What is it with products being put on sale before faults and glitches are ironed out? This time it’s a Philips Freeview HD box (which, by the way, isn’t even made by Philips).
The World Cup was looming and the Freeview HD signal was just waiting to be plucked out of the air by one of the new Freeview HD boxes and watched by thousands of football fans. It’s no wonder then, that manufacturers scrambled to get their products out the door.
Digital TV’s a big deal to Which? members so it’s a big deal to us too. When the first wave of Freeview HD boxes launched, we rounded them up to deliver our initial verdict.
The Philips DTR5520 was one such box, and we arranged to borrow a model pre-launch. It’s probably worth me pointing out here that we only borrow products for our first look reviews, and all products we lab-test are bought anonymously.
Finding frustrating faults
We immediately found some rather frustrating niggles so returned it to Philips, suggesting it may be faulty. Philips sent a replacement, but it had the same issues. The box then became available to buy, so we bought a model. Disappointingly, the same issues remained.
The problems are detailed in our ‘Philips Freeview HD box fundamentally flawed‘ news story, but the crux is that the £160 box couldn’t perform many of its key tasks.
I thought I couldn’t be the only person to have encountered this flaw so I did a little Googling. Alongside the positive reviews on many websites, I found forum posts that had clearly been written by people who’d taken the product from its packaging and plugged it in.
Made by Pace, not Philips
The fault seemed quite common, so I got in touch with Philips again. I was told the box was only ‘badged’ as a Philips product (as if this acquits Philips), and that it was made by a company called Pace.
‘An over-the-air (OTA) update would be available’, Pace told me, ‘that will put this glitch straight’. I waited, but to no avail. I washed my hands of the product and sent it to our labs for proper testing.
A few weeks later I received a call from Pace telling me the boxes had now been fixed, but our box hadn’t received any OTA updates. Pace explained that we must have missed the OTA update, but they had a fully operational box for us.
So what about the boxes that have been sold around the country during the past few weeks? Pace explained that owners of these boxes would have to download the latest version of the software to a USB key, and then plug this into their boxes. I replied that we’d try to do what you expect other owners to do, thank you very much.
The saga continues
The instructions on how to update the box have now been sent to the lab. I really hope, for the sake of customers who have bought one of these boxes, that the process is successful and straightforward.
If it is, we finally have a work-around for a problem that should’ve been ironed out in Pace’s, (if not Philips’) quality assurance tests.
It seems that manufacturers can rely upon the ability to fix issues through software updates as a safety blanket. The recent case of Sony Vaio laptops overheating also springs to mind here. It’s not good enough though, as during the interim, there will be customers buying products that simply aren’t fit for purpose.
I’ll keep you posted on how our lab gets on with the Philips (Pace) DTR5520.