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Review: Evesham Freeview personal video recorder PVR160

by Bob Crabtree on 13 October 2006, 21:52

Tags: Evesham

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Features & benefits

On top of twin tuners, so you can record one programme while watching another, the main features of the PVR160 are:

* A built-in 160GB hard disk
* Time Shift for, in effect, pausing live TV, so you can come back and watch a programme where you left off
* A seven-day programming guide for choosing what to watch and what to record
* A Timers list showing scheduled recordings (and letting them be tweaked or added to)
* The ability, in the Timers list, to set a recording to be once (the default), daily or weekly
* One-button manual recording (not quite instant, but near enough)
* Forward and backwards play-speed options ranging through x1/4, x1/2, x1, x2, x4, x8, x16 and x32
* Favourite channel lists - five of them - so you could have one for each family member or different lists for two of you, plus others for movies, news and radio
* Picture-in-Picture (P-i-P) that lets you monitor a channel while watching another. This window can be moved around all four corners of the screen

Evesham PVR160Click for larger image

The Evesham is designed to rack in with hi-fi-components - it measures 360(w) x 280(d) x 48(h)mm - and weighs 2.85kg. On the front are nine microswitch push-buttons - power, menu, record, pause, OK, up/down, left/right - plus a blue LED display that's discreet, verging on humble.

Unless the display is at eye level - and we can't think of many situations where you'd install the box at that height - you simply can't see what's shown (so forgive us for not bothering to tell you what that is). Even the red/green standby/power light on the left side of the display is only visible when you're near to face on.

This silly situation, it seems to us, is less to do with the fact that the LEDs aren't very bright - which they're not and there are no controls to change that - but more to do with the fact that the display is set back into the box rather too far.

In some products, an inability to keep a close eye on the fascia display might be a fatal flaw but, with the Evesham, you'd normally find out what it's up to by looking at the display it puts up on TV, so we didn't find it a problem.

Installation was staggering easy and we detail what little needs to be done on page five.

The built-in hard disk is far from huge by today's PC standards and the amount of programming it's reckoned to store - up to 80 hours - also isn't massive. However, it would be uncharitable to complain too loudly, given that the entire product costs a penny under £150.

But that doesn't stop us wondering just how easy or difficult it might be to replace the standard hard drive with something of greater capacity - a challenge we thought might eat up a lot of time, so didn't take on.

The so-called Time Shift feature is common to most PVRs (where it's called TimeSlip and a whole bunch of other thing) and must be a great help to clued-up shop-floor staff trying to clinch a sale.

The idea is that if you're called away from watching TV by a knock at the door, a ringing phone, a call of nature or anything else, you activate Time Shift by pressing the pause button - confident that you'll miss nothing while you're away.

When you return, you simply press the play button to start watching from the exact point you left off - and can then fast-forward and fast rewind through the stuff that was recorded while you were away.

The default maximum duration of such recordings is two hours but can be reduced (for reasons that defeat us) in half-hour increments down to a minimum of 10 minutes.

Time Shift can't be used if you're already recording a different programme - the PVR160 can only record one programme at a time - and doesn't create a permanent recording. So, whatever you saved this way is lost as soon as you leave Time-Shift mode. Even so, the Evesham can play back a recording while making another.

A product like the PVR160 lives or dies by the quality of its handset and how easy its many functions are to understand and control - so we'll be looking at that in depth in a little while.

First, though, dive over to page three to take a close look at the PVR160 itself, with the emphasis on the rear panel sockets and what benefits they bring and what shortcomings they indicate.