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Google Chromecast.jpgIt wasn't just a new upgraded Nexus tablet complete with Android 4.3 (the latest iteration of the Jelly Bean flavour of Google's mobile operating system) which Google launched today. Also announced was a new TV dongle, designed to compete with Apple TV.

Called Chromecast, the dongle plugs into a television's HDMI port, and allows users to stream media from smartphones, tablets and computers. It will launch immediately in the US for $35 but international launches haven't yet been confirmed.

Unlike other similar devices, such as Apple TV, with Chromecast the media is streamed from the cloud, rather than from the mobile device itself. The emphasis is very much on streaming clips from services such as YouTube and Netflix via a far cheaper device.

Of course this isn't the first time that Google has tried to break into the TV industry (a move many critics believe is an attempt to exploit TV's strong advertising revenues) . It released a £200 set-top box with Sony which was poorly received.

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youview-write.jpgYouView have announced the arrival of a software update that will bring EPG improvements to Humax boxes sold at retail and through BT.

Rolling out over the next two weeks, the update brings enhanced search capabilities to the box's TV guide, with exact search terms now being matched. Channel filters will also be added to the EPG, grouping channels together based on the sort of programming they offer.

A host of bug fixes will also be part of the update, with subtitle sync issues, forward and rewind playback problems and audio crackling annoyances all addressed.

The same updates will hit TalkTalk YouView boxes in the coming weeks.

RELATED:
LIVING WITH: YouView with BT Vision

The BBC has launched a new Connected Red Button service.

Hitting Virgin Media's TiVo box first, it adds a host of new functionality to the established digital TV feature.

First up, the new Connected Red Button will let you to catch programmes on channels that are off-air, including the BBC children's channels, BBC Three and BBC Four, day and night.

Catch-up TV comes baked in, letting you hit the red button to be offered up previous episodes of the show currently being watched, taking advantage of the TiVo's web connected features. Sporting coverage gets similar features, with extended clips and coverage available through the red button.

Finally, news, headlines and weather reports get expanded for the new red button service too, offering details at a glance at a press of the button.

"With today's launch of BBC Connected Red Button, the BBC is seamlessly bringing the Internet together with live TV, while making the technology completely invisible", said Daniel Danker, General Manager, BBC Programmes and On-Demand.

"This is red button reinvented, and the beginning of the exciting future of television."

Victoria Jaye, Head of IPTV & TV Online Content, added: "With BBC Connected Red Button, we're starting with the TV audience who love our broadcast output and we're curating online content on the big screen in ways that add value to their TV viewing. The audience can sit back and relax - the internet just made TV better."

Virgin Media's Executive Director of Digital Entertainment Cindy Rose was glad that her team could offer the service ahead of competitors:

"The BBC understands as passionately as we do how important connected television is for home entertainment. We're delighted the BBC is working with us to launch another milestone in interactive services. Our commitment to this partnership of innovation means Virgin Media TiVo customers are the first to experience the latest interactive services at the press of a button."

The Beeb's new Red Button service will be rolling out to other connected sets and devices next year, with Sir Alan Sugar's YouView boxes expected to be next to receive the update.

2012-09-27 10.00.25.jpgNot sure how many launches digital terrestrial TV service YouView has had now, but at the latest 'official' launch we were treated to national treasure Joanna Lumley appearing to beat the hell out of the original Austin 1300 car used in the famous Fawlty Towers sketch (actually she wasn't hitting it that hard because the owner of the beautifully restored car was standing right in front of her).

Ostensibly the launch was to showcase the partnership with Talk Talk which will see the company's telephone/broadband customers receive a YouView set top box for a one off charge of £50 covering the cost of an engineer's installation visit, providing they sign up to TalkTalk's service for £14.50 a month.

And while we reviewed the Humax box and were less than impressed by its facilities (particularly lack of wi-fi), if YouView can get the hardware right then it promises to be a useful service to those who want to watch catch-up services like the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and 4OD via their TV rather than web tablet or games console.

To promote the official launch at the Vinyl Factory in London's Soho, Talk Talk went back in time to recreate some of the best 10 TV moments in history, including the wrong chandelier moment from Only Fools and Horses which saw the usually glamorous Lumley exchanging high heels for a Talk Talk overall and holding a large white blanket. Very strange indeed.

