The Freeview personal video recorder is a popular little beast these days. And why shouldn't it be? After all, hard-drive TV recording has totally changed the way we consume television. No longer do we have to be in a certain place at a certain time -- we just have to press a couple of buttons on our PVR, and it will record anything we want, with no need for tapes or fiddly clock settings. PVRs can even record a whole series if you desire, meaning you won't even have to think about ever missing Neighbours again.
The TVonics brand is one we've come to respect over the last few years. Designed and built in the UK, these PVRs are well-made, long-lasting and, most importantly, offer the best-possible quality. The downside to their UK provenance, however, is that the company's products will, inevitably, cost slightly more than some competing products. The TVonics DTR-HV250 is no exception, because, at £200 for a 250GB Freeview+ PVR, it's far from the cheapest box you can buy.
Sturdy and stylish
Like all the best AV components, this high-end PVR is forged from metal. It feels like it could easily survive earthquakes, meteor storms and even attacks. The body is made of a single piece of metal, into which the components and front and rear panels are slotted. This makes the machine feel much more solid than any other AV gear we've manhandled recently.
The DTR-HV250's appearance is striking, too, even if it can't be described as good-looking. The rounded edges are pleasant enough, and the front panel includes an LED display that can be set to tell you the time, or what channel you're viewing. For those who want to be left alone, it can also be switched off. We quite like a display on PVRs -- it's handy to know what's going on with your box at any given moment.
It's good to see HDMI connectivity on a Freeview PVR. While current models aren't capable of displaying a signal, the addition of the digital connector means you can get the best-possible quality from standard-definition signals. This is good, because many people find that using Scart with their PVR results in significantly worse AV quality than if they use their TV's built-in tuner.
Besides its HDMI output, the DTR-HV250 has another trick up its sleeve. Because TVonics realised the market is already full of HDMI-toting PVRs, the company decided to add some extra functionality to its device, namely an HDMI switch. This enables you to plug in two other HDMI devices to your PVR and then use its HDMI output to convey these signals to your TV. The remote control allows you to select the input you wish to view. We think this will really appeal to people who have TVs with limited HDMI sockets. Some older, HD Ready TVs can have only one digital input.
There are no real surprises in terms of socket options. As well as the two HDMI inputs and HDMI output, you also get aerial in and out, optical digital for audio and a Scart socket for connecting an older, non-digital TV to the PVR. You get a pair of USB sockets as well, but these aren't used for anything particularly exciting -- you can really only use them to look at JPEGs via your TV.
It would be good if these USB sockets could be used for video and music playback, as well as handling archived recordings, given the slightly limited internal storage of the DTR-HV250. We'd even be happy if these recordings were protected in some way, to prevent Internet distribution. Admittedly, this protection would be totally pointless, because every TV programme imaginable is easily downloaded via BitTorrent anyway, so preventing such potentially useful functionality is like bolting the stable door once the horse has buggered off on a two-week holiday to Portsmouth.