The DTR 67500T Eco PVR is one of two new Sagem digital recorders that offer generous disk capacity for the price, HDMI output and low power consumption. Hence the 'Eco' part of its full name.
The recorder is small and slim, with attractive two-tone, black and silver styling and curved sides. The front panel has an LED channel indicator (by number only), simple controls and a USB port, about which more later. The back is bristling with connections, enabling you to link by analogue or digital routes.
Inside are twin tuners that enable you to record overlapping programmes, or keep an eye on two channels at once with a picture-in-picture facility. Being Freeview+ compatible, each episode of a series can be recorded automatically.
The hard disk holds a massive 500GB of recordings, enough for about 240hrs of TV. Any currently viewed channel is also buffered in memory, so you can pause and rewind or press record to keep it on the hard drive.
An almost hidden feature is non-linear editing, enabling you to top and tail recordings, chop sections from the middle and divide or merge programmes. But there's no frame accuracy so cutting is the digital equivalent of using blunt scissors.
Other features include folder creation to group recordings together. Given the half-terabyte capacity, it keeps things tidy. The front panel's USB port has a dual purpose. You can load a USB key or portable hard disk with MP3 files and JPEG photos and open them or copy content onto the PVR.
It's also possible to edit MP3 filenames and genres or zoom and rotate photos. The USB also exports PVR recordings in their raw MPEG-TS format, either to backup drives or onto a PC or laptop where you can watch using software such as VLC.
Recordings bigger than 4GB have to be shortened or divided before exporting, which is a problem for anything over 2hrs. It's also quite easy to put MPEG-TS onto DVD with PC utilities.
In contrast, the only kind of video you can load via USB seems to be programmes previously recorded by the 67500T, or another one if you have two. There's no option for, say, DivX or MPEG4 formats.
Ease of use
The 67500T is slow to wake from standby, taking about 30secs. Menus are responsive, but the remote control is cheap and looks like a generic handset for another product (the button for MP3 music is labelled DVD). Some areas, especially the programme guide, are cluttered and rely on colour-coded buttons for many functions.
The file management is more suited to a PC than a user-friendly living room product. Some onscreen messages are eccentrically translated from Sagem's original French, resulting in, 'Exportation done with success' and 'You are going to zap to this channel'.
It is a powerful recorder, though. Channels or individual recordings can be locked with a four-digit PIN. If a timer event clashes with two others, the PVR automatically looks for alternative showings within the next eight days.
You can start playing any recording in progress, without waiting for it to finish, and a warning pops up to prevent you accidentally ending ongoing recordings if you press 'stop' too many times. Once set in the timer, the PVR lists upcoming series episodes, so you can check what it'll do later.
Playback options are flexible. The progress bar is informative, and there are six fast-forward speeds and five in reverse, both resulting in an eye-watering 600x speed up.
One of this recorder's headline features is an HDMI output for upscaled pictures in 720p or 1080i resolutions and sprucing up Freeview on HDTV screens. The standard output is unconverted 576i, which is what you also get through its RGB Scart connection.
This all looks fine, albeit rough around the edges. There's a set of component video outputs, limited here to 576i, too, but revealing stronger colour reproduction, as well as vivid contrast and detail.
Problems appear with the 576p and 720p HDMI settings, which turned our test model's image jittery, while 1080i becomes fuzzy. The issue could be confined to early review samples and, hopefully, it will be resolved, because the underlying picture, especially through the component video port, is respectable. If your TV does its own upscaling, it may be better to let it do the work in this case.
For piping sound to an amplifier and speaker system there's a choice of optical or electrical digital audio outputs alongside analogue phono sockets. Given its MP3 storage, the PVR is well set up for music, and the performance is reasonable, if slightly muddy on the higher notes.
The average hard drive in a Freeview PVR is 160GB, while for around £200 you normally get 250GB. So for its £180 price tag, it's remarkable to get 500GB inside the 67500T.
It may lack some of the finesse of dearer models, notably its remote control and HDMI quality, but use the alternative connections and you'll still see good results.
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