A useful red line hovers over planned recording time slots at the top of the EPG so you can see that something is being recorded even if the programme itself is on another page of the EPG. A small touch, but useful nonetheless.
Almost faultless operation
In day-to-day use, the Z500 proved nearly faultless, never stalling, crashing or suffering from any other sort of technical hiccup or brain fade.
On a couple of occasions, we experienced a few moments lag between hitting a control on the remote and anything happening but it never amounted to a serious annoyance, the same being true of the have dozen seconds it takes to get its act together when coming off stand-by.
Playback quality was top notch - it was impossible to tell if we were watching content live off air or played back from the hard drive. In use the Z500 is to all intents and purposes silent.
If £195 is too steep for you then TVonics will happily sell you a 250GB version of the Z500 called the Z250 for £175.
As for the competition, the problem for TVonics is that the aforementioned Humax 9300T is only £20 more and comes with an HDMI output and HD upscaling. It has a less attractive EPG, a smaller, 320GB capacity, and is not as easy to use for the less technically minded, but it appears a better bet if you have an HD TV.
All you need is in the box
The 500GB Topfield TF5810 is a whole £100 more and though it comes with 1080i HD upscaling and a USB port, it also comes with firmware that, from what we hear, can drive a man to drink and around the bend, at the same time.
If you're not concerned about matters HD and have no intention of shifting content between your DVR and PC then the Z500 is not a bad buy. It's very easy to set up and use, has one of the best EPGs we have come across, has an excellent remote control and, at £195 for 500GB of storage, represents pretty good value for money. ®
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@ Bit Rate AC
>> "dirty little secret" that's brewing for Q4 2009 onwards - "HD Ready" equipment with integrated SD tuners should really be investigated by Ofcom or someone because you have to apply an external HD source to get HD! (Richard Floyd)
>That's why it's HD *Ready*, it is ready for you to apply an external HP Sauce to it, just the same as an HD Ready TV without an integrated tuner is. It has an HDMI input.
Errm, for the average man on the omnibus, "HD Ready" means it will do HD - and "HD Ready" + "Integrated Freeview" means it will do HD Freeview when it arrives. As Richard Lloyd suggests, there is going to be a LOT of disgruntled people when they see on the news that HD transmissions have arrived and the HD channels have appeared in the guide, but for some reason they won't show - it's going to be fun for the dealers explaining why that new TV isn't actually broken.
And as for showing time left, yes, all the Freeview channels use a similar bit rate - it does vary, BBC generally uses over 2GB/hr, some others under 1.5GB/hr. But unless you are down to the last few gigs of disk space, it's going to be accurate enough, especially if the 'time remaining' is done on a pessimistic basis.
It looks rubbish...
Sounds rubbish and has the specs of...you guessed it...RUBBISH!
another nearly but not quite...
in the lines of save the best stuff for the five year business plan...
this is another not quite right product.. problem is the competiton (in this case Humax) has already done better.
Shame the brits cant keep up.
I wonder whether they will be able to pull thier finger out and release a sellable product before they fold? Im still holding my folding.