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TVonics DTR-HD500 - Performance and Verdict

By Danny Phillips


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From what we’ve seen so far, the DTR-HD500 is an impressive recorder, with features aplenty and a simple (if garish) operating system, but its picture performance lets the side down. Standard definition channels like Five USA and ITV1 are particularly disappointing, beset by mosquito and block noise that makes them look distinctly gauzy, and these are visible no matter the output resolution. Sadly, these artefacts are also captured on HDD recordings.

For example, there’s an advert for Marks & Spencer on ITV1 showing various models cavorting with umbrellas in the rain – this looks an absolute mess, with the pelting raindrops causing the picture to break out in horrendous block noise and shimmering. Elsewhere there’s significant mosquito noise circulating around the edges of most moving objects – particularly noticeable around the heads of the Loose Women in front of brightly coloured backgrounds. On the plus side, colours look strong yet natural and movement is smooth, which at least keeps pictures watchable, but that noise might be too much for some viewers to swallow.

To be fair to the DTR-HD500, we watched its pictures on a 60in Sony LED set, which is unforgiving with Freeview broadcasts, and SD Freeview channels are fairly ropey anyway, but even still, other receivers have delivered cleaner, sharper pictures on this TV – the Sky+HD box being one. The above-mentioned M&S advert looks clean and stable through Sky’s receiver.

However, turn to any high-definition channel and noise is much less of an issue (although it’s still present), which means pictures shine with eye-poppingly sharp detail, absorbing depth and radiant colours. This incisive detail reproduction and lack of noise allows you to see the dirt and mess inside Steve and Becky’s flat during BBC HD’s Him & Her in all its disgusting glory, while shots of opera performances and The Proms are exquisitely rendered.

These HD pictures are certainly impressive, but as HD channels account for four per cent of the total channel line-up it’s not enough to let the DTR-HD500 completely off the hook. Sonically we can’t fault the unit though, but it’ll be interesting to see how this sound quality survives the HE ACC to AC3 transcoding process.


Despite its flawed picture quality and hefty price tag, the DTR-HD500 still impresses on many levels. First of all, TVonics has made a huge effort with its design, crafting one of the most attractive Freeview receivers on the market. Its straightforward onscreen menus and remote make it exceptionally ease to use, while the range of recording features and digital TV functionality leaves virtually no stone unturned. What a shame, then, that standard definition pictures look so messy – a little more care in the MPEG-2 decoding department and we could have had an absolute killer product on our hands.

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September 24, 2010, 1:22 pm

Have to admit that I love the design. The menus looks way too garish to actually use though, that alone puts me off. The biggest reason I wouldn't buy one howevre is the hard drive, 500Gb is just miserly when 1Tb drives are so cheap and HD content so hungry. It doesn't lose half to Sky Anytime though I admit and most recordings (for now) will end up being in SD.

Interested to why you haven't reviewed the Humax yet. The 1Tb version is here http://www.humaxdirect.co.uk/p...

I'm most interested in whether the Humax can maintain it's top-of-class standard and more than that weather it boots and it useable in a fast time. I bought a non-HD one for my Dad a year / two ago and it took AGES before it was ready to access the EPG / recordings when turned on.


September 24, 2010, 2:25 pm

"you can pass HD audio bitstreams from your Blu-ray player through the DTR-HD500 to an AV receiver" - why would you want to do that? If you have an HDMI capable receiver, why not use its onboard HDMI switching capabilities? This is especially true if, as you say, the TVonics box will refuse to output HD through certain receivers - you can have your HD audio from your Blu-Ray, sir, but 1080p video is off limits!

"To be fair to the DTR-HD500, we watched its pictures on a 60in Sony LED set, which is unforgiving with Freeview broadcasts, and SD Freeview channels are fairly ropey anyway, but even still, other receivers have delivered cleaner, sharper pictures on this TV – the Sky+HD box being one. The above-mentioned M&S advert looks clean and stable through Sky’s receiver." - That's not really a fair comparison at all, is it? The Sky+HD box is not working from the same heavily compressed SD broadcast. Sky has a huge amount more bandwidth to play with, and in my experience channels which are available on both Freeview and Sky generally look better on Sky, because Sky doesn't compress them so hard.

Danny P

September 24, 2010, 4:44 pm

@John - Maybe someone has an AVR with only one HDMI input, and only one HDMI input on their TV. But you're right if it won't output HD to a receiver that's fairly redundant (if indeed that is the case and not just peculiar to my sample, still waiting for clarification). I was just trying to illustrate that the HDMIs are v1.3 and giving an example of what could be done as a result of that.

As for the Sky comparision, it's a rival digital TV service so I think it's fair to point out how it differs.

@AJ - still trying to get hold of the Humax...


September 24, 2010, 5:27 pm

Shame about the SD image quality.

Looking forward to the Humax review; I'm still very happy with my Humax 9200 SD PVR.

Still wondering whether to stump up for a Freeview HD PVR now or wait for the combined YouView and Freeview HD PVR boxes, allegedly due in the first half 2011; hoping TR have their eye on these too!


September 24, 2010, 8:45 pm

I am just waiting for the day when Sony decide to integrate a Freeview HD recorder/player into their PS3...that would create the all-in-one device I need and be the final piece of the jigsaw. That and possibly a Google Chrome web-browser!

Tim 18

September 25, 2010, 12:50 pm

No matter how good this might claim to be I have been once bitten by Tvonics and would never buy another product of theirs again. I bought the DTR-HV250 from them but its been nothing but trouble. How I wish id bought a Humax !!!


September 26, 2010, 11:53 pm

The inability to pass HD through a receiver could be that the receiver in question isn't passing details of the display supported resolutions back to the Tvonics, instead the receiver says "Hi, I support 576p only" therefore that's all the Tvonics will output when connected to it.

Checking with another receiver known to handle HDMI passthrough should help isolate the issue or hook up a media centre PC using HDMI and this will show what it thinks the "available" resolutions are for the combination of receiver/screen in use.

Alternatively if you've seen HD passthrough the same receiver but with a different source component then you can ignore the above :-) If we knew what make/model of AV receiver was being used that might help.

Danny P

September 27, 2010, 4:55 pm

@AOD - The receiver I used was the Onkyo TX-NR906, which I know can pass HD signals through. I also tried the Philips HDT8520 and a 1080p signal passed through the Onkyo fine. It does appear, therefore, that the TVonics is at fault, due to some sort of handshaking issue with certain AV receivers. I had this from TVonics: "While most AV receivers will upscale to HD automatically when connected to the DTR-HD500, there are some high-end devices that currently do not. This will be fixed with the Dolby upgrade which is scheduled for 20th October, when all AV receivers will output a full HD video signal." That said, I wasn't upscaling the signal, just passing it through untouched, but that obviously still causes problems.


August 30, 2012, 4:14 am

It should be mentioned that this company has now gone into receivership, so if you buy one of these there will be no manufacturer's support or guarantee.

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