TVonics might not be the best-known Freeview PVR brand, but from what we've seen it deserves to be.

The DVR-FP250 delivered a decent range of features for a reasonable price, and we're hoping for more of the same from this follow up model.

From an aesthetic perspective, the DTR-Z250 is fascinating. It's narrower than most PVRs and looks like an external PC hard-drive. What's more, it can be mounted either horizontally or vertically.

Freeview features

The DTR-Z250 doesn't exactly push the boat out, but does tick all the right boxes.

The 250GB hard drive holds up to 125 hours of recordings (a 500GB version is also available) but there's just one recording mode and recordings can't be compressed. Twin digital tuners allow you to watch one channel while recording another or record two at once.

The Freeview+ badge (the recently introduced name for Freeview Playback) guarantees some very convenient features, including series recording and automatic adjustment to allow for unexpected schedule changes.

Programmes stored in the timer can be edited quickly and easily and you can also set the timer manually. You can pause live TV, but more unusually, you can rewind back to the point when you first tuned in to the current channel.

Finally, the automatic standby mode shuts the unit down at 3am every night to help you save electricity if you accidentally leave it on when you go to bed.

Limited connections

The rear panel is fairly sparse, sporting only two Scart outputs, RF in/out sockets and a 3.5mm analogue stereo output that doubles up as an optical digital audio output for piping stereo PCM to your hi-fi or home cinema system.

The TV Scart output offers RGB, S-video and composite video output, but the VCR Scart is limited to composite only, which isn't great news if you want to make recordings on a RGB-capable DVD recorder without having to swap cables around.

Lively pictures

The menu is extremely easy to follow, with clear, white text on a black background and big yellow bars indicating which option you've selected. Frustration is kept to a minimum by the slick, responsive software that moves the cursor as soon as you've pressed the button.

The remote looks and handles every bit like the Sky+ zapper, Freeview's output is of variable quality and the DTR-Z250 does a decent job with what it's given.

Live, pictures benefit from strongly saturated colours that really jump from the screen. The ITV News studio, for example, is imbued with deep, fulsome blues and the newsreaders' faces are reproduced with a natural-looking, pinkish skin tone.

Captions are also crisply defined with no edge bleed to impinge on their clarity, while the resolution is sufficient to pick out fine detail clearly and precisely.

Competent recorder

On the downside, pictures aren't as impeccably clean as we'd like them to be, with a noticeable amount of pixel noise flickering on backgrounds and some tizzing around edges, some of which may have been avoided with a higher-quality HDMI connection.

That said, there are no complaints with the recording capabilities. The competent encoding circuitry ensures that recorded pictures look identical to live broadcasts, sharing the same levels of colour and detail.

TVonics ticks the boxes

Stereo sound from the Scart output is clean and dynamic, allowing you to hear dialogue clearly without having to crank up the volume. When you run the signal digitally through a home cinema system, results are similarly enjoyable, particularly if it has Dolby Pro-Logic II processing.

With its twin tuners, a sizeable hard disk and Freeview+ features, the DTR-Z250 ticks all the right boxes and the price tag is more than fair.

While we would have preferred to see an HDMI connection and upscaling and pictures aren't perfect, overall the good points far outweigh the bad.