There's something charmingly old-fashioned about the Humax PVR-9150T. With its chunky, twin Scart exhausts, radiator-grille fascia and low-resolution user interface, it's more classic car than hi-tech speedster.
The only thing is -- it's not deliberately retro. The PVR-9150T has been knocking around for a while and it's still Humax's entry-level Freeview PVR. Aimed at folk who want a digital recorder but aren't interested in high-definition programmes, subscription TV services or fancy networking features, it's available now for around £120.
The unit is extremely compact, measuring just 360 by 50 by 245mm. If you like a neat and ordered stack of gear in your living room, it probably won't suit you, but the unusual, rippled plastic frontage has a certain designer impudence.
The left-hand side of the fascia flips down to reveal key controls, including playback, record and navigation buttons, and a radio/TV mode toggle. The right-hand side hides a CI module slot for those lucky souls with appropriate smartcards.
The remote control is absolutely huge. At least its Brobdingnagian size means it won't ever get lost down the back of the sofa.
Connectivity and installation
Connectivity is basic. There are two Scart ports (one for the TV and the other a loopthrough for a secondary device), an RS-232 port for firmware updates, and the RF aerial input/output. There's a power rocker switch as well. Given that the deck's standby consumption is 0.9W, we're not sure why anyone would bother turning it off.
The installation process is quite straightforward but rather slow. The PVR searches out available stations before allowing you to delete those that hold no interest -- and you'll probably find there's quite a few of those on Freeview.
The PVR's user interface has all the graphical charm of an NES platformer, which we quite like, in a retro way. The machine is pretty user-friendly so even confirmed technophobes will feel quite at home with its operating logic, after learning its foibles.
In keeping with its old-school aesthetic, the PVR's top trick is a picture-in-picture function, whereby the secondary screen is either inset or presented side by side with the first.
The PVR-9510T has two standard-definition Freeview tuners, allowing two different channels to be recorded simultaneously. Recordings are made via the electronic programme guide or directly from a live transmission. You can adjust the start and stop times, and record either single programmes or an entire series.
Chasing playback is also permitted -- that's to say you can start watching a show before it's finished recording, which is ideal for skipping ad breaks to condense viewing times. To that end, the PVR-9150T also offers an adjustable ad-skip button. One touch leaps you forward 15, 30, 60 or 120 seconds.
If you only have time to partially view a recording, you can also bookmark a position and return to it later.
This machine doesn't support USB media playback or networking. It does, however, have a 160GB hard drive, which will let you store around 100 hours of programmes. That should be more than enough for casual users.
If you think you'll need more space, check out the Humax PVR-9300T500. It's a similarly specified unit with a 500GB hard drive, providing room for around 300 hours of Deal or No Deal.
The PVR's picture quality is good given the limitations of SD terrestrial TV. The recordings are a mirror of their original transmissions, complete with micro-blocking artefacts. The best Freeview channels look fine. There's no upscaling capability -- you get a 576i picture. Upscaling is left to your TV.
The unit runs extremely quietly. There's a fan onboard, but it minds its manners.
The Humax PVR-9150T does what it sets out to do well. Hi-def snobs may well screw up their noses at this machine, but, if you're after a straightforward digital TV recorder at a very modest price, it's worth checking out.
Edited by Charles Kloet