Don't expect to copy your most precious recordings off the box and onto a computer, either for viewing, for back-up or archiving to DVD. Unlike some other DVRs, the TVonics box has no serial or USB ports for this - or for applying system software updates directly.
TVonics' DVR-250: small box, smaller carbon footprint
The DVR-250 primarily uses the EPG to select content for recording, but you can also programme it VCR-style by entering specific times. You can begin watching a programme that's already begun being recorded - the so-called 'chase mode' - and even watch live TV in slo mo, which is fun to try, but not something you'll do frequently, I suspect. The box will apparently automatically adjust the programme recording time to match any changes in schedule caused by breaking news items or over-running sports events.
Now, exactly how big a threat DVRs are to the delicate balance of the planet's ecosystem is not currently the subject of much in the way of scientific debate. We can find nothing in the Kyoto Treaty about it and Al Gore hasn't returned my calls. But in standby mode - which, let's face it, will be pretty much all the time you're not actually using the thing - the DVR-250 consumes a piddling 3W of power, jumping up to a hardly city-darkening 20W when it is doing its thing at full tilt. Now we're pretty sure that not taking a shower for a week would save way, way more energy, though you'd find yourself standing alone at parties. All joking aside, TVonics has made a laudable effort to reduce its gadget's carbon footprint.
So, should every home have one? Well, we're not keen to hand my DVR-250 back, we can tell you that much. It looks the part, is easy both to set up and to use and is pretty decent value. So in short, yes. If price is your only problem, the DVR-250 has a smaller brother, the DVR-150, which is pretty much the same but comes with a 160GB drive - good for about 80-odd hours of content - and costs around £150.
TVonics DVR-250 Freeview Playback DVR
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?
"build quality is totally Sony"
so we can expect it to fail from dry joints a month after its warranty expires then?
Somewhat lacking in detail...
Whatever you think about the value of the record-two, playback one feature that several other deivces offer, I was a bit suprised the reviewer didn't even mention this feature, or it's absense, in the review. He also doesn't mention whether you can rewind the show you're currently watching (continuous buffering), which I'd also want to know before considering a new unit.
Freeview DVRs are not new, yet there seems to be an incredible level of ignorance surrounding them. Try going in to a high-street shop and asking about whether this or that device supports dual-stream recording - you just get blank stares. I hope this new Freeview Playback brand manages to raise some awareness of these excellent devices.