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TVonics DVR-250 Freeview Playback DVR

Sky+ functionality... on Freeview

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Set up is child's play. Switch the unit on, select AV on your TV, wait until the set-top tunes itself in and you're done. To start recording just open up the relevant menu or just press the big red R button on the remote. The on-screen menus are models of logic, clarity and orderliness, but if at any time you get confused just press the Help button and you will be redirected onto the paths of righteousness. There can sometimes be a slight lag in using the remote, but this is easily overcome by just taking a moment to ensure the system has executed command A before you ask it to execute command B.

TVonics DVR-250 - the remote control
TVonics' DVR-250 remote: controls your TV and DVD player too

At this juncture it probably bears saying in plain terms, as indeed it does on the box, that you can't use this device with either Sky or Virgin Media cable services, it is for Freeview only.

Picture quality is as good as you get from a regular Freeview box or digital TV, and playback offered no noticeable reduction in picture or sound quality on either a CRT or LCD TV. The system is also near silent in operation, further lending to the overall sense of quality that pervades.

The eight-day electronic programme guide (EPG) compares rather poorly to Sky's TV guide, but that's more down to the nature of the Freeview beast than to TVonics and will doubtless improve as Freeview matures. The unit allows 'series-linking', i.e. the recording of every episode of a series automatically, though at present not all Freeview stations support this. TVonics claims that as this functionality, and others, rolls out across the Freeview network, the DVR-250 will update itself via over-the-air downloads, making it pretty future proof.

The unit also has a parental lock feature to prevent junior turning his brain to porridge by watching illicit late night Big Brother. The 250GB disc should be good for around 125 hours of TV and/or radio before you have to start erasing things.

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