Then there was an entire room from the 1970s showing Mr Ben on a lovely old boxy wooden TV set. Not sure which TV moment that was supposed to represent but it looked great - aah the good old days. See gallery from the launch event below.


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Name:Humax DTR-1000 YouView set-top box

Type: Digital terrestrial set top box with catch up players and recorder

Specs: Click here for more information

Price as reviewed: £299

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A digital set top box for those who don't want to subscribe to Sky or cable TV, this Freeview box from Humax combines Freeview with catch-up TV services from all four main broadcasters. 

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Digital terrestrial set top boxes are now available from just about every supermarket for £30 upwards. While they are handy for converting your old analogue TV into digital so you can receive Freeview services very few offer you the added benefit of watching catch up TV services such as BBC's iPlayer, the ITV player, 4oD and Demand 5.

First announced as Project Canvas way back in 2008, YouView aims to change this. Initially due to launch in 2010, the project has been delayed for some time due to 'technical reasons'. Even the latest July launch date has slipped back into August. Meanwhile the number of devices on the market able to view catch up TV services - from mobile phones to games consoles, web tablets such as the iPad and 'smart TVs' including an entire range from Samsung has increased exponentially, making competition in this space very crowded indeed.

So the big question is who is going to pay the fairly hefty £300 asking price? I suspect the answer is that it's aimed primarily at an older generation who want the convenience of watching catch-up services on their large living room TV rather than on a smaller portable device such as an iPad. Also those who don't want to upgrade their main TV to a smart TV which have built in catch-up TV services, but which are still expensive (though coming down in price rapidly). Is this a big enough market though? Only time will tell.

Where's the wireless?

YouView Remote-480.jpgMade by Humax, a company which has a good track record when it comes to producing high end digital set top boxes, is also a reassuring factor as many of the cheaper set top boxes suffer picture break up especially when watching programmes from catch up TV services like BBC's iPlayer.

However, interestingly, this Humax box isn't wireless-enabled which means you will have to plug it into an ethernet port in the back of your router to receive the catch up services. Great if you happen to have your router near your TV set, but how many of us have a computer router near the living room TV? I'm guessing not that many.

For this test YouView provided a set of powerline adaptors from Devolo which worked superbly well using the mains electricity to send digital data from the catch up services to the TV. Just plug one into the mains near your TV set and connect up the ethernet cable, then plug the other into the mains near your router and connect up the ethernet cable there.

Of course having a wired solution is a much better option for streaming video than lower bandwidth wi-fi but it's still curious that wi-fi isn't built into a box that YouView must know will probably - in most cases - sit nowhere near a broadband router. Also given the additional expense and (possible) technical complexity of having to buy a set of powerline adaptors when wireless Smart TVs are readily available on the market seems a huge own goal. 

Good graphics

That said, in terms of performance and specifications the Humax box is pretty good. A large 500Gb hard drive is provided for recording up to 300 hours of standard definition or 125 hours of high definition content (HDMI cable is provided for hooking up the box to an HDTV for high definition pictures). Also on board are two tuners for recording one channel while watching another. Recordings can be displayed by date, alphabetically or by watched/unwatched and you can stop a recording being deleted by locking it using the yellow button.

Usefully, especially for those of us who can't see as well as we used to (!), the onscreen display is nice and clear and the 7 day TV guide works well. Information about programmes is in white text on a black background with headers in an electric blue colour which is particularly easy to read (there's even a zoom button if you want to see the programme information a little bigger). YouView says you can access programmes that were broadcast in the last seven days via the TV guide without having to use the catch up TV service, but I wasn't able to get this to work.

Confusingly, rather than using a menu button on the remote, you need to press the blue Y button to access the full range of features that the set top box offers. Pressing 'On Demand' brings all the available catch up TV services on screen (iPlayer, ITV player, 4oD and Demand 5) as well as Sky's Now TV. An on demand movie service, like LoveFilm and NetFlix, Now TV allows you to watch movies for between 99p and £3.49 or the monthly subscription package for a hefty £15 (you can see our review of the service here). Apparently 300 service providers, including Love Film, have shown an interest in YouView, but none has gone live - yet.

