The PVR 7280T's box says that you can "watch and record two programmes simultaneously". This is an ambiguous statement that could lead potential buyers to think you can record two channels at the same time. You can only record a maximum of one channel, but you can watch any other channel at the same time. This makes the recorder much better than the single-tuner models of old, but it's nowhere near as good as the Humax PVR-9200T, which lets you record two channels while watching a third.
The recording schedule integrates perfectly with the standard Freeview seven-day electronic programme guide (EPG), so you can zip along by the day and make reservations for the week ahead. It's not as useful as Sky+ or a media centre, both of which will record the entire series of your favourite shows automatically, but once you get used to the integrated approach, there's no turning back. We also like the way that the current channel goes into a window in the top corner when you're navigating the guide, so you can keep an eye on it while you're checking the schedules.
We're not so sure why the main menu is so well hidden in Sagem's box, but it does offer plenty to play around with. You can lock certain channels if you don't want your child to stumble on anything risque. This might be quite useful for the music channels, which turn into sex-text marathons come nine o'clock.
Although Sagem's publicity is misleading for its dual-tuner compatibility, the stated 40-hour recording capacity of the 80GB hard drive is undue modesty. We found that you could nearly fit 50 hours on there. The advantage of having an all-in-one unit as opposed to a Freeview box and separate hard drive is that the box records the Freeview feed directly from source. This means that there's absolutely no drop in quality over the original broadcast when watching it back from the hard drive, plus you can also fit far more on there because Freeview broadcasts are encoded at lower bit rates than standard DVD movies. The Sagem is also very good at catching a decent picture from a poor-strength signal -- our office can stretch weaker Freeview boxes but the Sagem caught all available channels.
The Sagem Freeview PVR is on a similar level to Humax's PVR-9200T when it comes to AV performance (for our money, the Panasonic is still the best). The hard drive is very quiet in general operation, and when you're using a TV at normal volume you definitely won't hear the one small fan whirring away.
On the audio front, the digital output means that all Freeview channels and radio stations are as good as they're ever going to get. What is rather strange is that the stereo audio output is not a set of standard red and white phono sockets, but a headphone output. This is good if you want to listen to the box late at night and not disturb the neighbours, but if you're interconnecting AV equipment the phono-style connectors would have been better, as they are more widely supported.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide