2011's Best... DVRs and Media Streamers
Telly content, off your Lan, off the net
This ultra-compact Freeview+HD DVR recently became a whole lot more interesting when maker TVOnics activated the set-top's Ethernet port for BBC iPlayer and streaming IPTV services.
In truth, the DTR-Z500HD was a pretty tasty DVR even before it was pimped. A generous 500GB hard drive - enough for 70 hours of HD TV or 250 hours of standard definition content - handy twin HDMI input switching, a front-mounted USB port for JPEGs and bullet-proof usability made it an easy recorder to live with.
Performance is class-leading. Recorded HD images look transmission-fresh and the DVR is whisper quiet when in use.
More Info TVOnics
A very different kind of set-top box, this silver sliver from Samsung combines Freeview HD tuner with a Blu-ray player, Smart TV portal and media streamer – you can even add an external hard drive for single-channel timeshifting. It’s a veritable nightmare for compartmentalists.
The integrated Blu-ray player is fast-loading and 3D disc compatible; you can access Samsung’s Smart TV portal can be reached via Ethernet or integrated Wi-Fi, for streaming IPTV services such as DailyMotion, YouTube et al. It will also convert any 2D source - disc or Freeview - into faux-3D.
Local media playback from USB is accomplished, with all key video file types supported. Across a LAN, file compatibility becomes a little more uneven, as the deck likes to communicate with specific media servers. Overall though, an undeniably clever bit of kit.
More Info Samsung
Recently revamped following its first major firmware update since launch, VirginMedia’s TiVo box is a feature-stacked alternative to Sky+HD. While the latter trades on elegant simplicity, this upstart piles advanced functionality skyscraper-high. TVholics will appreciate the ability to record three channels simultaneously, and when that capacious drive does run out you can either stream content from what is undoubtedly the most comprehensive Video On Demand archive available, or resort to watching TiVo’s own recorded suggestions, chosen by a sophisticated recommendation algorithm.
While some might argue TiVo tries too hard – its catch-up services are confusingly spread between the backwards EPG and a separate BBC iPlayer app – as a telly addict’s toy, it’s just titanic fun.
Price £199 (1TB) £50 (500GB) plus installation, activation, subscription
More Info Virgin Media