The rear panel is even more interesting. The most significant addition is HDMI output, which offers a clean all-digital connection to your flat-panel TV and allows you to upscale Freeview pictures to 720p, but strangely not 1080i. It’s taken a while for HDMI to make its way to the Freeview PVR market but with Humax and Topfield leading the way, others are sure to follow suit.
You’ll also find a USB port on the rear, but this isn’t activated and will only be found on early models of the PVR-9300T – it will be removed from later versions; a response to customer feedback said that a USB port wasn’t a key feature. Fair enough, but it’s still always nice to have the option.
Also included in the connections roster are two SCART sockets, one of which offers RGB, S-video and composite output, the other offers S-video and composite. They’re joined by composite video and stereo audio outputs, plus an optical digital audio output that can send a Dolby Digital bitstream to an AV receiver. There’s also an RS-232 port for making software updates manually, but these are usually carried out automatically using over-the-air updates.
The rest of the feature list goes well beyond the norm. You can chop out sections of a recording using an editing tool that lets you enter start and stop points in real time, or split a recording in two. The picture-in-picture mode lets you watch two channels at the same time and even has its own set of controls on the remote. You get access to all the usual Freeview features including lightning fast digital text, MHEG support, favourite channel lists and subtitles, which can also be recorded. There are also four devilishly addictive games embedded in the firmware, which help pass the time when there’s nothing on TV.
When you first power up the unit, the automatic channel tuning takes the hassle out of installation, and in action it’s a well-oiled machine with slick, responsive software that brings up menus and changes channels very quickly. The onscreen presentation is also faultless – the setup menu uses large icons, huge text and an appealing colour scheme, and as you’re browsing the channels the ‘i-Plate’ display gives more info than you could ever need (including whether the current channel has interactive content and subtitles). The Time Bar can be called up while watching TV to provide an overview of the current playback or recording status.