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One clever feature is 'Find Programmes By Genre' which pulls together all of the content from the various catch up TV services and displays it as thumbnails which you can scroll through. So, for example, if you like comedy it will display programmes from 4oD such as Peep Show, alongside content from the iPlayer such as Bad Education or Russell Howard. Useful if you're not sure what to watch and don't want to have to check through each of the catch up TV services individually. However, it is a little tricky to find, requiring you to press the Y button, followed by On Demand, then TV, then Genres. Indeed navigating your way around this set top box could generally be a lot more intuitive than it is.

Another niggle is the low energy eco-mode - a great idea in theory but in practice a huge pain which means the set top box seems to take forever to load up. Even when you switch eco mode to low it still seems to take a long time for the box to load up. All in all not a great experience.

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Verdict:

With all the hype surrounding YouView, especially with the involvement of company chairman Lord Sugar, the service - which has been four years in the making - was always going to struggle to live up to expectations. Fundamentally, in an age full of web tablets like the iPad, Smart TVs and catch-up TV enabled games consoles it feels like a product that is simply too late to the market. Even leaving that aside, it seems there are a few big mistakes in this launch product from Humax. The most important of these is the omission of wifi, but there are others such as menus that are less intuitive than they should be and a start up mode which seems to take forever. I think these will need to be ironed out if the YouView vision of integrating broadcast and digital TV content within a digital set top box is going to stand any chance of survival.

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2.5/5
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the-dark-knight-rises-tivo.jpgVirgin Media have released a "The Dark Knight Rises" app through their TiVo catch-up service to coincide with the hotly-anticipated final chapter in Christopher Nolan's epic Batman trilogy.

Fans of the Dark Knight will be able browse trailers and clips from all three of Nolan's superhero flicks, with exclusive interviews, pictures and details from the set of the concluding instalment in the series.

You can grab the app by checking out the Apps and Games section on TiVo.
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Virgin Media are also making Batman Begins and The Dark Knight available to rent through their Virgin Media Movies on Demand service, letting you re-cap all the action so far before heading down to the cinema for The Dark Knight Rises.

While you're in the mood for some comic-book shenanigans, check out the Batman face off over at Brandish, where Christian Bale, Adam West, Michael Keaton, George Clooney, Kevin Conroy and Val Kilmer are all duking it out to be crowned the finest caped crusader.

Google TV hits UK with Sony

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NSZ-GS7_B_EA_ST-1200.jpgGoogle and Sony have taken the build up to the annual I/O conference to reveal the NSZ-GS7 Internet Player and the NSZ-GP9 Internet Blu-ray player, each having the second generation of Google TV inside.

With a completely overhauled interface, Google TV integrates with your existing TV, laying apps, a modified Chrome browser and a lean-back YouTube player over your regular live TV broadcasts.

Both units come with a re-worked remote control too that features a QWERTY keypad on the rear and multi-touch touchpad on the front.

"Expanding the reach and interoperability of the powerful Android platform with Sony's smartphones, tablets and renowned Audio & Video products, we are proud to continue our relationship with Google through the introduction of the new Google TV Internet Player," said Gildas Pelliet, Sony's European Head of Marketing.

"Entertainment content is available through so many channels and sites, and Google TV helps consumers easily find what they want to watch, listen or play with the freedom of the internet and using the familiar Chrome browser."

Landing in July, it's the first time Google TV has been available in the UK, with the set-top box priced at £200, with pre-orders opening now. The Blu-ray player follows later in the year, priced at £300.

dtr-hd500_web.jpgTVonics have teamed up with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and software developers IVONA to develop an updated version of their DTR-HD500 aimed at blind and partially sighted people.

Using text-to-speech technology, the updated box is easier to navigate for those with poor eyesight, with audio descriptions of both the TV shows being broadcast and descriptions of the box's navigational features.

"We were delighted to work with TVonics and IVONA to create a mainstream set top box, which is fully accessible," said Fazilet Hadi, Group Director of Inclusive Society at RNIB.

"This is the first box which will allow blind people to independently record programmes and pause live TV. This box will enable people with sight loss to get a great digital TV experience without paying a premium."

"IVONA is proud to partner with TVonics and RNIB to give blind and partially sighted people access to the exciting and informative world of Digital TV ", added Lukasz Osowski, CEO of IVONA Software.

"Using the world's most natural-sounding Text-to-Speech voices for this ground-breaking Audio Description (AD) tool means that a huge new audience will now be able to enjoy the TV experience with the click of a button."

