TVonics DVR-250 Freeview Playback DVR
Sky+ functionality... on Freeview
Review The biggest obstacle on the path to mass-market adoption of digital video recorders (DVRs), or personal video recorders (PVRs) - is that many don't know what they actually are. Sure, some know they are a bit like Sky+, but many Sky+ owners don't know what that box does either. To the PC-literate, the notion of the hard drive-based media recorder is pretty simple. Try explaining it to your Gran though.
TVonics' DVR-250: Freeview Playback ready
The DVR-250 goes a long way to overcome this because it is simplicity itself to describe what it is and does: it's a Freeview box that lets you record TV programmes, even shows that are on when you are watching something else on another channel. Simple.
The DVR-250's installation can be described with an equal economy of language: plug TV aerial into DVR-250, plug DVR-250 into TV. Watch. Or record. Or both.
Coming in at around £190, the DVR-250 may not be cheap, but when you think that a half-decent Freeview box alone can set you back forty odd quid it looks a decent enough deal. And fair play to TVonics - a company set up in 2004 by some ex-Sony types - the gadget itself being manufactured in the UK by Sony, the specification is pretty high. A 250GB hard drive, dual tuners, two Scart sockets, a 3.5mm mini TOS optical socket, a good quality universal remote control for your TV, DVD and DTV - it bears a more than passing resemblance to the ubiquitous Sky remote handset - a very useful and well thought out on-screen help feature and a tree-huggingly low power consumption, more on which later.
Out of the box, the DVR-250 is a rather fine looking gloss black aluminium box - try saying that six times quickly - measuring some 19 x 23 x 7cm that can be laid flat or stood on its side using the plastic stand provided. Though somewhat prone to showing up fingerprints so nice looking is the box that it could run the risk of making the rest of your AV kit look a bit, well, Abigail's Party.
New to... Freeview Playback?
We all know Freeview is the UK's free-to-air terrestrially broadcast digital TV service, but what's Freeview Playback? In a word, an advertising slogan, introduced earlier this month. Sky and Virgin Media have branded DVR offerings and the companies behind Freeview have decided they need one too, or risk losing out.
Of course, consumers have been able to buy Freeview-ready DVRs around for more than two years, but they'll all now come with a little Freeview Playback sticker on the box to tell folk not in the know what this DVR thing is about. It means the box so labelled can record programmes, pause live broadcasts and so on, and isn't just a basic set-top box.
Thompson Freeview box
My parents have had Topup TV for a couple of years and bought into the Topup TV Anytime scam.
So they now own the Thompson DVR which is dedicated to freeview.
In short it is a piece of crap.
It has dual tuners, so theoretically you can record one channel while watching another. Except, that when the timer is due to start, it places a popup on the screen warning that the tuner needed for the recording may be in use. No recording will take place unless you "ok" this message. So if this happens when you are in bed, no recording.
If you have the pause live tv feature enabled, the live transmission stutters due to hard disk activity. This was proved by disabling the feature.
Topup TV Anytime downloads programs overnight and stores them on the hard drive. Fine, except that every program stored this way is unwatchable because hard drive access causes the programs to halt and stutter.
At regular intervals, the box has to be given a hard reset (turned off at the mains) because it hangs and won't respond to any remote commands.
All in all, it is a load of crap and I warned them about this before they bought it, but hey, it's their money.
Personally, I have XP Pro running 2 Nebula DigiTV cards and can record entire muxes with no issues, to my 250GB drive. I can also archive recordings, pause live tv, etc, etc. Ok, so it's a pc, but the features it makes available are well worth the extra space / noise involved. And given a longer link cable to the tv (I have a projector), it could always be placed in a cupboard or different room. Did I mention you can use it over a network too (local or WAN) ?
You can keep your consumer electronics, thanks.
Seven years late...
As another person noted, Tivo has had everything except the built-in DVB-T decoder and more since 2000. Tivo has season passes that actually work properly (unlike Sky and probably this box too, as it's as much about the EPG not being crap), you can set rules based on keywords and more, it will record suggestions of things it thinks you might like...
And on a Tivo with an upgrade you can (a) plug it into your broadband connection and download recordings to burn to DVD (b) program your Tivo via a web browser or your mobile phone.
It's just a shame Tivo gave up the UK market years ago.
And 'built by Sony' doesn't give me much confidence having seen the quality of their VAIO laptops (and li-ion batteries!!)
compatibility outside the UK?
maybe a stupid question , but does anyone know if these settop boxes are standard and can be used in any EU country, regardless of the signal?
is freeview=tnt or is it a different service altogether and one does not guarantee it will work with the other?