If anyone who knows how to make a decent DVD R/ RW recorder it's Philips - not least because the company invented the RW format! Admittedly, this machine is fairly expensive, but trust me, it's (mostly) worth it...
There's an overall confidence with the DVDR615's design that you don't find with imported cheap decks. For a start, there's no over-reliance on legends and badges, leaving the fascia unmarred and clean. Round edges and a clear blue strip along the front ensure that the overall look complements contemporary AV gear. In a nutshell, it looks pricey.
Round the back of the machine there's one major surprise. There are no component video outputs, which also means no progressive scan for compatible flatpanel displays and projectors - perverse for a big brand in today's market.
It does, however, have RGB-enabled Scarts (two of them, in and out), composite audio/video outputs and an S-video out. Plus, the fascia input (behind a flap) offers an i.Link (aka Firewire) socket for a DV camcorder, and inputs for composite/S-video and stereo audio.
The class with this recorder is even more apparent when you scroll through the menus. Everything is so professionally presented and easily laid-out that, from the box, you could be recording your favourite TV show - be it sourced from analogue TV or an adjunctive set-top box - within a couple of minutes.
Of course, no shocks come from the fact that there's a reliance on the DVD R/ RW format, given Philips' background. The machine also appears to be able to play RWs that have been recorded on other machines.
Impressions are further enhanced by the number of different bitrate modes to choose from for recording - seven in total. Even the names give a clear indication of their capacities on a single-layer disc. Your granny could figure these out: M1 (1hr), M2 (2hrs), M2x (2.5hrs); M3 (3hrs), M4 (4hrs), M6 (6hrs) and M8 (8hrs).
Editing on the Philips is a doddle too. While there's nothing special about the functions on offer (rename title, select chapter marks and thumbnails, title divide/partial erase, etc) the presentation enhances and simplifies the experience in comparison to most machines.
Image quality is very good on pictures from both DVD movie playback and recorded footage. Deep, natural colours and fine detail retrieval are prevalent when spinning both types of disc. Use modes beyond the first two, though, and artefacts start to appear around image edges at an exponential rate as the bitrates drop.
However, there's no 'strobing' in the bottom mode, so if you're used to simple VHS, you'll be more than happy here.
The only bugbear is the complete lack of progressive scan for modern displays. RGB feeds are great, but you can't help feeling that you're not getting the most from DVD movies, especially if you're using the DVDR615 as your primary player.
While it's nothing to write home about, the audio for recordings is accurate and glitch-free - which, considering the price, is the best you can expect. It's as good as the competition when it comes to playing a music CD, and performs capably with DVD-Video too.
There's little doubt that the DVDR615 is one the better recorders out there, perhaps a given when you consider the loftier price. However, it's not perfect. If progressive scan playback had been included I'd have had no qualms about recommending the machine to serious home entertainment buffs as well as VHS upgraders.
Home cinema enthusiasts, however, will probably want to complement the DVDR615 with a separate player.