The DTR-HD500 with the new text-to-speech software pre-installed can be bought directly through RNIB's website, www.rnib.org.uk, for £179.95. The box updated box will also be available through John Lewis stores and TVonics own website, but the RNIB's instructional manual will have to be purchased through the RNIB.

From May 3rd all new products manufactured by TVonics will have the text-to-speech software installed. If you already have a TVonics DTR-HD500 or DTR-Z500HD, you can grab the software for free from the RNIB and TVonics websites.

echostar.jpgWith analogue TV signals dying the death, now's the perfect time to grab a digital set-top box if you didn't already have one. Which means it's also the perfect time for Echostar to launch the HDT-610R, what they're claiming is the world's slimmest PVR.

Also known as the Ultra Slim Box, it measures a slight 14mm thin, despite housing a HDMI connection, twin tuner and 500GB hard drive.

Recording Freeview+ and Freeview+ HD channels, the HDT-610R also offers on-demand services like BBC iPlayer and Box Office 365. The box also offers live TV rewinding and pausing functionality, as well as intelligently seeking out HD versions of shows when available and offering the ability to set shows to record from advertisements.

"Consumers are looking forward to an exciting summer of sport and facing a packed viewing schedule, digital video recording will be one of the key features that viewers will be looking for," stated Freeview MD Ilse Howling. Because everything is linked to the Olympics, right?

Up for pre-order from May 4th, Echostar's Ultra Slim Box will be in shops by the end of May. Pricing is yet to be announced.

spotify-tivo.jpgSpotify, the world conquering music streaming service, is now available through the Virgin Media Tivo set-top box.

Great news for folks planning on blasting out their favourite tunes in their living rooms (particularly if they've got home cinema set-ups sorted) Virgin will be bundling Spotfiy Premium deals in with their mobile and broadband contracts.

New and existing Virgin Media fibre optic subscribers will nab 6 months worth of the Premium version of the streaming service for free, an offer worth £59.94 if purchased separately.

Virgin Media pay monthly mobile users get 3 months of the Premium service, worth £29.97, and have the added benefit of incurring zero data charges for streaming tracks over 3G while on their network.

Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media said: "Our goal to deliver a truly unique experience for our customers and we're really excited about bringing Spotify to our TiVo service as part of our ongoing initiatives to develop the platform further with new features, applications and content."

Spotify's Andreas Liffgarden, global head of telecom business development added: "What used to be a big cube is now a flat screen connected to the speakers and surround sound system in your home. Since we like our users to enjoy the world's best music under the best possible conditions, it made perfect sense for us to develop this great Spotify app for Virgin Media TiVo."

You can find the new Spotify app in the games and apps area of your Tivo box menu.

Click here for our Christmas gift guide to the best set-top boxes.

set-top-box-banner.jpgWhat good is a brand new TV sitting wrapped underneath your Christmas tree this goodwill season if you've got nothing to watch on it? While plenty of TVs have built in digital tuners, only the most expensive have web connected features, and fewer still have storage space for recorded shows.

That's where these set-top boxes come in. With features ranging from dual tuners for multi-channel recording, massive hard drives to store your shows on and a wealth of web-connected apps and movie download platforms, these set-top boxes will bring out the best from your flatscreen TV.

When you're done here, be sure to check out the rest of Tech Digest's 2011 Christmas wishlists too.

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YouView, the venture that is looking to bring on-demand video and Freeview together, is to start a friends and family testing period starting in early 2012. The service is looking to be a catch up service that is based on your TV so you dont have to resort to watching it on a computer.

The service will be free from all TV contracts, with the set top box you will get all Freeview or Freesat channels with the inclusion of the last seven days catch up TV. Also a choice of on-demand and pay TV for films, sports and some US drama.

The service is backed by many of the UK's largest broadcasters including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and BT. TalkTalk, known for its broadband services, will be giving 3000 of its employees the YouView set top boxes, made with manufacturer Huawei, to "focus on the end to end customer experience."

Following this trail a full launch will follow with each and every one of the 8 million Freeview customers a target for the YouView service. The company stated, "The launch of YouView next year will be a major development for TalkTalk and we are on track to offer a value for money product of phone, broadband and TV in spring 2012."

