With on-demand TV the talk of the lounge, everyone wants a slice of the pie. If you'd rather not slap a Sky dish to the front of your two bedroom semi and aren't quite convinced by TV on your PC, then Thomson has cooked up this sleek-looking box and powered it with Top Up TV Anytime – a halfway house between proper on-demand telly and normal rigid scheduling.
Spirit of the Sky
The box itself bears more than a minor resemblance to Sky’s lovely HD offering, but you won’t be getting any 1080p goodies from this chap – it’s standard-def only. Picture quality is excellent, though, and even with a cheapo set-top aerial we only experienced a few frames dropped here and there.
The 160GB hard drive matches that of Humax’s heavyweight PVR, making it good for between 100 and 120 hours of telly. Unlike the Humax, though, Thomson’s drive is partitioned for Top Up TV content.
Standing in the way of control
This little nugget of almost on-demand TV works in the same way as Sky’s Anytime Service; by downloading a selection of programmes to your hard drive overnight. You get no choice in what the box downloads, making the entire process either an exciting goggle box-based lottery or a total waste of hard drive space, depending on your outlook.
The most control you get is a choice of which channels it draws from. We spent days deleting all the Disney Channel content before we discovered this option, one of the perils of not reading instructions, dear reader.
Narrow it down to Paramount Comedy for a spot of South Park and TCM for some classic movies, though, and you’ll regularly wake up pleasantly surprised by the choice waiting for you on the other end of the Sky-like remote.
The price is right
Your programmes will time out after six days unless you choose to hold them indefinitely. Granted the selection isn't anywhere near as huge as what Mr Murdoch offers on Sky, but then neither is the subscription charge – it’s just £10 per month.
Of course, the less it records for you, the more space you’ll have for your own recordings, which is handy considering series link makes its so easy to record a whole season of 24. The two tuners also mean that you can record two channels at once, or record one while watching another.
Finding stuff to fill your hard drive is easy with the 14-day EPG, and setting it to record a programme is a case of simply hitting the button when the show you want is highlighted in the guide. Clearing space can be a pain, though, as browsing through your recordings and deleting them can be frustratingly slow. We did experience one crash, too, when fast-forwarding through a movie.
These minor setbacks aside Thomson's PVR can make itself at home under our TV, well, Anytime.