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TVonics isn’t a name that crops up very often on TrustedReviews, but the South Wales-based company is steadily making waves in the Freeview market as the UK drives towards digital switchover. It was the first company to launch a Freeview Playback recorder in the UK, and was the exclusive supplier of set-top boxes for the Government help scheme when Whitehaven became the first UK town to go all digital, which demonstrates its fierce commitment to the Freeview cause.
The company already has a string of impressive Freeview PVRs under its belt, but the DTR-Z250 looks like it could be its best yet. It’s a sub-£200 twin-tuner model, which features full Freeview+ compliance and a 250GB hard-disk, which holds up to 125 hours of MPEG-2 recordings, but if 250GB won’t satisfy your needs then a 500GB model is also available for around £20 more.
It’s also one of the most visually arresting PVRs we’ve seen in a long time, sporting a gloss-black fascia with ripples emanating from a silver circle in the middle, plus the strip below it contains LEDs to indicate playback, recording and power. It’s a radical departure from the tiresome ‘black box’ look offered by most PVRs, and should make an interesting talking point in your living room, particularly when propped up vertically on the supplied stand – but if anyone tells you it looks like an external PC hard drive, then politely ask them to leave.
Its compact shape hasn’t left a lot of room on the back for connections. The most criminal omission is HDMI output, which should have been a given considering the amount of TVs that sport HDMI inputs. As it stands, there are two SCART outputs, one of which offers RGB, S-video and composite output and the other offers just composite output, which will disappoint those who want to back up hard-disk recordings on DVD in the best possible quality, but don’t want to swap the SCARTs around every time. The socket selection is completed by RF in/out and a 3.5mm minijack output which outputs analogue stereo and optical digital audio.
Twin tuners are an essential feature of any PVR (a fact DVD/HDD combi manufacturers still seem blissfully unaware of) and thankfully the TVonics provides them. This means you can record one channel while watching another or record two channels simultaneously while you watch a previous recording from the hard-disk. But sadly it lacks the flexibility to display a third live channel while recording two others, even if it’s on the same multiplex, which was one of the things we loved about the Humax PVR-9300T.