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Sharp TU-R160H: Christmas cracker?

Sharp's twin-tuner digital recorder could put an end to arguments over what to watch during the festive season

It may be sooner than you want to think about it, but Christmas is coming. Before you know it you'll be tucking into turkey, nursing hangovers and engaging in traditional arguments -- like what to watch during the peak TV viewing season. With so many channels to choose from on Freeview, keeping all the family happy is going to be more difficult than finding a present on Christmas Eve.

Sharp's new TU-R160H digital recorder could offer a solution. The company's first hard-drive recorder is fitted with dual digital TV tuners, which means you can watch one Freeview channel while you record another. So you can sit through a family film without worrying about missing the football highlights on the other side. However, unlike some competing products, the TU-R160H doesn't let you record two channels at once. Sharp says it will offer this feature in a second-generation model that should go on sale in December or January.

Recordings are stored on a 160GB hard drive that offers up to 80 hours of recording capacity -- handy if annual visits to various relatives are keeping you away from the box. Making recordings is as simple as selecting a programme from the eight-day electronic programme guide, pushing a button and leaving the rest to technology.

The hard-drive nature of the device supports various time-slip functions such as pausing live TV and chasing playback -- watching the start of a programme before it has finished recording. Another useful feature, not always present in PVRs, is a picture-in-picture (PIP) system that lets you view a second channel (without sound) via a small display on the main picture. You can also record your programmes with subtitles.

The TU-R160H features a comparatively low power consumption rate of 0.5W when in standby. Noise pollution has also been cut by eliminating the internal cooling fan. This should do away with the background hum that usually accompanies these devices.

The TU-R160H will be available this month priced at £230 and we'll be reviewing it soon. -RA