Freeview+ should be considered a must-have for those without Sky TV, as it offers all the recording ﬂexibility that the satellite broadcaster (and Ross Kemp) has been boasting of.
The Humax PVR9300T twin-tuner Freeview+ PVR isn't the cheapest machine around, but in my opinion it's currently the best, with a generous 320GB HDD for up to 200 hours of recording; a CI slot; basic editing of recordings; and an upscaling HDMI port.
Just plug it in, and the PVR9300T ﬁnds all of the available channels for you.
Handy 'find' function
Recordings can be scheduled from the 7-day EPG. Supported Freeview+ features include split-programme (handy for ITV, which has a habit of shoving news bulletins into movies); recommendations of alternative showings if there's a timer 'overlap'; and automatic recording of complete series.
There's also auto-tracking, which compensates for schedule changes. Naturally, this only works if broadcasters update EPG data on a regular basis, so you might want to instead use 'padding' to add minutes to the start and end times. Annoyingly, doing so disables series recording.
An EPG feature worth its weight in gold is 'ﬁnd'; enter a keyword, and all of the programmes with that word in their name are listed.
Crisp Freeview pictures
The twin tuners facilitate all sorts of wizardry – you can record two channels simultaneously while watching an existing recording, if you really want to. And, as the Humax is always buffering the currently-viewed channel to its HDD, you can use the handset's review and cue buttons to ﬁnd the part of the programme you're after.
Pausing of live TV is offered, sports and movie fans will appreciate the slow-mo and instant replay functions, and archivists will be cock-a-hoop at the prospect of permanently preserving chunks of the buffer as recordings.
The PVR9300T supports digital teletext – and it's fast and responsive here. Indeed, the same can be said of every other aspect of the machine's friendly user interface. There are separate VCR and TV Scarts – both support composite or S-video, while the TV one also offers RGB.
Pictures through the latter are superb; they're crisp, clean and capable of beautifully-vivid yet accurate colour.
But don't get the impression that the PVR9300T is perfect. Firstly, although it's capable of good results, the HDMI output only offers 576p and 720p settings. Why no 1080i/1080p?
The onboard cooling fan on our sample was rather noisy, too, although Humax has said that an over-the-air software update is now in place that reduces noise signiﬁcantly.
And a ﬁnal weird point: our review sample had a rear-panel USB port that didn't function. It transpires that the USB port on the previous PVR9200T was being used so little that Humax has done away with the little blighter – later PVR9300Ts won't have a port at all. So if you ﬁnd one on the back of yours, ignore it!