A compact Freeview HD recorder
They were quite rare this time last year but there are now plenty of digital TV recorders (sometimes known as PVRs) around that can work with Freeview HD channels. The TVonics DTR-Z500HD is rare for a different reason – it's both designed and built in Britain.
It's also an unusual shoe-box shape, making it tall and not very wide compared with other units. Inside there is a 500GB hard disk that is enough for around 160 hours of high-definition (HD) recording, and much more if you record only non-HD channels.
Setup was simple and straightforward. There is an HDMI socket for easy connection to a flatscreen TV but the Scart connection means it can be used with older TVs too. A built-in HDMI switch means that if your TV has only one HDMI socket you can plug a games console and DVD player into the Z500HD and use it to switch between those and TV channels.
The interface was straightforward and uncluttered – if anything, perhaps a little too simple at times. But it does cover all the features including searching the programme guide, recording whole series with just a couple of button presses and even viewing photos from a USB memory key plugged into the box's USB socket. With Dolby Digital you can enjoy surround sound on some high-definition programmes and the remote was well-built and simple to use.
However, unlike more expensive products, it cannot play video over your network or from a USB key, and though access to the BBC iPlayer may be added later, it's not included at the moment. Another niggle is that the list of recordings is just that – where other recorders sort series into folders of their own, this doesn't so it may take time finding the programme you want to watch. The remote has buttons that let you jump back and forth for skipping ads, but they are fixed at 30 seconds.
Picture quality was excellent, and there were no strange crashes or missed recordings while we were testing it. All in all, it's a good Freeview HD recorder at a fairly reasonable price, as long as you don't want all the bells and whistles of some more expensive models.
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If you just want a straightforward recorder without the frills, this fits the bill – and it's produced in Britain
Simple to use; compact design; built-in HDMI switch; surround-sound output
No folders; no media playback
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