Apart from its aforementioned inability to record two channels at once, we really can’t fault the BD-DT7800’s performance. High-definition programmes look beautifully detailed and rich in colour – during Channel 4 HD’s Come Dine With Me, for instance, the culinary textures are crisply resolved, making the food look more appetising than ever (or disgusting, depending on who’s cooking). BBC HD’s Doctors, meanwhile, looks slick and glossy, with natural-looking skin tones, clearly discernable dark scenes and pin-sharp detail.
The BD-DT7800 also licks standard definition pictures into shape on a 1080p TV, upscaling the images without introducing any unwanted artefacts like stepping or mosquito noise. Colours are richly saturated while moving text on channels like BBC News 24 is never hard to read.
There’s no discernable dip in quality when watching recordings either ─ no block noise or pixel shimmering, even when recording fast moving sports programmes. Unlike most disc-based recorders there are no low-fi recording modes on-board, so everything is recorded in the same high quality.
We tried watching Torchwood in HD on BBC iPlayer over our 802.11n Wi-Fi network and encountered no trouble whatsoever – the video played smoothly without any annoying pauses – and the picture quality is highly impressive to boot, a far cry from the blurred, noise-laden pictures normally associated with web video. And with the optical output hooked up to our Onkyo receiver, the quality of MP3 and WMA playback is excellent.
The allure of the BD-DT7800 lies not so much in its bread-and-butter Freeview recording functionality (which is good, but no better than its rivals) but in the extras. The combination of Smart Hub, slick DLNA functionality, 2D-to-3D conversion and comprehensive digital media support via network and USB is rare among Freeview PVRs and gives this multi-talented machine an advantage over most of the competition (except the identically-priced Humax HDR-FOX T2).
Where it lets itself down is its inability to record two channels at once and the lack of a Scart output, should you want to make copies of your recordings – both of which the Humax offers. But, those things aside, the BD-DT7800 is a magnificent, multimedia-savvy machine that pushes back the boundaries of what Freeview PVRs can do.