As you may know by now, high-definition is coming to Freeview next year. But HD over your aerial isn't here yet, and nor will it be until as late as 2012 in certain parts of the UK – so what happens if you want a hard-disk digital TV recorder right now?
We'd certainly suggest you start your search here: the Humax PVR9300T hits all the right notes spec-wise, it's priced to succeed and, best of all, it performs to a very high standard.
Add in elegant styling and impressive ease-of-use, and you've a winning combination.
Covers every base at the price
The Humax is available in two forms: the first, tested here, has a 320GB hard-disk good for 200 hours of recording. The second model, otherwise identical, offers a whopping 500GB of storage.
All that's crammed into a modestly sized, elegantly turned-out cabinet, 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 (your old CRT TV).
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 cost, that's not necessarily a huge issue – chances are the upscaling in most comparably priced TVs would be better in any event.
Recordings look impressive
We settled on 576p with our reference Panasonic TV, and were perfectly happy with the results.
In fact, both off-air images and recordings look hugely impressive, with nary a murmur of shimmer nor a hint of block noise save on the very fastest motion.
Colours are vivid and accurate, edge stability is first-rate 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 even record two channels while watching a third off the hard-disk.
We've read that early versions of the Humax suffered from considerable fan noise, but our sample (sporting later firmware) was fine, humming away at acceptably low volumes throughout our time with it, save for a brief gust of noise each time you start up.
So that's it. A neat, classy set-top box that works well, is sensibly priced and would be a real pleasure to live with. Sounds like a deal to us...
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