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TVonics DTR-Z500HD review

Andrew Williams



Our Score


User Score


  • Easy to use
  • Good picture quality
  • Built-in HDMI switch


  • No video playback over USB
  • No archiving of recordings

Review Price free/subscription

Key Features: Two-source HDMI switch; Dual Freeview HD tuners; Series link; 500GB hard drive; SD upscaling over HDMI

Manufacturer: TVonics

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.

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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?


March 25, 2011, 1:24 pm

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


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?


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.


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.


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.


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?


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


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.


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.


October 18, 2012, 12:37 pm

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 ?

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