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Thomson DTI 6300-16: Top Up your television

Top Up TV offers a way of watching more Everybody Loves Raymond than is strictly healthy. This dual-tuner Freeview PVR downloads the best of it

We miss loads of stuff on TV. It's not our fault, there's a lot on our plate and we go out all the time. So for us to enjoy our hectic social lives, we really need something to record TV for those nights when we just fancy putting our feet up and relaxing. Sky+ is the obvious choice, but after all the going out we're struggling to come up with the monthly subscription.

Freeview offers a nice cheap way to record digital TV. Dual-tuner PVRs aren't new, but what this Thomson box offers is access to Top Up TV Anytime. Anytime is a reworking of the original Top Up TV service. Instead of broadcasting whole channels, Top Up TV picks highlights and sends them overnight to the box, which dumps them on its 160GB hard drive. This makes sense, because it cuts down on wasted bandwidth as these channels show a fair number of repeats. The downside is the £9.99 monthly fee.

Top Up claims to send 100 hours of content every week. The channels available include Paramount Comedy, Discovery Factual and Living TV. In addition to this, you can -- for an additional fee -- subscribe to services such as PictureBox, a movie channel that delivers seven films a week for £5 a month. Football fans will also be in luck, as Setanta Sports is joining the line-up, bringing top-flight football from both England (from next season) and Scotland.

In addition to the Anytime service, the box includes space for you to record normal Freeview channels. The slight disappointment is that space is very limited for this -- you only get 20GB -- which Top Up TV claims will give you 20 hours of recording time, but we reckon will be somewhat less than that. You can change the settings to decrease the amount of Anytime content recorded, however, and this will in turn increase the number of standard Freeview programmes you can record.

We had a good laugh at the remote control. It's strangely familiar if you've seen the Sky+ remote. It handles similarly too. This is no bad thing, as it's easy to use and comfortable to hold. It also offers a dedicated button to access the Top Up TV service. True TV junkies with deep pockets should go for Sky+, but this is an interesting alternative for the rest of us. -IM

Update: A full review of the Thomson DTI 6300-16 is now live.