'An AV centre in disguise', reads the blurb that accompanies Philips' latest recorder, and it's a fitting description.

Not only can the Philips DVDR5570H record television programmes on its hard disk, but it also bridges the gap between your PC and TV by storing music, photo and video files, while also playing a wide variety of disc formats.

But perhaps the most exciting feature is Commercial Block - Philips' attempt to rid you of the evils of TV adverts. It automatically puts chapter markers at the beginning and end of the adverts, allowing you to jump straight past them simply by pressing the chapter skip key. And the good news is that it works extremely well, too.

Record Freeview

The deck is fitted with a 250GB hard disk, which holds up to 300hr of MPEG2 recordings using the lowest quality Super Extended Play (SEP) setting, dropping to a maximum of 40hr in the highest High Quality (HQ) mode. In between these are five more presets that enable you to trade off picture quality for recording time.

The deck also supports multi-format DVD recording, but not directly to disc. You have to record TV programmes onto the hard disk first, then transfer them using the player's copy function, which operates at up to 64x speed.

After berating Philips for not putting a Freeview tuner inside the DVDR3577H, it's good to see this model has one fitted, as well as its160GB sibling, the DVDR5520H.

That means you can record digital TV shows directly onto the hard disk, as well as browsing the seven-day Guide Plus EPG and set timer recordings at the touch of a button.

Editing options

Unlike the latest recorders from rival makes, this deck isn't Freeview Playback compatible, so there's no series or split recording. The tuner is a hybrid analogue and digital one, so users in a non-digital area will still be able to receive TV channels.

Moving on to the machine's more advanced functions, the jewel in its crown is Time Shift Buffer, a clever means of pausing and rewinding live TV, or recording programmes retrospectively. It continually stores whatever you're watching for up to six hours in a buffer memory, and a clever onscreen timeline makes it easy to navigate.

As for editing, you can also create chapters manually and 'hide' the bits you don't want (as well as divide recordings in two), but sadly that's as complex as it gets.

It lacks the non-linear playlist editing found on rival recorders, which makes it feel quite restricted, while the use of colour-coded keys to edit recordings seems cumbersome.

Straightforward operation

The DVDR5570H lacks the intuitiveness of a Panasonic, which means you'll become best friends with the manual. But once you've familiarised yourself with its workings you realise it's much easier to use than previous Philips models.

The main reason for this is the rejigged design of the remote to now include a control wheel, making it a breeze to scroll through the Time Shift Buffer or the setup menu. But the lack of a dedicated recording mode button means you have to delve deep into the setup menu, a process that wipes the Time Shift Buffer.

Elsewhere the menu design is clear and comparatively flashy, with submenus that scroll into each other as they do on Philips TVs, but they are slightly hesitant at times. Also annoying is the choice of the impenetrable Guide Plus EPG in place of a specially designed Freeview guide.

Sharp pictures

To get the best picture quality from live Freeview broadcasts you'll need to leave the recording mode set to HQ or SP, because the DVDR5570H displays pictures from the digital tuner in the currently selected recording mode.

This is unusual for a digital recorder, and can be quite annoying, given that the settings are buried in the setup menu. Having such a large hard disk on board means you shouldn't need to change recording mode very often, but if you do, you must remember to switch back.

TV pictures look clean and radiant in HQ mode, with smooth movement and sharp edges. The same goes for HQ recordings, which capture all the detail and strong colours of the original source.

The tacky décor of daytime TV studios is reproduced in all its kaleidoscopic glory, while fast-moving football broadcasts look acceptably smooth and generally keep noise in check.The drop in quality in SP mode is very slight, but when you reach the EP mode, the use of lower bitrates start to take their toll.

Drop in quality

Digital artefacts begin to interfere with the clarity and vibrancy of the picture, and your attention is drawn to the noise rather than the programme.

It gets worse in SLP and SEP, making us wonder who could possibly enjoy watching their favourite programmes with pictures looking this noisy.

Pre-recorded DVD playback is superb, though, turning in a sharp, vibrant and generally noise-free performance with a variety of our favourite test movie discs.

Crisp audio

The DVDR5570H records audio using a stereo Dolby Digital encoder, which does a great job of making everything sound crisp and audible despite the use of compression.

Movie soundtracks piped digitally to an amplifier also sound fantastic, plus the unit makes music material sound better than you'd expect from such an otherwise video-centric machine.

Pricey recorder

If £330 seems expensive for a DVD/HDD recorder, just remember that it gets you a 250GB hard disk and a wealth of features, many of which you simply won't find anywhere else.

The lack of Freeview Playback is a shame, and it's nowhere near as easy to use as the latest Panasonic models, but its gorgeous looks, solid recording quality and intelligent timeshifting tricks could quite easily persuade you to go Dutch.