TalkTalk will be looking to undermine the more expensive phone, TV and internet services of their main competitors Virgin and Sky, perhaps hoping to steal a few customers who feel they are being over charged. But they reamin true to giving Freeview customers something extra to their packages.

TalkTalk have invested heavily in the set top box with four million pounds already invested and a contract between YouView's partners to cover a hundred and fifteen million pound budget which will include covering development, launch and the first four years of operating.

freesat-awards.jpgFreesat are allowing TV watchers to pick the winner of their TV Channel of the Year award, with the station with the most votes crowned at an annual awards event to be held on July 12th.

The Viewers Choice award will not only see TV execs and stars walking away with a prize, but also one lucky UK voter, who stands the chance of winning a day at a luxurious spa as well as an Echostar+ digital TV box.

To take part, head on over to www.freesat.co.uk/awards/viewer-s-choice-awards. Voting closes on the 17th of June.

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Name: DTR-Z500HD (TVonics)

Type: Freeview+ HD Digital TV recorder

Specs: Click here for full specs

Price: £224.99 direct from TVonics

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HDMI switching is a rare feature for a digital TV recorder, but the TVonics DTR-Z500HD packs it in. Does the rest of its features live up to the relatively hefty price tag attached to this PVR?

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Sleek black curves and its stout boxy frame aside, the DTR-Z500HD is a rather unassuming Freeview HD set top box, completely bereft of buttons, that houses a rather unique feature. On its rear is not only a HDMI Output port, but also two HDMI inputs, allowing for pass-through switching of two further HD sources, such as a Blu-ray player or games console. Switching between the two via dedicated "HDMI 1" and "HDMI 2" buttons on the remote control, it'll be a godsend for those with a TV packing only the one HDMI port, or those looking to tidily wall-mount a TV with the minimum amount of input cables on show. With Freeview HD broadcast in 1080i, it also reveals why the need for 1080p support is included here, as so many Blu-ray players and games consoles using the sharper picture format could potentially pass through the box.

Cramming in a 500GB hard disk, the DTR-Z500HD has all the Freeview+ HD features you'd expect from a premium digital TV recorder, including series link options, one-button recording and Live TV pause, allowing you to fence off a portion of the hard drive for as many as 4 hours of live TV to be rewound through. Dual tuners allow two channels to be recorded whilst a third is being viewed. Around 70 hours of HD footage can be stored, or 220 hours of standard definition programming. There's even a recommendation service which, depending on whether or not broadcasters include the relevant information with their shows, will suggest programs you may enjoy based on those you've already recorded.

In use, the EPG and menu system is punchy and fast, skirting around the layers of programme information and channel listings briskly. Text is crisp and easy to read, and there's even some light customisation options when it comes to the skin of the EPG and its colours.

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Sharp, smear-free Freeview HD images are delivered from the box, while even standard definition channels are upscaled to a high standard. Those using larger screen TVs upwards of 40 inches may see a little softening to SD images, but only minimally. Though few shows are broadcast with 5.1 sound on Freeview HD, the DTR-Z500HD supports it regardless, converting the compressed HE-AAC format into Dolby Digital 5.1, compatible with all AV amps. There's even a Dolby Surround option, converting stereo sources into 5.1 through an AV with Dolby Pro Logic codecs.

The remote control is very comfortable, if a little lightweight. Along with the afore-mentioned HDMI switching buttons, there's a central click wheel, surrounded by "Guide", "Text", "Info" and "Back" buttons. A button dedicated for switching between TV and radio EPG listings will suit those who listen to the wireless a lot too. However there's one pretty glaring issue with the remote set-up here. Though leaving the DTR-Z500HD without buttons makes a fairly sleek design for the box itself, losing the remote down the side of a sofa or, even worse, breaking it, will lead to you being unable to control the box at all.

If we had any other major complaints with the box, it's how underused both the dual USB ports and Ethernet port found on the device are. The USB ports can only display photos stored on a memory stick rather than music or movie files, with their purpose predominately for updating the system software. Likewise, the Ethernet port is incapable of grabbing content from a networked PC or other DLNA compliant device, though it will be future-proofed for eventual Freeview+ HD web features.


