TVonics DTR-Z500HD - Missing Features and Value

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

The TVonics DTR-Z500HD is a PVR that has the basics nailed down, but doesn’t offer a great deal of filler features. It supports Dolby Surround in HD content, and downmixing to Dolby Digital and plain old stereo; it also has PIP (picture-in-picture) letting you watch another letterboxed channel in four different positions at each edge of the screen. That’s about it, though.

The USB image viewer can’t handle particularly large files, failing to register them at all, and the lack of any video playback over USB feels like a missed opportunity – there are two USB slots but all they’re really useful for is the occasional software update, which can also be grabbed over-the-air anyway according to the box's menu system. Recordings can’t be transferred easily to a computer either, so once you’ve filled-up the 500GB hard drive, your only option is to get deleting.

Attempting to cram in these extra features often brings with it bugs and reliability issues though – the worst of which can lead to a PVR losing your whole library of recordings. In our test period, the TVonics DTR-Z500HD was reassuringly reliable. There was a single case where the entire signal was lost, and recorded programmes refused to play, but this was fixed with a simple reset. In spite of our best efforts to trip-up the software, we couldn’t recreate this bug afterwards. Aside from this trip-up, there were no crashes or freezing. Speed of navigation within menus is predictably a lot slower than the PS3's PlayTV Freeview accessory, but is otherwise on-par with other premium-price PVRs from Humax and Sony.

It’s early days for the Freeview HD PVR. Bigger-name rivals like the Humax HDR-FOX T2 and Sony SVRHDT500B sell at a significant premium – the best part of £100 more than this TVonics solution. You can bet that rivals coming in the next 6-12 months will offer features the DTR-Z500HD doesn’t have, like recording transfers, DivX playback and access to the BBC iPlayer, but what’s included here is only ever held back in quality terms by the limitations of the Freeview stream itself – HD or otherwise.

Verdict

Reliable and blissfully easy to use, the TVonics DTR-Z500HD is one of the best-value Freeview HD recorders available. It misses out on a few high-end features, but if you have a home setup consisting of just a couple of other HDMI-equipped devices resting under your TV, it’s a makes a great headquarters for your entertainment rig thanks to the built-in HDMI switch.

Overall Score

8

Scores In Detail

  • Performance 8
  • Value 8
  • Features 7
  • Design 7

romseyraver

March 25, 2011, 12:12 pm

Talking of 'missing features', why is there barely a mention of the remote? It does have one, presumably? A general impression or even a picture of it would be nice, don't you think?

Denis iii

March 25, 2011, 12:29 pm

@romseyraver +1
Why no images of the GUI either?

Andrew_TR

March 25, 2011, 1:24 pm

@romseyraver @denis iii We'll be adding in additional images shortly.

romseyraver

March 25, 2011, 2:50 pm

Big buttoned remote - lovely. Thanks Andrew.

Alan Edwards47c

March 25, 2011, 5:08 pm

Did you try looping a Blu-ray player or anything through the HDMI inputs? Did it have any effect on the picture quality?

Andrew_TR

March 25, 2011, 6:38 pm

@Alan Edwards I put a PS3 and media box through it and didn't see any loss of pic quality. There really shouldn't be any problems given it's HDMI.

Coxyuk

March 25, 2011, 10:20 pm

I picked up one today and it seems great, need to do a double software update to bring it up to date via USB. Did you find a use for the network connection? I've plugged it in to the network and it's obtained an ip address but it doesn't seem to have any network functions.

Andrew_TR

March 26, 2011, 2:29 pm

@coxyuk it's possible more functionality will be added with an update. Top of my personal wishlist would be BBC iPlayer and LoveFilm movie streaming - although I'll admit I can't really see them being added to this box. At present TVonics website suggests it's for red button voting within Freeview, which I doubt too many will be particularly bothered about.

Mike36

November 16, 2011, 2:47 am

Your review says that this PVR isn't the one to buy if you will be using a SCART connection to the TV. Why is this please?

JJC

March 11, 2012, 11:47 pm

I really like the machine except I keep getting an intermittent snowy screen then the machine clicks and I get the picture back. Does anyone know why I get this? Thank you

ams

May 29, 2012, 11:28 pm

Bought mine 2 years ago, cost me £210, from day one, no end of problems, getting worst every week, l have to re tune it every month, when I watch a programme l have recorded, its like watching a dubbed movie, mouth out of sink. Like, right now, watching a programme, watching BBC2, on the screen it states "NO SIGNAL" when l bought it, from comet, they didn't want to know, pushed aside, no joy, got in touch with tvonics, they said post it back to us, which again, will cost me loads of money, l feel l have paid far to much as it is, there other option was, to send out a engineer to repair it, again would be around £45 min. my advice, is, stay well clear from this product, it's a waste of money.

JBR

August 30, 2012, 4:13 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.

cyclodocus

October 18, 2012, 12:37 pm

hello
two questions :
when recording a HD video from HDMI input
1/ how is it recorded : 540 720 or 1080 p ?
2/ how is it recorded mpeg-2 ? mpeg-4 ?
thank's

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