As you may have noticed, high-definition has come to Freeview this year. But HD over your aerial isn’t available for everyone yet, and won’t be as late as 2012 in some unfortunate parts of the UK. So what if you live in one of these areas but want a hard-disk PVR right now?
You could do worse than starting your search right here: the Humax PVR9300T hits all the right notes spec-wise, looks the part and is incredibly easy to use. It’s a winning combination if you’re happy to stick to standard-def recording for the near future.
The Humax is available in two forms: the first has a 320GB hard disk, good for 200 hours of recording potential. The second model, otherwise identical, offers a whopping 500GB of storage.
All that's crammed into a modestly sized, elegantly turned-out product, its bright, informative front panel display making channel identification a breeze. It also helps to make this box an especially good choice if you like to listen to digital radio over Freeview, because you can use it without your TV.
Other key features include twin Scarts, one of which supports RGB for optimum picture quality with analogue displays (in other words your old CRT telly). For flat TV owners there's also an HDMI output, able to deliver 576p and 720p video, but, perhaps curiously, not 1080i/1080p.
However, given the 9300T's price tag, that's not necessarily a big deal – as the chances are the upscaling in most similarly-priced TVs would be better in any event.
We settled on 576p with the Panasonic TV we used the PVR9300T with and were mighty impressed with the results.
In fact, both off-air images and recordings look really impressive, with not a note of shimmer or a hint of block noise save on the very fastest motion. Colours are vivid and accurate and setting recordings is brilliantly simple, thanks to an easy-to-understand, seven-day EPG.
The usual PVR functions are fitted, too, such as live pause, instant replay, watch while recording and you can even record two channels while watching a third off the hard-disk.
So that's it. A neat, classy set-top box that works well, is sensibly priced and is a real pleasure to live with. And with Freeview HD boxes starting to appear, expect the price to tumble into bargain territory very soon.
More after the break...
A sensibly priced and highly desirable way into Freeview+