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This is a no-frills digital recorder that integrates a sizeable 160GB hard drive (80 hours of recordings) and dual TV tuners, which allow you to record one programme while you watch another -- but not record two channels at the same time.
Although the front panel has been given a facelift, this design is virtually identical to a recent cut-price model from Goodmans. This questions if a premium is being paid for the privilege of owning a big-name brand -- but if you can find the unit for around £160 it's still reasonable value for money.
While there isn't much difference in image and subsequent recording quality between these sorts of devices, however, there are models that offer more advanced features and user-friendly functionality for the same price.
At face value, the gently curved design of the dark Perspex front panel appears classy and contemporary. But this is an attractive mask disguising average build quality, as the rest of the unit is almost identical to the previously reviewed Goodmans GHD8015F budget model.
The economical remote, absent CI card slot and rear-panel connectivity are also the same -- leading us to believe that this could be a remodelled design of the same unit, albeit with a larger 160GB hard drive and smarter styling.
The two Scart terminals are RGB-enabled to either output or input high-quality signals, which means you can connect an external recording device as a loop-through or make copies without compromising the performance -- something the Goodmans' model can't do. There's also a standard composite video output, but it's best left ignored or used only as a last resort.
The remaining space across the rear panel is congested with connections that are surplus to requirements, including an unemployed aerial loop and a RS232 terminal that's for factory use only. There's a choice of analogue stereo outputs or an optical digital output that can be connected to an external amplifier or home-cinema receiver to enhance the sound performance.
It's worth mentioning that the design features an environmentally friendly, low power-consumption rate (5W in standby), and it's also exceptionally quiet as there's no internal cooling fan.
The inclusion of dual digital TV tuners means you can record one Freeview channel while you watch another, which is great if two programmes share the same time slot, and gives you more versatility than standard single-tuner models. Unlike units such as the Humax PVR-9200T, however, you can't record two channels at the same time.
All recordings are stored on an integrated 160GB hard drive that offers easy functionality and accessibility without the need for any software. There's only a single recording quality mode, which gives you up to 80 hours of footage before you have to start freeing up space by deleting old programmes.
As always, the simplest means of making recordings is by using the accompanying eight-day electronic programme guide. To record a programme, all you need to do is highlight it from the guide and a timer is automatically set -- while you can preset a recording buffer before and after programmes to ensure that you don't miss anything if the schedules aren't spot on.
The guide is ordinarily presented but extremely practical to use, with various display options, short-cut keys and the choice of searching for programmes by genre. A moving red timeline offers a useful indication of how far through a programme you are, but there are no moving thumbnails that let you carry on watching while you check the schedules. Alternatively, you can set up timers manually or use the instant-record function -- although in reality there's a distinct delay before the device responds. This is also one of the few PVRs that will record subtitles.
Recordings are accessed via a library, which lists titles by name and date and can be organised using various options. We would have preferred a pictured library that helps you identify recordings more easily, but this system is functional even if it doesn't have much flair.
Otherwise, features are relatively basic, including a Picture-in-Picture system and various timeslip functions such as chase play and pausing live TV, although there's no memory buffer so you can't rewind a programme you've been watching.
The quality of broadcast images is typical of set-top boxes -- acceptable but not exceptional. Black levels are deep enough to give images solid definition and reasonable contrast, while colours are natural and evenly balanced. Pictures are virtually identical to the less expensive Goodmans model and struggle with similar constraints such as speckled backgrounds, shimmering straight lines and blocky gradations -- but that's par for the course.
Recordings are faithful to the original and don't introduce any flaws that didn't already exist. The single quality mode means that all copies are recorded at the same standard, but hard drive space is consequently limited.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide