The TVonics DTR-Z500HD is a PVR equipped with Freeview+ HD and two tuners ready to pipe HD terrestrial programmes to your TV. Freeview HD is still in its infancy, but if you don’t want to fork out for a Sky HD subscription, this could be one of the best ways to join the HD television club.
TVonics is that rarest of things – a British technology manufacturer. It hasn’t gained quite the level of acclaim of Humax or Topfield among PVR fanatics, or the mainstream recognition of giants like Panasonic and Sony, but it has produced some great boxes over the last six years, like 2009’s DTR-HV250.
The TVonics DTR-Z500HD is the company’s second Freeview HD PVR, and is a more sobre-looking alternative to the similarly-specc’d DTR-HD500. It’s a generously curved rectangular block, a shape used for several previous TVonics boxes.
Shiny and black, it’s less stylish than the DTR-HD500, and we can’t help but wish TVonics had moved its front-USB slot around the back, or put a cover over it. The front logos detract from the simplicity of the design too – while it may be useful for the TVonics DTR-Z500HD to look striking on the shelves of a high street electronics retailer, brash and bold aren’t the descriptors we tend to want to attach to our home's AV equipment.
Its design is still less imposing than full-sized rivals like the Humax HDR-FOX T2 though, dinky enough to retain that quirky, gadgety look missing from the rather anonymous look of most AV separates. It’s a near-perfect match for the slick black looks of Samsung’s LCD TVs, if you’re into matching-up the finishes of your home cinema setup.
The USB port, used for software updates and photo viewing, is the only socket on the front of the DTR-Z500HD. Around the back there are the HDMI and SCART video outputs, optical audio output, aerial in and out sockets, Ethernet port, another USB socket and two HDMI inputs.
These two HDMI inputs let you plug two other devices into the PVR, effectively making it double-up as an HDMI switch. This is particularly effective if you’re plugging in games consoles or other devices without traditional remote controls, making the DTR-Z500HD the centre of your home setup. They're not HDMI 1.4 slots though, so they can't pass-through 3D content unfortunately.
You can’t record the signal from these inputs onto the PVR’s hard-drive though, a limit of HDMI's digital restrictions as much as anything else. Recording is limited to the two Freeview tuners here. There’s a 500GB hard drive built-in, and while the more intrepid among you may be able to upgrade this yourselves, the box needs to be taken apart completely to get access to the HDD.