Skip to main content

Philips HDT8520 review

A difficult birth, but this Pace/Philips Freeview HD PVR is now as able bodied as any

Philips HDT8520
With twin Freeview HD tuners on board, you can watch one channel and record another


  • Usability
  • Hi-def & SD pictures
  • 128x speed scanning


  • Separate EPG
  • Lo-res graphics
  • Not Top-Up TV compatible

It's taken almost four months to get our hands on the Philips HDT8520, and having set it up and used it for over week, we're not surprise it wasn't Fed Ex'd to our test benches in the run-up to the World Cup.

Back then, anything with a Freeview HD badge on it was selling like England scarves, but like Capello's men, it seems this Pace-produced Freeview HD recorder – the first of its kind at the time – wasn't well prepared.

Bugs a-plenty pretty much stalled it progress, but happily the arrival of some new software this week – version 4.22, to be exact – has helped the HDT8520 become the Freeview HD recorder par excellence we'd always hoped it would be.

For those put off by bad reviews, the highlights of the mammoth 4.22 update fix some very basic issues. It's now possible to select a channel from the electronic programme guide by pressing 'OK'. Imagine that! Scrolling around the EPG has been sped-up, as has rewinding live TV, while 4.22 even reaches advanced functionality features like … pressing standby while using the EPG puts the unit into, err, standby.

We jest, but it's a serious faux par to issue a product with so many bugs. That said, Philips – or rather, British box makers Pace, them of Sky+ fame – are forgiven simply because the HDT8520 is now a rather swanky and enjoyable Freeview HD PVR.

We'll start with the essentials. The HDT8520 has two Freeview HD tuners, which makes it possible to record two channels simultaneously to its 500GB hard disk while watching a recording. That equates to around 220 hours of SD channels and 110 hours of HD.

Those who care what their black boxes look like should know that the HDT8520 is just that, though its laptop-style external power pack and (albeit fairly small) square design might annoy – as could its wraparound beam of light that pulses when you least expect it.