Space-age Freeview recorder – in high definition
The Tvonics DTR-HD500 is a Freeview HD+ box, which means that in addition to a TV tuner it’s a digital video recorder: that is, as well as allowing users to watch Freeview HD broadcasts, it can be used to record them too.
Freeview HD is the new high-definition version of the free-to-access digital television service. You’ll need a new set-top box, such as this one, to view the channels but that box will also access the older standard-definition channels. Those new channels, at the time of writing, are BBC One HD, ITV1 HD, Channel 4 HD and BBC HD. The first three are ‘simulcasts’ which show HD versions of what’s being shown on the main channel, while BBC HD is a general channel that shows programmes from all BBC services.
The ‘box’ in set-top-box is not appropriate here – in fact, the DTR-HD500 is the most distinctive TV tuner we’ve ever seen. It looks a bit like half a flying saucer, and while the design may not lend itself to being stacked up, it does look good, especially against a new flat-panel TV. A small display on the front panel shows the channel and programme name, which is a nice touch.
Setup was fairly easy – the package contained the large and easy-to-use remote control, aerial and HDMI cables, mains power adapter and manual. The device automatically picked up all the available TV and radio channels.
In use, it was good, with impressive picture quality from both the HD and standard channels. The menus are minimal and easy to follow, and the on-screen guide was likewise uncluttered. There wasn’t as much detail as on, say, the Grundig Freesat+ HD which shows more information about recordings, though it was easier on the DTR-HD500 to set up series recordings, where the box will record all broadcasts of a certain programme.
You can also use the DTR-HD500 as an HDMI switcher, plugging two other devices into it and using the remote to select them – useful if your TV doesn’t have enough HDMI sockets for all your devices.