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Verdict:

Delivering class-leading Freeview HD images and offering a genuinely useful feature in the shape of its HDMI switching function, there's a lot to love in this latest TVonics box. However, it's got quite a steep price tag, and those looking for a little more storage space or a more robust feature list may be better served elsewhere.review-line.JPG

4/5

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Sky's EPG channel line-up is to get a fairly drastic shake-up come the start of February, pushing the growing number of HD channels higher up the list.

40 HD channels (not including the key terrestrial channels) will swap places with their more prominently placed standard definition counterparts. For instance, Sky 1 HD will now reside at channel number 106. The changes will only affect Sky+ HD subscribers; the SD Sky EPG will remain unchanged.

"We want our customers to be able to discover and enjoy the content they are most passionate about," said Roy Webster, Sky's Commercial Director. "That's why we've worked with a range of partner channels to ensure that customers can find their favourite pay TV channels and programming as easily as possible.

"And with high definition viewing now demanded as standard, this has also meant swapping HD channels into the EPG numbers that our customers know best.

"The combination of high quality content, an intuitive, easy-to-use EPG, and innovative services like Sky+HD and Sky Anytime+, means our customers benefit from real choice, control and flexibility of viewing, whether linear or on-demand."

The changes will occur on February 1st.

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Name: DTR-HD500 Freeview+ HD recorder (TVonics)

Type: HD set-top box and recorder

Specs: Click here for full specs

Price: £255.31 direct from TVonics

Let's not beat around the bush; £250+ is a hell of a lot of money to pay for a Freeview+ HD recorder these days, considering you can get very capable set-top boxes for little over the £100 mark. While the entry price may prove a barrier for many, there is no denying however the quality of TVonics' latest flagship recorder, the DTR-HD500 Freeview+ HD recorder.

A slick, curved, black gloss design makes the 85mm x 380mm x x200mm DTR-HD500 very easy on the eye, with a small display on the front showing channel names and other info snippets. The first clue as to the reasoning behind the DTR-HD500's premium pricing can be found on the unit's rear, where you'll find a HDMI output accompanied by a pair of HDMI inputs. Though labelled for a DVD player and games console, they can in fact be used as a dual HDMI switch for any device that uses the connection, including Blu-ray players.

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Two USB ports are available for viewing media files, equally useful for those looking to update the box. After listening to the requests of early testers, the DTR-HD500 can now playback Dolby Digital Surround audio, installed via a download popped onto a memory stick. An Ethernet port sits on the back too, though its purpose isn't all that clear. We'd have much rather had a Common Interface slot for Top-Up TV, sadly absent.

Housing a 500GB hard-drive, the DTR-HD500 is just about the biggest Freeview+ HD recorder we've seen, allowing you to store a veritable library of around 65 hours worth of Freeview HD programming or 250 hours worth of standard definition content. Twin DVB-T2 tuners also allow two channels to be recorded at once, as well as set up series links; very handy should the X-Factor clash with the footie.

All of the excellent features above however would be a bit pointless should the DTR-HD500 suffer from poor image quality. After a quick and simple channel scanning set-up, the box thankfully doesn't disappoint, offering vibrant, pin-sharp HD content and top-notch standard def upscaling. A clear EPG offers lists nine channels over 90 minutes per screen-filling page, while an overlaying pop-up box can be used to browse channels while watching shows. The EPG can be a little slow to refresh if you try to quickly scan far into the future though, which was a little disappointing at this price range.

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Recorded shows are kept in a dedicated library area, displaying how much hard drive space has been used and is left to fill. The remote control proves a little confusing here, as as sorting and navigating through stored shows is overly complex, while an "editing" function only allows you to block minors from shows or lock a show to prevent its deletion. Both live TV and recordings can be paused, rewound and (providing you're running slightly behind broadcast time with live shows) fast-forwarded, at two different speeds.

All in, the TVonics DTR-HD500 Freeview+ HD recorder is a very capable set-top box that, while having a few quirks, does well to keep the pace with the standard-setting Sky+ HD box. Those quirks can be a little annoying considering the premium price tag, but you still get a load of quality features for the dough.

4/5

TVonics launch DTR-HD500 Freeview HD recorder

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dtr-hd500_web.jpgTVonics are today launching their first Freeview HD recorder, the DTR-HD500.

