I picked up my Philips 3455H about 3 weeks ago. Before buying it I read this entire thread so I was well prepared for what I was getting myself into. Thanks, all, for posting so much useful information.
My own experiences with the Philips have overall been very positive. Mine came with the latest firmware already installed. I have experienced several lockups, but all are now predictable. For example, editing a recorded program to remove commercials works fine at first, but after 15 or 20 edits, the dark blue bands that indicate the removed segments disappear. Consider this a warning because if you keep editing, the Philips will lock up and require an unplug to bring back online. The good news is that the edits remain intact through the reset.
Also, for some reason my very old Sony DVD-RWs will essentially lock up my Philips. During an erase function the progress indicator remains at 0% and no disc functions are allowed. I can change back to tuner mode and flip channels, etc, but I can't perform any disc functions because the Philips thinks that it is still erasing the disc.
So I pull the plug, plug it back in, and eject the DVD-RW. I format it in my PC, and return it to the Philips. Now the Philips says that it's blank and I can try to transfer from the harddrive to the DVD-RW. Once again the progress indicator locks up and for all disc functions are locked. So I pull the plug again and figure that I need to get some new RW discs.
Previously in this thread, people have mentioned plugging in a DVD player to transfer videos to the harddrive. Here's a tip: Take an S-Video cable and loopback the S-Video Output on the Philips back into one of the S-Video Inputs. Switch to tuner mode and repeatedly hit the source button until the S-Video Input you've plugged into is selected. Immediately the screen will start showing funny compounding garbage because of the loopback. Think "point a video camera at the TV that it is connected to tunneling effect".
Anyway, now change to DVD mode and play your movie. Because you've selected the S-Video input as your source, and you are now playing the DVD out of the S-Video port, the Philips will automatically buffer your DVD.
What I've learned from this is that copy protected DVDs can be buffered, but not saved. Non-protected DVDs can be buffered, then saved just like you would with any video source. Unfortunately I ran across one problem with recording using this method. As we all know, some DVDs are presented in "widescreen" formatting. This is the type that has the black bars along the top and bottom of the screen. After years of messing with DVDs, I've noticed that some widescreen DVDs have the black bars actually encoded into the video, while other widescreen DVDs don't. It's like the DVD has no black bars, but has some bit set that instructs the DVD player to generate black bars on it's own.
The reason this is important is because if you have one of these DVDs and you copy it to the harddrive, when you play it back the bars are now recorded as a part of the video signal. Unfortunately, the signal to generate black bars is also recorded. You will get double the black bars. The bars will be twice as thick on playback which makes the video look very squashed. Kind of a weird effect.
Otherwise, if you have a fullscreen DVD or a widescreen that actually has the black bars encoded into the video, then this method works great for creating a little library of frequently viewed videos. Now my young kids can call up their favorite movies without hunting for the DVD (and handling it, scratching it, getting sticky stuff on it, losing it, etc...). Slick.
I do have one question for everyone... How do you bring saved video into a computer in an editable format? I had no luck with recording to my DVD-RWs, so I saved my recorded program on a DVD-R which worked great. I ended up with a pretty familiar set of VOB files. Unfortunately I was unable to do much with it after that. DVD Shrink wouldn't open the disc. Pinnacle Studio 10 wouldn't open the disc (although it will import VOB files from other DVDs). DVD Decrypter would copy it, but wouldn't parse the VOBs. TMPGEnc would open the first VOB, but would not open any of the other VOBs (which meant that I could edit about 35 minutes of my program, but not the rest). Magic DVD Ripper does seem to allow me to play the video and transcode it into another format (like AVI). I need to play around with Magic DVD Ripper some more because my resultant files were of much smaller resolution than my source files.
Several people have mentioned the VR discs that apparently using DVD-RWs will produce. Are these more forgiving? I'm going to have to go out and get some newer DVD-RWs and try that, too.
Thanks in advance for any help!