back to article TVonics DVR-250 Freeview Playback DVR

The biggest obstacle on the path to mass-market adoption of digital video recorders (DVRs), or personal video recorders (PVRs) - is that many don't know what they actually are. Sure, some know they are a bit like Sky+, but many Sky+ owners don't know what that box does either. To the PC-literate, the notion of the hard drive- …


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  1. Matt

    Nice, but...

    Helpful review, but as you're English, writing an article for an English audience, do you think you could use the word "normal" instead of "regular" as normal people should?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A step back..

    I've owned a Humax pvr-9200 for over 18 months, and it can do more than this can! Sure it's a bit bigger and uglier, but it has USB connectivity, a serial port for upgrades, and the new firmware (due beginning of next month) will give it full Freeview Playback functionality with the addition of 'series link'. They're even releasing a Freeview Playback branded version of the machine that will be in the same price point as the TVonics.

    I think I'll stick with my Hummy!

    Geek Girl.

  3. Peter Gasston

    8-day EPG

    My Thomson DVR has a 14-day EPG, so I would say that this 8-day one is a software limitation rather than a limitation of Freeview.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Standby power

    I like the fact that you mentioned the standby power - if the planet is warming up due to human excess (let's assume that's the cause for now) then standby power has should be talked about now for all devices - I know my old iMac used 9W in 'sleep' whereas my more recent one uses less than 3W - still not brilliant but at least a step in the right direction.

  5. Al Taylor


    From the concise OED, 4th Edition, 1950: "Regular, 4. Conforming to a standard of etiquette etc., not transgressing conventions of order". The word "regular" is often regarded as something of an Americanization but, as used above, is perfectly good.

  6. John Young

    Re: 8-day EPG

    "My Thomson DVR has a 14-day EPG, so I would say that this 8-day one is a software limitation rather than a limitation of Freeview."

    Freeview say "The Freeview service now includes an eight-day, on-screen electronic programme guide (EPG) to help you plan your viewing. " (@

    Maybe they're trialling a 14 day EPG in your area?

  7. paul derry

    But can it record a whole series with one click?

    Media Centre edition of XP can, but i would give up my media centre in a nanosecond for a box that provided the same function without crashing at all the wrong moments and using over 100W to sit and do nothing.

  8. Alex Holt

    why only 80%?

    That seems like a glowing review - so why only 80%?

    The summary mentions no negatives - I presume it's the price?

  9. David Gosnell

    EPG / dual record

    There are at least a couple of different EPG providers on Freeview. The Freeview branded one offers 8 days of programmes, whilst the 4TV one offers 14 days. They behave differently too, with the Freeview one downloaded at power-up (and sometimes cached) and the 4TV one downloaded overnight. That means the Freeview one can be slower to be populated, but is more likely up to date.

    Any word on when this model will offer dual record? It's a feature you don't appreciate until you've tried it, then there's no going back... At the moment I understand it is not available, but it's a firmware limitation, given that the machine has twin tuners and a decent disk.

  10. Karen Cullen

    Longer term reliability?

    I had one of these - bought directly from TVonics - but it didn't last long. After about two months the hard drive started to make the most awful noise and shortly afterwards it would neither record nor play back my recordings. I have a DVD recorder now.

  11. Barry

    Another shout....

    ... for the Hummy.

    Had it ages. Been doing all of the above for almost 2yrs now, and it only cost me £180 when new. The one thing it lacks is ethernet, but, not many STB PVR's have them. Which is a shame.

  12. Simon King


    The Thompson DVR is a Top-up TV one, and so has access to a special 14-day epg. Any 'normal'/'regular' Freeview box is stuck with eight days.

    Be glad people - it used to just be now & next!

  13. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    Simple in the best way

    It is indeed a simple box. It can't do the "save two, watch one" stunt of the Humax or Topfield. But as a result, there are very few functions you need to ferret around in submenus for - pretty well everything has a dedicated button.

    Another nice point on the remote. Some people won't remember which device it will be controlling - so the "TV", "DTV" or "DVD" button lights up when you press any other button to remind you.

    My mother has one - thinks it's great!

  14. Peter Gasston

    Re: 8-day EPG

    My Thomson DVR isn't Top-Up TV, it doesn't have the card slot. The EPG was 8 days at launch, but after a software update went to 14 days. Could be the 4TV one, as it downloads overnight.

  15. SmokeyMcPotHead

    Also see...

    If you're thinking of investing on a DVR or PVR you should also check out the Topfield TF5800PVR, it's highly customisable (for the geeks among us) and can be purchased with a 160GB or 250GB drive. However there are reports of folks swapping their installed drive for ones upto 750GB without problems. For more info go here:

    And here for the support forums / customisation info etc.

    I almost purchased one of the reviewed devices until I found the Topfield, what tipped it for me is the lack of PC connectivity and customisations you can do with the TVonics box. But if you don't want those features, I'm sure it's a great buy.

  16. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Anonymous Coward

    I think I'll stick with my TiVo for now.

    Had a TiVo series 1 for about 7 years and this still isn't that tempting. OK it would give me surround sound, but I tend to watch movies (sorry Matt above...Films) on DVD. Or will soon watch them on Xbmc / divx when I get around to modding the X-box I just bought for £35.