With a 500GB hard-drive, the recorder squeezes in plenty of top-spec features at a reasonably affordable £279.99. These include:

Trailer bookings - record a programme during its trailer.
Recommendation - recommends programmes associated with pre-set recordings.
A twin tuner - to record two channels at the same time as watching a third.
Twin input HDMI ports - to plug in supporting HDMI devices.
Two USB ports - to plug in supporting USB devices.
1080p viewing quality
Accurate recording - automatically adjusts the recording time if a programme runs over.
Series record - record an entire series in one touch.
Parental control features - sort and hide channels and recordings.

The box also features a HDMI switch, meaning owners of port-strapped sets won't have to keep swapping leads around the back of their tellies.

A Dolby Surround Sound firmware update will also be available from the 20th October.

Grab the DTR-HD500 now from John Lewis, Comet, Sainsbury's, Tesco direct (online), Leekes, Audio T and Eurosat, as well as the TVonics online web store.

Axar.jpgProVision, who wowed the CES crowds earlier in the year with their wireless high-def streaming kit, have just lifted the covers off of their potentially game-changing AXAR2010 HD video system.

Though not yet available to buy, the AXAR2010 will allow four separate HD signals to be streamed to multiple sources around the home from a single box.

Using the 5GHz 802.11n wireless standard, four different 1080p HD streams (HD TV channels, Blu-ray, games consoles etc) can be sent to different TV sets, laptops or mobile devices around the house. Potentially, the technology could do away with the need for separate set-top boxes per room in a house.

"AXAR software technologies are sold under an IP licensing model and will be integrated into set top boxes, TVs, DVD players and media routers from major consumer electronics manufacturers and multinational OEMs", said Steve Cliffe, CEO of ProVision.

No word on a retail release yet, but ProVision are said to be in talks with distributers on both sides of the pond.

humax HDR-FOX T2 Freeview HD recorder.jpgHumax released their impressive HD-FOX T2 Freeview box back at the start of the year, but it's this, the Humax HDR-FOX T2 Freeview HD recorder, that we've been really looking forward to. Humax have now finalised the details of the recorder's release, so read on for the low-down on this impressive set-top box.

Due out in July, the Humax HDR-FOX T2 Freeview HD recorder can playback and record the free High Definition TV service offered by Freeview. It features a 500GB hard drive, storing 125 hours of HD video, and roughly double that for standard definition content.

The Humax HDR-FOX T2 Freeview HD recorder will also play back mp3s, photos and video from a USB port or across your home network via Ethernet.

Pick this one up for around £349 when it launches in July.

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Sky Player headed to Humax Freeview boxes

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Sky have announced a new deal this morning, bringing their on-demand Sky Player to Humax Freeview set-top boxes, expanding the number of Sky viewers by thousands.

The deal comes hot on the heels of similar ones made with 3View and TV manufacturers Cello, as well as Microsoft and the Xbox 360. However, the new partnership with the popular Humax brand is a significant move for Sky, as Humax themselves are key players in the now-lucrative Freeview market.

"Until recently, Sky Player has largely been confined to the PC screen but that is changing fast. Since last autumn, it has been available on the Xbox and this year it will roll out to more broadband-enabled devices through deals with the likes of Fetch TV, 3 View and Cello," said Sky's chief executive Jeremy Darroch.

"Just today, we're announcing a further expansion of Sky Player through a new agreement with Humax, the leading provider of Freeview boxes. And there are more deals in the pipeline."

Speaking in Cannes, much of Darroch's speech focussed on Sky's fight with Ofcom over the price of its premium sports content. The expansion of the Sky Player and the increasing move away from satellite based services seems to show that quality content is the most high on Sky's agenda.

"In providing both new and existing customers with more choice and control over how they access Sky content, we continue to harness secure and high-quality distribution platforms like Humax," said Griff Parry, Sky's Director of On-Demand.

"We know that many Sky homes also have Freeview in other rooms, and this provides a great way for them to enjoy Sky away from their Sky box. And for new customers, particularly those in Freeview homes, it provides an innovative new access point to Sky's high-quality pay TV content."

Humax's Graham North added:"The addition of Sky Player on our Freeview HD boxes ensures Humax is positioned to offer consumers an exciting way to experience digital TV, with great content and a range of home networking and content sharing features."

Sky's online TV service will launch across Humax's new range of IP-enabled high definition Freeview boxes, including the Humax HD-FOX T2.

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