electrical interference, resulting in more stable digital TV reception.
Excellent Freeview pictures
Judging by the smooth, glitch-free images, the Pulse Killer Chip seems to be doing a grand job, letting the Philips deliver some superb Freeview pictures. Colours are warm, radiant and kept strictly within the edges, and although there's a touch of ﬁdgety block noise around some moving objects, it doesn't impact at all on your viewing enjoyment.
The graphics-heavy presentation on the Sky News channel also looks superb, with the Philips delivering smooth, convincing skin tones and saturating the shouty Breaking News captions with deep yellows, blacks and reds.
Stereo sound is forcefully delivered through TV speakers and we also ran the unit's coaxial output through an AV ampliﬁer and the results are excellent.
Philips has delivered a very impressive box in the DTR-220, that offers robust pictures and a slick user interface.