I'm sticking this review in here as this has nothing to do with gaming and is only slightly technology orientated... and is a much more personal view than the ones I normally write... ie, it's an utterly scathing review and I don't want HEXUS to get done for libel... so read on...
The Philips PU51285 Automatic SCART Switcher
I picked up one of these units yesterday as I tend to have a lot of peripherals connected to my TV. The TV itself has two SCART inputs round the back, with a set of RGB inputs in a flap round the front, but when you consider we have the Sky box, a DVD player and video already connected, adding in a games console becomes a pain.
At the minute, I have the Sky box lopped through the video and then into SCART 1 on the TV, with the DVD player on it’s own socket to SCART 2. With both SCART inputs taken up, my X-Box, PS2 and Game Cube all have to be plugged into the RGB sockets when I want to use them. It’s a pain to fiddle around with a tangle of wires all the time and the whole TV has always looked a mess with all those wires just lying about.
So when I spied the Philips Automatic SCART Switcher, it seemed like the answer to all my troubles. I’d been on the lookout for a SCART switch for a while, but I wanted an automatic one that would switch to whatever was currently supplying the signal. All the ones I’d seen in the shops were manual switches and normally only supported three devices, so this Philips one seemed ideal. Four inputs and automatic switching… excellent! I snapped it up and toddled off home.
Now, if you’ve already got three devices connected to your telly, that generates a fair amount of wiring knocking about round the back of the stand… and here was me adding to it as all the games console’s wires were now going to disappear into wiring hell as I hooked them up to the SCART switcher.
It looks as simple as simple could be to use… in fact, there’s not even an instruction booklet in the box, just the switch itself and the power adapter to run it. What instructions are needed are printed on the back of the box. Let’s be honest, it’s not rocket science for even the mildly technical. You plug the switch into the SCART socket on your telly and then plug the SCART leads from everything you want to connect into the switch and then you’re set.
Well, no, you’re not set at all, as it so happens. I decided to leave the Sky box and video on their own SCART channel and stick the DVD player and my consoles through the switch. Having duly plugged everything in, we gave it a whirl by turning on the DVD player. My TV has auto-sensing too, so it dutifully switched to the correct channel and up popped the DVD loading screen… sweet. Now time to test out the consoles.
Flicking back onto another channel and switching off the DVD player, I powered up the GC… nothing. No response from the telly at all. Ok, let’s check the cabling… yep, all good, no loose plugs, everything slotted in properly… try again… nothing. Ok, let’s try the PS2 instead… nothing… Alright, let’s try the X-Box then… oh, surprise, surprise… nothing.
So, something fishy here… I flick on the DVD player again and sure enough, up comes the DVD loading screen. So as a test, I turned the DVD player off to see if the switch would even display any other input when it was already on the right channel… nope. What about if I switch the order of the SCART plugs around on the switch… nope. How about if I remove the DVD plug and try just the consoles… nope. Ok, how about trying just the consoles on their own… nope.
Of course, by this time the missus is getting a tad fed up as I’ve been lying on the floor for two hours behind a telly she’s trying to watch at an oblique angle and missing all the best bits of ‘Scrubs’ to see me surface occasionally with a perplexed look on my face and cobwebs in my hair. I’m getting more and more irate as this wonderful Philips Automatic SCART Switcher is doing one thing only and that’s acting like an extension lead for the DVD player’s own SCART lead… crap.
Several times I checked with the minimalist instructions on the back of the box to just double check that I hadn’t been a complete carrot and managed to somehow sod up the simple act of plugging things into holes… nope, it wasn’t me. Perhaps the switch doesn’t support games consoles? Well, you see, it says on the box that it does, which is why I bought it. I quote:
So, let’s look at the bit that says ‘games consoles’… I’ve tried this with the three current consoles on the market and it doesn’t actually work with any of them. And before anyone asks, yes I am using the official RGB to SCART adapters that came with each console… I kept them in their respective boxes in the loft until they were needed.4 in 1 SCART features:
Connects four SCART devices using one socket on your TV.
Accepts RGB signals from DVD, digital TV receiver, games consoles etc.
Automatically switched to RGB & widescreen modes.
Automatically switches to the correct input when you turn on a connected device.
