Remember the days when your video used to blink the time at you, mocking your inability to set it? Smug electronic devices are something none of us need in our lives, so we welcome high-tech products that are easy to use with open arms.
These days there's no need to set the clock, or even put a tape in. Because PVRs have automated everything, recording a programme is as easy as pressing a button.
The TVonics DVR-FP250 is one of the first 'Freeview Playback' PVRs, a range of deceives that have some standard features designed to make Freeview a more attractive proposition than digital cable and satellite. You can buy the FP250 direct from TVonics for around £190.
The TVonics FP250 is an unusual-looking thing -- it's a sort of ovoid shape, but with a whiff of lozenge about it too. If you think the description is strange, look at the photos and you'll understand why we've struggled to describe it.
The good news is it's finished in the same sort of black as most TVs, so it shouldn't look too out of place in your front room.
The rear of the unit has very little to mention, there are a pair of Scart sockets, a digital audio output and that's pretty much your lot. Obviously, there is a power connection and aerial input and outputs too.
The remote looks suspiciously like the controller you get with Sky Digital. This is hardly a tragedy -- if you're going to take inspiration from another remote, you might as well pick a good one. We found the TVonics remote easy to use and extremely responsive. It's also programmable, so it can be used to replace your existing TV controller.
The main selling point of the TVonics box is its Freeview Playback moniker. Playback applies to all Freeview recorders that meet a certain level of functionality. For example, Playback boxes must be able to pause live TV for a minimum of 30 minutes, offer an eight-day electronic programme guide and track schedule changes, to prevent you missing a programme if it gets shifted around the schedule.
The DVR-FP250 has a 250GB hard disk built in. This means you've got plenty of space for your favourite programmes. There's a simple-to-use EPG that makes choosing programmes to record a pretty simple matter -- certainly much easier than typing in VideoPlus+ numbers from the Radio Times.