View21 VW11FVRHD50 review

BBC iPlayer and Freeview+ HD are joined by a 500GB hard disk

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A decent enough Freeview+HD recorder at its core, but have a couple of apps been stitched-on to push up the price?

Arguably, it's the 500GB hard disk that will attract most, but despite the presence of the BBC iPlayer and a nifty app that can throw photos at the TV, this isn't the polished performer we'd hoped.

We liked

Picture quality at 1080p output is excellent, with recordings equally impressive and standard definition channels clean and always watchable.

The Photo app impresses in its speed and simplicity as it throws at the TV any photo stored on a smartphone, and although the apps on the box itself are limited, there's an argument to say that on an everyman product such as this, that's a good thing.

Who really needs more than the BBC iPlayer and YouTube, anyway?

We disliked

This is a pricey box that seems ripe for discounting, given the competition.

The specs make it appear decent value on paper, but without Wi-Fi or a third tuner the flexibility in daily use is limited.

A couple of niggles means it struggles with two tuners; instructions are given to re-arrange recording schedules needlessly if you happen to be watching a channel which you want to record.

The remote is poor and while the Play app rectifies that somewhat, it merely informs of recording clashes, not offering any solutions.

That app also struggled to stream from the recordings library during our test.

We're also disappointed that this networked product doesn't indulge in any kind of digital file networking, or even simple playback from a USB thumbdrive.

Final verdict

It remains to be seen if YouView does sweep away Freeview+HD boxes, but over-priced, so-called smart boxes such as this one will struggle to stem that tide.

You could make a case for its thoroughly disappointing Play app being a mere extra feature, and therefore beyond much criticism, but apps like this do offer a genuine reason to buy, so its failure in our test is decisive.

Not so the excellent Photo app, and picture quality is beyond reproach, but there are just a few too many niggles for us to be comfortable living with the VW11FVRHD50.

While the YouTube app used here isn't nearly as slick as on other platforms, we do prefer the 'less is more' approach to apps that gives us what we want, and nothing more; the mighty BBC iPlayer is still the only app in town for most people.

View21 VW11FVRHD50 Freeview HD recorder review

And while it will do a reasonable job in most living rooms, the lack of Wi-Fi and a third tuner make the VW11FVRHD50 appear far from mighty – though it's the high price that takes it down a full mark.

Also consider

At this high price the real adversary isn't other Freeview+ HD recorders, but the recent YouView box from Humax, the DTR-T1000.

That brand also supplies a better Freeview+ HD box, the HDR-Fox-T2.

Within its genre, competitors include Toshiba's HDR5010, which features Freeview+ niceties, digital file networking and HDMI switching over a 500GB hard disk, while the TVonics DTR-HD500 offers Freeview+, HDMI switching and extensive voice guidance for blind and partially-sighted people.

Tech Specs

Product TypeDigital Video Recorder
Hard Drive Capacity500 GB
Maximum Recording Time300 Hour
Ethernet TechnologyFast Ethernet
USBYes
HDMIYes
SCARTYes
HD RecordingYes
Brand NameView21
Video FormatsMPEG-4, H.264, MPEG-2
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
EthernetYes
USB StandardUSB 2.0
Video SystemDVB-S2
ManufacturerView21
Product ModelVW11FVRHD50
Product NameFreeview+HD Smart Digital TV Recorder
Manufacturer Part NumberVW11FVRHD50
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.view21.com
Marketing InformationMuch more than just a Digital TV Recorder, the innovative View21 Freeview+ High Definition Smart box, with exclusive View21 Play and Photo apps, brings you an experience like no other. Easy to set up and use, this sleek and stylish Recorder lets you get much more from both your TV and your life.
Package Contents
  • Freeview+HD Smart Digital TV Recorder
  • 1 x HDMI Cable (1.5m)
  • 1 x RF Cable (1.5m)
  • Instruction Book
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Remote Control
  • 2 x AAA Remote Control Batteries