Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.
The DVDR75's handsome silver face is highlighted by a swath of mirrored plastic. The drawer and the display blend into the mirror, the power button is on the left, and to the right sit a circular transport control and a Record key, which is outlined in red light during recording.
The menu system, which relies on horizontal and vertical cursor movement, was sometimes a little too slow. But the options are straightforward enough that beginners shouldn't have much trouble, especially after consulting the helpful user manual. Operating the DVDR75 is relatively painless.
We were much happier with the DVDR75's remote than the DVDR80's. The bow-tie shape fits well in the hand, and the transport controls are easy to differentiate. Our chief complaints are with the illogically small menu buttons and the overprominent timer and TV-volume keys, but you'll soon get used to the layout.
The DVDR75's and the DVDR80's feature sets mirror one another except for four differences. As we already mentioned, the DVDR75 lacks the step-up model's important EPG. Also missing are Sage/Faroudja DCDi video processing, an optical digital-audio output, and an 8-hour recording mode.
The DVDR75 cannot change the channels on an external tuner or cable box, so to make sure we recorded the show we wanted, we had to leave our box set to the correct channel. Basic VCR Plus timer-programming functionality made the process a bit less of a hassle.
Unlike the competing Panasonic DMR-E60S, the DVDR75 lacks dual A/V ins and outs, but we consider those less important than the Philips's component-video input, which provides the highest-quality connection to interlaced DVD players and some TV receivers. The unit can't take progressive-scan signals, nor will it record the output from a copyrighted DVD or VHS tape.
The back panel also includes a single A/V input and output, both with S-Video; a component-video output; and an RF in and out, just like on a VCR. Out front, behind a flip-down door, you'll discover another A/V input with S-Video, plus a FireWire jack for digital camcorders.
Like other Philips DVD recorders, the DVDR75 records on rewritable DVD+RWs and write-once DVD+Rs; the latter are somewhat less compatible than DVD-Rs. A total of six recording modes can fit 1, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, or 6 hours of footage on a single-sided 4.7GB disc; as length increases, video quality decreases. The simple DVD menu created on each disc consists of customizable thumbnail images and basic information about the contents. You can easily insert chapter stops on nonfinalized discs, or the recorder can do that for you after every 5 to 6 minutes of material.
Like every other DVD recorder on the market, the DVDR75 produces better-looking recordings than VHS does, even in the 4-hour mode. Recording quality was essentially identical to that of the DVDR80. The DVDs we made from cable shows were only as noisy as the channels themselves, with accurate colors and rock-solid stability. The main artifacts were crawling blocks, known as MPEG noise, which cropped up most noticeably in backgrounds and patches of solid color.
The 1-hour mode displayed excellent detail and very little noise, and the 2- and 2.5-hour modes, perfect for most movies, looked nearly as good. All three selections delivered 450 lines of resolution, according to our Avia test disc. The resolution dropped precipitously to 275 lines in the 3- and 4-hour modes, 250 lines in the 6-hour mode. However, resolution isn't everything, and as we decreased the recording quality in every mode, we saw more MPEG noise.
To compare video quality, we looked at the DVDR75 and Panasonic's DMR-E60S side by side, watching recordings of Monsters, Inc. made via S-Video. We awarded a very narrow victory to the Panasonic in its 1- and 2-hour modes. The Philips tended to introduce more MPEG blocks but also looked a tiny bit sharper, especially in the background and the walls of Sully and Mike's apartment. In the 4-hour mode, the Philips edged out the Panasonic by a blue hair: Sully's coat looked considerably more detailed compared with the oversmooth E60S rendition.
Our main performance complaint revolves around the DVDR75's progressive-scan video playback. On our 34-inch Sony KV-34HS510, the image seemed unstable; it appeared to vibrate slightly. Though most noticeable in the menu system's static text, the effect occurred in moving images as well. We also saw lines on the upturned boats during the opening of Star Trek: Insurrection, an indication that the player lacks 3:2 pull-down processing. In short, we recommend leaving the DVDR75 in interlaced mode.