Australia has been quite slow in its initial take up of digital video recorders (DVR), but as more units come onto the market we're positive that buyers will soon be wondering how they ever got by without one. With functions such as pausing live TV, instant replays and the ability to skip commercials during playback, DVR technology allows you to say goodbye to VHS tapes forever.
High definition DVRs are still relatively new to the market. Unlike the standard definition versions, the SVR-HD900 unit can record every pixel of HD content in full 1080i quality. Further, the dual HD tuner design enables simultaneous recordings of two different programs or picture-in-picture viewing.
The SVR-HD900 follows Sony's trademark minimalist design theme. The front of the device houses a single blacked out panel with the information display located centre. Buttons are hidden behind the flip down panel and feature all the functionality of the remote control. If you're using a Sony display, the SVR-HD900's remote can be shared between both units.
The SVR-HD900 comes very well equipped, the standout feature being the twin HD digital tuners that allow you to record two programs at the same time in full 1080i HD resolution. Unfortunately, Australian TV networks rarely transmit full HD content with most programming being transmitted in the 576i video format. The feature new users will find most handy is the time shift function. If you're ever watching TV and you hear the phone ring you simply enable time shift, which allows you to pause live TV. When you get back you can recommence from the same point and actually catch up to the program's real time using the chasing playback function. This feature also allows you to cut out commercials saving you even more time. Then there's the picture-in-picture mode, which allows you to either watch two live programs at the same time or one live show and one you've recorded earlier.
The huge 250GB hard drive allows you to record up to 36 hours of full HD programs or 69 hours in SD, but the lack of either a USB or Firewire adaptor was disappointing. This meant that we weren't able to transfer images or video to any external device. There was a HDMI port, which means if your TV has this connection you can send digital video and audio without any loss in quality.
Note that HDMI cables are relatively expensive and are not included with the SVR-HD900. The standard adaptors are all there including the Component, Composite and S-Video as well as digital and stereo audio ports.
In the past, DVRs have been quite complicated to use, but the SVR-HD900 has been one of the easiest units we've tested and will have you up and recording in no time. Installation is relatively quick using the instruction manual and set-up wizard, which provide excellent help. Programs are recorded in MPEG-2 format, which can be archived for later viewing with files containing protection settings to save them from accidental deletion.
Sony's limited EPG list is plagued with a slight delay in response time when scrolling. We noticed about a one second delay per channel. Further, the EPG is not always completely accurate in its listings guide. We found sometimes that stations would not be populated within the list. Recoding quality on the SVR-HD900 is reasonably good. However, our saved files did contain some pixilation during certain sequences. This was very disappointing, especially for a product in this price range.