Sagemcom RTI90-320 Freeview+ HD recorder
Review Since Freeview HD hit the terrestrial airwaves late last year a decent selection of standalone receivers and TVs has gradually become available but only now are retailers starting to shift the first DVRs. The not so snappily-named RTI90-320 T2 HD is the first Freeview HD product from Sagemcom, formerly part of French telecommunications mega-brand Sagem.
Sagemcom's RTI90-320: a 500GB version is also available
Selling for a tidy sum, this 320GB model can store 180 hours of HD programming, whilst a step-up 500GB version, the RTI90-500 T2 HD, will soon be available for around £300. Pricey these boxes may be, but we’re still sailing firmly in early adopter waters so there’s little chance of prices falling for a while yet. Nor, sadly, can you expect to find much in the way of bonus features beyond standard DVR capability.
The spec offers no surprises with one-touch recording, pause and rewind for live TV, an 8-day EPG with series link, favourite channel lists, DVB subtitles and Teletext. Connectivity is basic too with one HDMI 1.3 output, one Scart, an electrical digital audio output, stereo audio phonos, an RF loopthrough, a front-mounted USB and an Ethernet port.
The latter two are for future use only, which means no multi-media or networking functionality at present, but BBC iPlayer compatibility seems a safe bet at some point. Aesthetically, the box is something of a surprise to anyone familiar with Sagem’s raft of previous Freeview and Freesat kit. Out goes the dour grey squat design, in comes the compact shiny black rectangular look favoured on the Freeview catwalk.
Build quality isn’t of the highest order but the fascia is pleasant enough; there are buttons for changing channels and powering up the box, that idle USB socket and a 4-digit 7-segment LED-lit display. Power comes from an external 12V supply, so no cooling fan is needed.
External makeover, but its internal navigation is where it needs it
Installation is straightforward – you make the usual language, aspect and video output (Scart or HDMI with resolution setting up to 1080p) and audio choices, and the box insists that you enter a parental code before conducting a channel search.
its not bad...
I have one of these and while it has a few teething problems its actually not bad.
Ive had several Sagem boxes in the past and this improves on them. Buying into the hype I bought my dad a Humax pvr9200t and I dont think thats better that my previous standard def Sagem - you have to wait for it to populate the guide each time you turn it on, and the remote is awful.
This rt190 has an excellent remote (feels nice too), the box looks good enough sat under the tv (despite the rubbish display), and its virtually silent. The picture is great, recordings look identical to the originals. The guide is ready when you turn it on, and doesn't show ads.
Sagem also provide several updates - my last box must have had around 4 - and by the end it was completely stable, never crashed, and all the known issues were fixed. You might think it should've been like that in the first place, but for some reason PVRs just aren't.... Humax took forever to release updates, and suffered from problem where your recordings would get wiped! Somehow though, Humax still seem to have a positive reputation.
The problems with the rt-190 are:
- The guide is painfully slow to navigate... it seems to load the progam info before allowing you to move on. Perhaps they need to learn about using a separate thread for the UI :) or at least not fetch the info until you have not moved for a while.
- The sound drops occasionally after pausing. You have to change channel or stop/play the recording to get it back.
- There a large volume difference between the standard and hi-def channels
- It occasionally wont turn on when its recording a program... the only way is a hard reset which obviously causes a gap in the recording. This has happened to me twice now.
- other minor things like no page indicator on the recording list, and "there is a notification on this program, do you want to record it" messages on hi-def programs... (the notification is that the sd program is broadcast in hd... )
They might seem like major issues but they will all get fixed in an update soon, so I'm happy enough. The remote, silence and looks of the box are all great, and after the updates I would highly recommend it.
Other hd pvr's are on the horizon though - the £330 box from Humax, and the potential one to rule them all, the £299 3view box.... both out soon.
They want £50 to upgrade from a 320Gb to a 500Gb drive?? You can buy a 500Gb drive outright for not much more than that.
I suppose there's DRM of some sort on there to stop you upgrading the drive yourself.
The Ethernet port is part of the spec for Freeview HD equipment, just as it is for Freesat HD equipment.
That allows all kit to take advantage of the MHEG return path that's also included in the specs, which is how the iPlayer, for example, is delivered as a 'red button' application on Freesat. It could also be delivered the same way on Freeview HD in future, too.
It would be possible for other broadcasters such as ITV or Five to do something similar, or indeed for someone to buy a small amount of space for a Freeview data channel, and operate some sort of pay per view option via that.
This doesn't necessarily mean that Canvas will be available by these boxes, however - that's a more detailed spec than the MHEG return path. However, essentially all Freeview HD boxes are IPTV capable to some degree. Some manufacturers (like i-Can and Humax) are taking advantage of that already, by adding extra software to make use of the Ethernet connection. Others are just sticking it in there because they have to, and someone might implement an MHEG app at some stage.
Time to wake up.
When will set-top manufacturers wake up and realise that we want a UI that is fast and bug free.
Today it is getting very hard to find a shop willing to allow a customer to test the electronic gadgets we use in the home. So they can get away with this shoddy practise.
I'm tried of using systems that don't work or require me to slow down because they've decided to save some pennies by using a low cost, under-powered CPU in the box.
(That's you Virgin Media)
How about a review of the Philips HDT8520? Saw one in a shop over the weekend and, while I have no idea if it's any good, the design inspired significant gadget lust.