For a potentially lucrative market, it's strange to see so few mainstream companies take to Freeview PVRs. So far, only Panasonic has tried to steal this market away from Humax and Sagem, who are now on their third- or fourth-generation recorders. Sagem though, has been left trailing by Panasonic and Humax's latest boxes, which have both had twin tuners, meaning that they can record two channels at once. So it's with great disappointment that we find this latest model boasting twin tuners, but for some reason it doesn't have the feature to record two channels simultaneously.
Despite this major feature omission, the PVR 7280T is a decent Freeview recorder, with a simple-to-use interface and an adequate 80GB hard drive. The middle of the road specification does result in one good piece of news -- the PVR 7280T is very cheap, but it has a definite air of mediocrity about it.
We're not too keen on the PVR 7280T's looks -- the main unit is intentionally ambiguous and lacks the sophistication of Panasonic's TUCTH100. The only information displayed on the front panel is the current channel, with no LEDs to let you know when you're recording or low on hard-disk space.
Connectivity is standard, with very few flourishes housed on the rear. The box connects to your TV via RGB Scart, and there's a second Scart socket if you want to backup recordings to a DVD recorder. However, the second Scart output isn't RGB compatible, so if you do plan to back up a lot of material to DVD, you're better off using the RGB Scart and running it through your recorder to the TV.
The Scart output carries an audio signal, but if you have a home cinema system you'll want to use the optical audio output to retain digital clarity. True, none of the Freeview stations support 5.1 audio yet, but if you're a digital radio lover, it will be worthwhile making the effort to use the high-quality audio connection. There's also a TopUp TV slot, so you can upgrade your basic package with a subscription to channels like UKTV Gold. The aerial loopthrough lets users of older TVs watch digital TV without a Scart, but this isn't advisable.
We like Sagem's remote -- not only is it small and easy-to-use, but it looks nice as well. It's a simple thing that so many manufacturers get wrong, but it feels right in the hand -- there are grooves so that it fits naturally, and one thumb can reach all the buttons without getting cramp.