Humax’s fantastic FOXSAT HDR has had a monopoly on the Freesat+ PVR market for over a year but as we roll into 2010 other companies are starting to muscle in on the hard-disk hi-def action.
This high-definition capable box from Grundig, as well as models from Goodmans and Sagem, are giving Humax some much-needed competition (always a good thing for consumers) but Humax is still in a very strong position. Its year-long head start has established it as the Freesat PVR to beat, and in that time its online price has fallen to an irresistible £240 – all of which means that any challengers need something special up their sleeves to justify higher launch prices. Is Grundig’s GUFSDTR500HD up to the task?
The first thing to point out is that the DTR500HD (which is what we’ll call it from now on) boasts a bigger hard-disk – 500GB compared with the Humax’s 320GB – which holds up to 125 hours of high-definition TV or 312 hours of standard definition. That accounts for the Grundig’s higher price, but if you don’t need that much space and want to save a few pennies then a 320GB version is also available (for about £249.99, depending on where you look).
It’s pleasing to see that Grundig has put some effort into the box’s design. In fact, it’s a bit of stunner, boasting a fashionable gloss-black finish, a cool, curvy fascia and a minimal array of buttons, all of which makes it much prettier than the Humax. That said, at 290mm wide it might look a bit mismatched when stacked on a Blu-ray or DVD player, and the lack of a front panel means you’ll need to consult the onscreen displays for all the info.
On the back there’s a healthy selection of sockets, including two LNB inputs, an HDMI output (which supports 1080i, 720p and 576p), twin Scart outputs plus optical and coaxial digital audio outputs (able to feed a Dolby Digital bitstream to your AV receiver). There’s also an Ethernet port, which has taken on even greater significance since the launch of the BBC’s iPlayer beta trial (reviewed by John) as it means you’ll be able to connect to the internet and access the Beeb’s library of on-demand programmes. However, you will have to wait for the service to launch properly as the DTR500HD can’t access the beta (it’s exclusive to the Humax FOXSAT-HD and HDR).
Also on the rear is a USB port which can only be used to manually upgrade the unit’s software. Sadly you can’t use it to upload files onto the hard disk or dump recordings onto an external HDD as you can on the Humax FOXSAT-HDR, putting this box at a disadvantage in that respect.