    Would be nice to get rid of Sky and TiVo subscription though, as we hardly ever watch any of the paid for channels (now that Battlestar Gallactica has finished).

    Would also be nicer to have the larger capacity (I guess) but really 20 Gb is actually enough for a few weeks worth of viewing as it deletes stuff after a while if you don't watch it (unless you tell it to keep).

    It also seems to me that Freeview is not quite up to where I was seven years ago. Series link just works. TiVo records stuff that it thinks I might like. I've got a cheapish freeview box and the EPG is really crud. Perhaps that's just my box though.

    I guess what I really really want is for TiVo to bring out a new box in the UK, which also works with Freeview so I can wean myself off Sky. Either that or someone make a box which is as good as the TiVo.


  17. Des

    3W Standby Consumption

    Pah! My shiney new Samsung 46" HD LCD TV is not only massive, but uses less than a piddly 1W in standby mode ( - beat that!

  18. Matthew

    Humax PVR 9200

    I bought one of these last Christmas and can confirm it is the best of its kind on the market. The (very few) limitations of the product have gradually been ironed out with over-the-air updates and it supports TopUp TV and a USB link to archive off items to a PC with a DVD burner. It was a 'best buy' from 'Which?' too.

    My four year old daughter can't understand why other people can't pause live TV while she has her dinner or rewind it if you missed something.

    And the best bit? The EPG doesn't have Sky's dire music playing - instead, you can still watch a programme in a corner of the screen.

  19. Gennarro Cannelli

    TVonics DVR250

    I have had the pre-FP1 version since January 2007 and it has operated flawlessly and its simple user interface is a delight and a credit to the software designers who created it.As is said the build quality is totally Sony manufacturing.I would recommend anyone looking for a PVR to buy a TVonics box - the Freeview reviews via Ricability are quite accurate and Which rated this PVR as the best.

    The Humax and Topfield enthusiasts moan on endlessly on the AVforums and on Digitalspy about the lack of a "dual-stream" recording facility on the TVonics PVRs but I have been quite happy to have a reliable recorder without this.The much vaunted ability to use USB2.0 for downloading recordings on to your PC I also haven't felt the lack of ,and to judge from comments by those that have tried this facility on the machines that have it, it really isn't a practical option as the download speed is standard USB 2.0 and not Hi-speed USB and hence really only fit for .jpeg picture or .mp3 music file transmission.

  20. John Vaudin

    Somewhat lacking in detail...

    Whatever you think about the value of the record-two, playback one feature that several other deivces offer, I was a bit suprised the reviewer didn't even mention this feature, or it's absense, in the review. He also doesn't mention whether you can rewind the show you're currently watching (continuous buffering), which I'd also want to know before considering a new unit.

    Freeview DVRs are not new, yet there seems to be an incredible level of ignorance surrounding them. Try going in to a high-street shop and asking about whether this or that device supports dual-stream recording - you just get blank stares. I hope this new Freeview Playback brand manages to raise some awareness of these excellent devices.

  21. Cian Duffy

    "build quality is totally Sony"

    so we can expect it to fail from dry joints a month after its warranty expires then?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    compatibility outside the UK?


    maybe a stupid question , but does anyone know if these settop boxes are standard and can be used in any EU country, regardless of the signal?

    is freeview=tnt or is it a different service altogether and one does not guarantee it will work with the other?

    many thanks


  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seven years late...

    As another person noted, Tivo has had everything except the built-in DVB-T decoder and more since 2000. Tivo has season passes that actually work properly (unlike Sky and probably this box too, as it's as much about the EPG not being crap), you can set rules based on keywords and more, it will record suggestions of things it thinks you might like...

    And on a Tivo with an upgrade you can (a) plug it into your broadband connection and download recordings to burn to DVD (b) program your Tivo via a web browser or your mobile phone.

    It's just a shame Tivo gave up the UK market years ago.

    And 'built by Sony' doesn't give me much confidence having seen the quality of their VAIO laptops (and li-ion batteries!!)

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thompson Freeview box

    My parents have had Topup TV for a couple of years and bought into the Topup TV Anytime scam.

    So they now own the Thompson DVR which is dedicated to freeview.

    In short it is a piece of crap.

    It has dual tuners, so theoretically you can record one channel while watching another. Except, that when the timer is due to start, it places a popup on the screen warning that the tuner needed for the recording may be in use. No recording will take place unless you "ok" this message. So if this happens when you are in bed, no recording.

    If you have the pause live tv feature enabled, the live transmission stutters due to hard disk activity. This was proved by disabling the feature.

    Topup TV Anytime downloads programs overnight and stores them on the hard drive. Fine, except that every program stored this way is unwatchable because hard drive access causes the programs to halt and stutter.

    At regular intervals, the box has to be given a hard reset (turned off at the mains) because it hangs and won't respond to any remote commands.

    All in all, it is a load of crap and I warned them about this before they bought it, but hey, it's their money.

    Personally, I have XP Pro running 2 Nebula DigiTV cards and can record entire muxes with no issues, to my 250GB drive. I can also archive recordings, pause live tv, etc, etc. Ok, so it's a pc, but the features it makes available are well worth the extra space / noise involved. And given a longer link cable to the tv (I have a projector), it could always be placed in a cupboard or different room. Did I mention you can use it over a network too (local or WAN) ?

    You can keep your consumer electronics, thanks.

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