REVIEW: TVonics DTR-HD500 Freeview+ HD recorder

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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

Gerald Lynch