The DTR-HD500’s external design is gorgeous but the onscreen interface is less lavish, which is understandable given TVonics’ user-friendly ethos. The main menu is a straightforward yellow, green and black box, listing the various options clearly. Among its options are Edit Channel List, where you can hide or sort channels in the order of your choosing, as well as Tuning, Service and Parental Control sections.
Under Settings you can change the HDMI output resolution (576i/p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p) or select Auto to allow the box to select the right resolution for your TV. The unit will upscale SD programmes to HD resolution, including anything you feed into the HDMI inputs. Oddly, when we passed the signal through our AV receiver we weren’t able to watch HD pictures – the only options available were 576p and Auto, which meant we had to connect it directly to our TV’s HDMI input.
The setup menu also lets you set the pause live TV buffer memory to one, two or four hours and choose the audio downmix settings – there’s a choice of Dolby Digital, Dolby Surround, Stereo or Automatic.
However, the Dolby multistream decoder built into the DTR-HD500 isn’t yet enabled. In mid-October TVonics will release a software update that will not only allow your DTR-HD500 to transcode HE AAC audio to Dolby Digital – making it compatible with all AV receivers – but in the future it will also be able to decode premium broadcast audio formats including Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Pulse, Dolby Digital and all AAC bitstreams. At present, most AV receivers can’t decode HE AAC directly, but this update will allow you to enjoy discreet 5.1-channel broadcasts where available and, if your AV receiver also has Dolby Pro Logic II, you’ll be able to get surround sound from stereo broadcasts too.
Onto the 8-day EPG, and the fullscreen layout is certainly easy to follow, but its use of bright green and yellow blocks isn’t particularly easy on the eye. It shows nine channels at once, the text is nice and big and there’s enough room to show most names in full, while along the bottom you get some handy colour-coded shortcut keys like +/- 24 hours and page up/down. It’s occasionally sluggish when skipping between programme blocks.
The DTR-HD500 supports accurate/alternate recording and series link, all of which are a breeze to use. For series link, highlight your desired programme in the EPG, hit the record button and a confirmation screen appears. Then if you want to record the series, simply hit the blue button.