The DTR-HD500 is the first Freeview HD product from UK-based manufacturer TVonics, which has already established itself as a dependable purveyor of attractive, user-friendly digital TV kit. It’s a 500GB HDD recorder with twin Freeview HD tuners, allowing you to watch one channel while recording another, or to record two channels while watching a previous recording. But the main reason you’ll want to check it out is its ability to receive BBC HD, ITV1 HD and Channel 4 HD without any pricey subscription fees or installation costs.
TVonics has come up with a very arresting design for the DTR-HD500. In fact, we’d go as far as to say it’s the best looking Freeview receiver we’ve ever encountered. TVonics seems to have taken a leaf out of Samsung’s design book, with a deep, sexy gloss black finish and a curvy, elegant casing that slopes downwards towards the front. The transparent trim around the edge of the top panel is a lovely touch, and there are no buttons at all, which makes it delightfully minimal – aside from the numerous logos dotted along the front.
Set into the top panel is a row of blue LEDs that show the current channel name and number by default, but can be changed to show the time or turned off completely. When you first change channel it scrolls to reveal the channel’s full name.
Tucked down one side of the unit you’ll find a USB port (more on that later) while the rear panel is positively teeming with connections. Most importantly you get an HDMI output for piping those crisp HD pictures to your TV, but a nice bonus is the inclusion of two HDMI inputs that turn the TVonics into a basic HDMI switcher. Both inputs are specified as v1.3, which means you can pass HD audio bitstreams from your Blu-ray player through the DTR-HD500 to an AV receiver – you even get an HDMI lead in the box.
Joining these are an Ethernet port for accessing IPTV services and making software updates but sadly not for networking functionality. You also get a second USB port, an optical digital audio output, an RGB-capable Scart output, plus aerial input and output (loopthrough) sockets.
After plugging in your aerial and turning on the recorder, the first thing it does is scan for channels (which it does very quickly) and confirms your country and region. After that you’re ready to go.