tvonics dtr-hd500

Despite its natty design and nifty extras, the DTR-HD500's strongpoint is picture quality.

Freeview HD channels are clear and easily befit a bigscreen TV. Recordings are identical to the broadcasts, with the same strong points of colour, contrast and detail holding-up.

Standard definition channels are a notch behind, but that's not the DTR-HD500's fault; it does its best to upscale, and it's best is pretty good – in fact it's as good as upscaler as we've seen in the Freeview HD market.

Ease of use

The box scans in channels quickly and orders them both in an EPG and a pop-up channel list – the only drawback being its lime green, yellow and black design that won't be easy for some to stomach. The EPG contains listings for nine channels across 90 minutes, with Fastext buttons used to scan downwards and forward eight days. It's an interface that covers all the bases, but is a touch too slow for our tastes.

tvonics dtr-hd500

Recordings are a two-touch affair; the red button to select, and either OK to confirm, or the blue Fastext button to set a series link.

Although the DTR-HD500 is fitted with 'recommendations', during our test we didn't see any evidence of suggested programmes – although if the programme you've selected to record is also being shown in HD that week, the DTR-HD500 tells you so.

Live TV can be paused and rewound, with functionality identical to the DTR-HD500's treatment of recordings; there are two scan speeds, one of which is of indeterminate speed – but incredibly fast.

tvonics dtr-hd500

Recordings, which can only be performed in high quality, are stored as a list, though accessed only via a tiny 'Lib' button that you'll do well to locate.

The remote's Fastext buttons then come into play, controlling options such as sorting (by length, newest, A-Z), editing (this is slightly misleading – it's only possible to lock or block programmes to preventing them being watched or deleted), and setting a numbered playlist. The latter feature could be useful if you want to playback several episodes of Pingu, for example, before abandoning the room to children.

tvonics dtr-hd500

Switching other HDMI kit proves a success, with the remote able to switch-off most major brands of TV – so there's no worry that the DTR-HD500 will bring yet another remote into your living room.

Slideshows via USB are clear and idiot-proof, though its USB limitations are surprising for a box this price – what no DivX?

What the DTR-HD500 doesn't have, either, is a Dolby Digital option. An upgrade will be made available, TVonics assures us, in October [www.tvonics.com/dolby], which seems par for the course for most Freeview+HD boxes.