Review The biggest obstacle on the path to mass-market adoption of digital video recorders (DVRs), or personal video recorders (PVRs) - is that many don't know what they actually are. Sure, some know they are a bit like Sky+, but many Sky+ owners don't know what that box does either. To the PC-literate, the notion of the hard drive-based media recorder is pretty simple. Try explaining it to your Gran though.
TVonics' DVR-250: Freeview Playback ready
The DVR-250 goes a long way to overcome this because it is simplicity itself to describe what it is and does: it's a Freeview box that lets you record TV programmes, even shows that are on when you are watching something else on another channel. Simple.
The DVR-250's installation can be described with an equal economy of language: plug TV aerial into DVR-250, plug DVR-250 into TV. Watch. Or record. Or both.
Coming in at around £190, the DVR-250 may not be cheap, but when you think that a half-decent Freeview box alone can set you back forty odd quid it looks a decent enough deal. And fair play to TVonics - a company set up in 2004 by some ex-Sony types - the gadget itself being manufactured in the UK by Sony, the specification is pretty high. A 250GB hard drive, dual tuners, two Scart sockets, a 3.5mm mini TOS optical socket, a good quality universal remote control for your TV, DVD and DTV - it bears a more than passing resemblance to the ubiquitous Sky remote handset - a very useful and well thought out on-screen help feature and a tree-huggingly low power consumption, more on which later.
Out of the box, the DVR-250 is a rather fine looking gloss black aluminium box - try saying that six times quickly - measuring some 19 x 23 x 7cm that can be laid flat or stood on its side using the plastic stand provided. Though somewhat prone to showing up fingerprints so nice looking is the box that it could run the risk of making the rest of your AV kit look a bit, well, Abigail's Party.
New to... Freeview Playback?
We all know Freeview is the UK's free-to-air terrestrially broadcast digital TV service, but what's Freeview Playback? In a word, an advertising slogan, introduced earlier this month. Sky and Virgin Media have branded DVR offerings and the companies behind Freeview have decided they need one too, or risk losing out.
Of course, consumers have been able to buy Freeview-ready DVRs around for more than two years, but they'll all now come with a little Freeview Playback sticker on the box to tell folk not in the know what this DVR thing is about. It means the box so labelled can record programmes, pause live broadcasts and so on, and isn't just a basic set-top box.