LED indicators for power on
So, let’s now skip over the bit last night where I sat sulking on the sofa and flip to this afternoon where I try the Philips website to see if I can get some help. I dutifully log in to the UK version of the site and type my product number into the search engine. Here’s an experiment you can do at home, kids. Type the number PU51285 into the search engine at www.philips.co.uk. For those of you who can’t be bothered to try, its ok, it’s a futile thing to do anyway as it would appear that Philips don’t make this unit… or so their website would lead you to believe. So try the product name ‘Automatic SCART Switcher’. That’ll get you 4330 results… not many to narrow down then, eh?
You can refine the search by defining which areas of technical speciality on the Philips site you’d like to search, so I plumped for the obvious one of TV, Audio and Video only to be told that the closest match was a PC Projector cable, but seeing as they couldn’t find my part number, perhaps I was searching in the wrong country!
On the back of the box is a Warranty claims number, so I thought I’d give them a ring… after 15 minutes and 32 second of listening to the same awful, awful, awful harmonica music I gave up hope of ever moving up their supposed ‘queue’ and went back to the web. Here I found a London number to call, which I did and which, after selecting 4 options from various menus I was placed in a queue listen to, wait for it, that same awful harmonica music! This time, after a further 6 minutes, I was talking to a real person who then told me that the part number I was giving them wasn’t on their system… and I was given a new number to call.
So I ring the new number to hear a recorded message tell me that for the privilege of trying to get help with my product I’d be paying 15p a minute for the call but I could get help free on the net… yes I could if their was any info on your bloody site for my product! So I wait and after a mere 60p has been spent I’m talking to some chap who asks me for the product number. I give it to him, he puts me on hold for nearly two minutes then a new voice answers. I explain again about my problem and now it seems I’m getting somewhere.
The nice, or so it seemed, young lady took my name, postcode and phone number before asking me the product number… all at my 15 per minute expense. After she has tapped the number into her terminal she asks me again for the number, I give it to her and then she asks for the product description, which I read, verbatim, off the box. Then comes the reply, “But we don’t do an Automatic SCART Switcher”. I explain that they do seeing as I have one right there in front of me and I’ve given her the part number for it.
Click… I’m on hold again. Two minutes later, I’m talking to another lady who explains that Philips don’t do a SCART switcher and I must be mistaken. So I ask her why it says Philips on the box? Why does it have the Philips logo all over it? She goes quiet for a while and racks up some more of my money while keeping me on hold until she comes back to say that I’ve keyed in the wrong numbers on the phone menu and I should re-dial and key in again.
I explain that when I called this number I was put through by one of their own guys, so he should know which department I need, no? I go into hold hell again still with that bloody awful harmonica music and after nearly five minutes, just as I’m ready to give up, she comes back on the line with what has to be one of the most implausible get-outs I’ve ever heard in my life.
Apparently, I’ve come through to the wrong department and I need to ring another number. I ask for the number. Sorry, she says, we can’t find the number but what we’ll do is get hold of the department for me and get them to call me back. I ask which department it is I need as I’ll try and find the number myself. Sorry, says she again, we’re not really sure which department you need, so we’ll get them to call you. How can you get them to call me when you don’t know who it is that should call me, or how to get hold of them? We’ll find out and get them to call you, comes the reply, we’ve entered it into the system and it’ll be picked up by the proper department. I ask how long it’ll take to for them to ring me to be told it might be next week sometime and can we have your phone number?
Hang on, you need my phone number? Why? I’ve given it to you already… I even have a reference number. Oh, can we have that? I give her the reference number to be told that I must’ve copied it down wrong as there’s no record on the system. So we search by postcode and surname and lo and behold, the details I paid 15p a minute to give over 20 minutes ago have disappeared from the system…. Excellent!
So, where are we now? Well, I have a useless hunk of plastic made by Philips that quite clearly DOES NOT do what it says it does as none of today’s consoles work with it, whether it is just the console alone plugged in or any combination of console and other TV peripheral. Philips customer support are busily deleting my details off their systems, and even if they haven’t, they’ve no idea what to do with them as the product doesn’t even show on their systems, leading them to tell me that they don’t make such a thing when they quite clearly do. I’ve wasted an evening trying to get it to work and then had to pay well over the national rate for phone calls to listen to clueless customer service reps hand me off to department after department each time telling me, the customer, that I had either taken myself to the wrong department or I was mistaken over what I had actually bought and I still have a ton of electrical spaghetti hanging out of the front of my telly.
Needless to say, the damn thing is going back to the shop for a refund this afternoon and I’ll be emailing Philips with a list of complaints… that’s if I can find the correct email address as the site only lets you email someone once you’ve entered in the correct product section… and with a product that doesn’t exist, that’s quite hard to do.