Despite the quagmire over standards and compatibility with current DVD playback technology, Philips shakes up the market with a reasonably priced high-performance DVD recorder.
NOTE: Since my original review, long term reliability issues on some production batches of the 985 have surfaced. The following review reflects performance at the time of my initial tests. However, my star rating has been revised downward to reflect the more recent problems with some of these units.
It is the only DVD recorder on the market under $1,000 whose recordings can be played in almost any DVD player, whether recorded on a write-once (DVD+R) or re-writable (DVD+RW) disc. The test recordings I made on this unit played equally well on both the Pioneer DV-525 and Pioneer DV-341 DVD players and my Sony VAIO desktop computers' DVD-Rom drive.
Second: The DVDR985 generates a navigation menu on each disc, with a representative still frame and all other pertinent time and record speed information. In fact, the 985 even allows you to make your disc chapter stops either during or after recording. If you don't the 985 creates automatic chapter stops every five minutes on your recording. With four record speeds you can record anywhere from one to four hours on a disc, with the one hour HQ speed delivering DVD quality and the four hour EP speed delivering VHS quality. After seeing the results, you will want to use either the HQ (1hr) or SP(2hr) speeds. Audio is recorded in two-channel Dolby Digital.
Featuring both analog and DV (IEEE-1394) video input capability, you can capture, in real time, video recordings made with a miniDV or digital8 camcorder without any signal loss, as well as dubbing those old VHS and 8mm home movies through the standard composite or S-Video inputs. One cautionary note: If you are copying old home video recordings made in VHS-EP mode (or just a bad quality VHS recording in general), you should use the 985's HQ setting for best results. Due to unstable signal output of VHS-EP, you may experience some overcompensation in brightness levels on the 985 using its SP, LP, or EP recording mode.
Fourth The DVDR985 built-in cable TV tuner can record TV shows with the ease of any VCR. This unit even has VCRplus built-in. Sample recordings look identical to the source using HQ or SP record modes.
This unit not only performs very well as a DVD recorder, but is outstanding in its capabilities as a standard DVD player. Dolby Digital and DTS pass through was excellent, as well as the standard and progressive scan component video outputs. According to the manual, the 985 will even play DVD-R and DVD-RW discs recording on other DVD recorders (I haven't tried this yet, may need to do a follow-up on this feature).
Sixth: The Philips DVDR985 does great with CDs, CDR/CDRW discs as well.
Seventh: Other positive points include a large LED display easily visible from across a room, uncluttered front with a minimum of buttons, removable door covering front analog and DV AV inputs, easy-to-use onscreen menus, and an easy-to-use large remote control.
The only real negatives on this unit are its larger-than-normal cabinet size, lack of SACD/DVD-Audio playback, and no CD-R/RW recording capability. In addition, even though this unit is equipped to play VCDs, one of my home made VCDs would not play. On the other hand, the VCD in question wouldn't play on another VCD capable DVD player I tried either. The 985 also does not have a built-in RF modulator for viewing DVDs on older TVs without AV inputs. Also, reading the owner's manual first is a must. Despite these minor drawbacks, however, with everything it does have, the Philips DVDR985
is a flexible unit.
If you have been reluctant to jump into the DVD recording arena, now may be the time, if you can afford it. Now, it's off to make DVD copies of my old laserdisc collection (for my own use, of course!), while my Laserdisc player still works...
NOTE: Due to questions regarding long term reliability of the 985, I have reduced my original 5-star rating, given at the time of the initial review, down to 2.5-stars.