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Sagem DTR 64160T review: Sagem DTR 64160T

If you want a Freeview recorder, you're generally looking at paying around £200. But Sagem's DTR 64160T costs around just £100, which seems like incredible value.

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7.5

Sagem DTR 64160T

The Good

Low price; decent performance; component output is a welcome addition.

The Bad

Unattractive design; awful front-panel display; ugly menus.

The Bottom Line

At around £100, the Sagem DTR 64160T is a very capable Freeview recorder. We aren't crazy about the design, and Sagem should be severely punished for the awful front-panel display, but, otherwise, it's a capable machine that will suit people looking for a quick and easy solution for recording Freeview

It's not the most beautiful box we've ever seen, and it's not made from a particularly sturdy plastic, but you're going to put it under your TV, not play football with it. With the digital switchover coming, we think hardware like this is a great choice for people who want a simple, cost-effective way to record their favourite TV shows.

Design
There's nothing remarkable about the styling of the 64160T. It's squat and ugly, but it's also slender and will fit under your TV, alongside a DVD player, with very few problems.

We despise the front LED display, which is too small to be any use at all, while still managing to be obtrusive and distracting. We really don't understand why you'd go to the effort of fitting a front-panel screen, and then let it display only three characters.

At the back, there's a decent range of inputs and outputs. Obviously, you'll find aerial inputs and outputs. There's also a pair of Scart outputs. Interestingly, you can use one of the Scart outputs to pass a component video signal to the TV.

There's also a dedicated component output. Digital audio is provided too, courtesy of both optical and coaxial outputs, which makes connecting the recorder to an AV receiver easy. The average audience for this box won't probably be AV mad, but it's good to have the option.

Features
The built-in 160GB hard drive should see you able to record 80 hours or so of TV -- more than enough for most uses. Of course, the amount you can store varies, depending on what channel you record most. If you're addicted to More4, its lower average bit rate means you'll fit much more onto the disk before it's full.

The dual tuners in the 64160T mean that you can watch one channel while recording another, or even record two channels at the same time. There's even picture-in-picture functionality, enabling you to watch one channel with a smaller picture of a different channel also present. That could come in handy for working out what's on other channels while you're watching EastEnders, for example.

The 64160T has a decent range of inputs and outputs

With Freeview+ certification, the 64160T has features like 'series link', which allows you to record all occurrences of a particular programme on a specific channel. This personal video recorder is also capable of updating itself to take into account schedule changes. This means that, if a broadcaster decides to switch a programme, the PVR is able to adjust the timer setting, even when in standby mode.

Another useful feature is 'accurate recordings'. This brilliant service means that if a programme runs over, the PVR will adjust itself to take a delay into account. This sort of feature is handy if Wimbledon doesn't finish in time for that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Sadly, accurate recordings require broadcasters to send a special flag, which not all do. Hopefully, support for this will increase with time.

Performance
We decided to connect our 64160T using a component cable. Although the box can't output any sort of upscaled video, it is capable of sending a progressive signal, which can improve the picture quality.

Interestingly, the 64160T can send component video via its Scart output, as well as via the dedicated component outputs. It's important to remember, however, that it's very rare for a TV to accept a component signal via a Scart socket, and, although a cable is provided that does the job, you might as well use the regular component output.

It's also worth remembering that, when you turn on component, if you use the primary Scart socket and your TV doesn't support component over Scart, the image will appear mostly green. That said, the secondary Scart socket always outputs a regular composite signal, so, if there are any problems, you can simply use that connection instead.

We were happy with the overall quality of the image. We noticed that the picture is substantially softer than that of the TVonics DTR-Z500we recently tested. That said, the 64160T's images aren't overly soft, and certainly aren't unpleasant. Colour is reasonable too. We would be more than happy to use it for extended periods.


Audio, while sounding very good, is a little quiet for our liking. Our slightly underpowered TV speakers needed to be cranked up quite high to get a decent amount of sound. People using external amplification, or less weedy TVs, won't suffer any problems though.

We aren't crazy about the menu system design on the 64160T. Like the company's other PVRs we've tested in the past, the graphics are rather shaky-looking and don't look brilliant on a large-screen TV. Still, the menus are functional, and they aren't complicated to use, which is always a relief.

Recording programmes is no more difficult than pressing the 'guide' button, looking for what you want to record, and pressing the red button. We can easily envisage people without any technical expertise using this PVR easily. Indeed, there is virtually no set-up required to start watching TV, apart from tuning in channels, so even the most technophobic users should be able to cope.

Conclusion
The Sagem DTR 64160T is a decent machine and very cheap for a 160GB Freeview recorder. While 160GB isn't a massive capacity, we think it will be more than enough for the casual viewer. It's worth pointing out that, for £30 more, you can get a 250GB version, with HDMI out.

We have no problems with the quality, and think the connectivity is well suited to the casual user. The 64160T's only real competition costs £100 more, and, while rivals have better storage space, that's not the be-all and end-all.

Edited by Charles Kloet