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Freeview isn't going anywhere. Indeed, with high-definition channels set to join the Freeview line-up, you could argue that the free TV platform has a great future ahead of it. Of course, those channels aren't here yet, but HD televisions are, so Sagem is aiming to help by producing a Freeview personal video recorder that can record onto its built-in 500GB hard drive and output video to your TV via HDMI.
The question is: can the Sagem DTR 67500T justify its £180 price tag? And how does it compare to other products on the market? It's got some especially tough competition from the Humax range of PVRs. We initially criticised them for having loud fans, but that's a problem which has since been fixed. Let's look over the 67500T and see what's what.
Although the 67500T is reasonably expensive, it doesn't have the feel of a premium product. The front of the box has a very, very basic display which can't even display the word 'Menu' properly. Instead, it says 'nEnu' -- a side effect of the multi-segment LED display that's come from 1988.
We also hate the look of the 67500T's menu systems. They aren't so bad as to render the machine useless, but they are quite unsightly. To be fair though, this probably won't matter to most people, and it's a fairly small part of the overall experience of using the PVR.
The electronic programme guide is quite good. Although fairly basic, it's usable, and you get to see which channel the PVR is tuned to while you choose what to watch or record. Once you've selected programmes to save onto the PVR's hard drive, setting the machine to record is no more difficult than pressing a single button. If the show you are recording is series-linked, you can choose to record either one programme, or the whole series.
There are plenty of connections on the 67500T. At the back, you get an HDMI port, a pair of Scart outputs, and digital audio connections -- both coaxial and optical variants. You also get component video out and stereo audio connections. That's quite a selection of sockets, we think you'll agree.
At the front, you'll find just one more socket -- a USB connection -- that allows you to connect a memory card, onto which you can copy recorded TV shows. There's a file-size limit on files transferred in this way, though, as the 67500T can only copy to FAT32 disks. That means files over 4GB will be too big to copy over.
One of the worst things about Freeview PVRs is that they are too often connected to the TV via Scart. Scart was fine before HDMI, but analogue is never the best way to get a digital signal to a digital television. The digital nature of HDMI makes it much more reliable, and maximises the possible picture quality.
Overall, we like the image quality of the 67500T. We saw no unusual picture problems and, thanks to the HDMI connection, what you see via this box is of as high quality as the signal from your TV's built-in Freeview receiver.
Digital TV's picture quality is, of course, very fluid, and the ultimate responsibility for good or bad pictures must rest with the broadcasters. Given a good-quality transmission, however, the 67500T does a terrific job with Freeview, and we ended up feeling impressed by this box.
We've recently seen another device that's capable of recording video directly from Freeview to USB memory sticks. The 67500T doesn't have the ability to record straight to USB, but it is able to copy video recorded to its hard drive to a memory stick.
Copying is a reasonably straightforward process, and simply requires you to enter a media-management menu. You can copy video to or from the memory stick. The process isn't especially speedy though, and it takes about 10 minutes or so to copy a 30-minute episode of Neighbours.
The quality of recordings when viewed on a PC is top-notch. The video is copied over as a direct copy of the broadcast transport stream. This means that not every piece of hardware or software will play it. You also get subtitles embedded in the file, which will appeal to people with hearing difficulties, or those who want to understand what people are saying on The Jeremy Kyle Show.
We like the Sagem DTR 67500T. It does the jobs asked of it without any fuss and the picture quality is very good -- much better than that of its little brother, the DTR 64160T. That said, we think that, at £170 or so, it's simply too expensive, especially considering the overall build quality and horrendous-looking built-in menu system.
Still, we aren't going to tell you not to buy one. We love the USB-copy function, although it's slightly too slow for our liking, and everything is simple to use and logical. We would suggest you also consider the Humax PVR-9300T, though -- it's not much more expensive and it's much slicker.
Edited by Charles Kloet