If you're looking for a workhorse Freeview timeshifter, then the humble Humax PVR-9150T could fit the bill.
It doesn't have a Freeview HD tuner, but that might not be an issue if you're (a) working to a tight budget, (b) looking for a digital recorder for a second room or (c) just need a digital tuner to feed an older TV, in order to give it life and purpose beyond the Digital Switchover.
Design wise, the PVR-9150T is pretty tidy and can be easily housed without rearranging the furniture. Admittedly, the rippled fascia design may not be to everyone's taste, but at least it looks distinctive.
For added convenience, there're some on-body controls plus a CI card slot hidden beneath a fascia flap.
This is very much a standard-def box with a retro attitude. Instead of HD connections, you get a couple of Scarts, one a TV output and the other a loopthrough for a set-top box or similar gizmo. There's also an RS232 port designated for firmware updates (which we can pretty much guarantee will never be used).
Eco warriors may also take solace from the fact that they can shut the unit down via a power rocker on the back panel whenever they pop down the road for some lentils.
It's driven by a large, unsubtle remote control, which at first glance looks like a dog toy.
As befits the somewhat dated specification, the user interface is suitably retro. I rather like its blocky demeanour, as it's not without charm.
Installation is straightforward, but channels are slow to populate. Beneath the bonnet reside two standard-definition Freeview tuners, which enable two channels to be recorded simultaneously. You can schedule each from the programme guide in the time-honoured fashion, padding either the start and stop times to ensure you don't miss a beat. There's also an option to record single shows or entire series.
The hard drive is a relatively modest 160GB, equating to around 100 hours of standard-def TV. Go easy on the season linking because this PVR will fill up fast.
Naturally, you can view your recordings on time delay, perhaps to skip over the ads or finish the washing up. Unusually, the PVR-9150T sports an ad-skip button that jumps forward in your recordings at the touch of a button. The leap is adjustable between 15, 30, 60 or 120 seconds. There's also a bookmarking feature, enabling you to rejoin a recording you failed to finish in a previous sitting. You can also PiP a second source, to keep an eye on a channel you're waiting to view.
Recording quality is good, with little deviation from original transmissions. As a result, higher quality mainstream channels look perfectly acceptable while highly-compressed shopping channel fodder struggles for clarity.
As there's no HDMI output, the PVR-950T cannot scale images. So what comes out of the box is neat 576i on the rocks. If you're hooking it up to a flatpanel, it will scale the image accordingly.
One key aspect of any PVR is its operational noise. The good news is that this standard-def diva doesn't raise the roof. There's an onboard fan but it's whisper-quiet.
Overall, the PVR-950T is an unassuming, jobbing recorder. Given its low price it's difficult to complain about the lack of hi-def. If your online dating profile includes the words 'Quiet', 'slightly dull' and 'easy' the PVR-950T should be right up your street.
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