TVonics dtr-z500hd

Value and ease of use

Its USB inputs and Ethernet LAN port suggest some significant digital trickery, though that's not the case. Both the rear and front USB slots play only photos from either a USB stick, card reader or direct from a camera.

Accessed only via the remote control's 'USB' button up top, the software immediately begins to play photos – both JPG or BMP formats in our tests – with now/next functionality from the red and green Fastext buttons.

The software works quickly and is effortlessly simple, fading-in photos and loading each one instantly, though an option to create an automatic slideshow using the yellow Fastext button didn't work.

The box's web connectivity is even more of a dead end. It's part of the Freeview+ HD specification, so while the DTR-Z500HD might be able to claim that it's future-proof, it's not got the DLNA networking or online content dimensions that could claim it all-round 'media hub' status; this is a Freeview+ HD box, and little else.

TVonics dtr-z500hd

The remote is a cut above most, with large numbered buttons giving a passing resemblance to a Panasonic remote, though it's actually a lot easier to use despite being a tad too lightweight. That said, the 'Guide', 'Info', 'Text' and that all-important 'Back' buttons that surround the usual clickwheel are too small.

The remote also includes a toggle switch between TV and radio while inspecting the EPG, and shortcuts to lists of recordings and planned recordings, a screensaver, clock and picture-in-picture option.

Crucially, none of these functions is accessible in the on-screen menus, so losing the remote would be disastrous – especially since the exceptionally solid (and childproof) metal casing of the DTR-Z500HD doesn't sport any buttons whatsoever.

Although the DTR-Z500HD can record two channels to its 500GB HDD at the same time as a third channel is being watched (depending on the multiplex being used), we can't help but think Freeview+ HD boxes should offer a bit more.

TVonics dtr-z500hd

After all, Sky now offers a 1TB box, and Virgin's V+HD box has three tuners; shouldn't Freeview+ HD boxes be trying to offer a better – as well as cheaper – service?

TVonics has probably concluded that two tuners and 70 hours of HD/255 hours of SD is enough for most users, though heavy users will likely head for the Icecrypt T2400, a similar product with 1TB (£329.95) and 2TB (£389.95) options.

But the interface on this TVonics box is simple, super-fast, hi-res and impeccably consistent. Kudos to TVonics for matching the likes of Humax and Panasonic in this regard.