Sagem first made a name for itself in the digital TV receiver market for boxes that included multimedia card reader. But as more and more people warm to the idea of hard drive recording, the willingness to buy into a Sky+-style recording system has resulted in Sagem's PVR6280T. With dual tuners and an 80GB hard drive, a neat idea is turned into something you soon won't be able to live without.
While the box has dual tuners, it can't record two channels at the same time like the Thomson DHD4000. Other than that, the Sagem features some impressive specifications (and double Thomson's hard drive space), plus Sagem's cause is helped by an electronic programme guide (EPG) that's the most intuitive that we've used, and recording that's a simple touch of a button or a reservation in the seven-day EPG. This makes one of the most useful and complete systems we've had the pleasure of using.
The box itself is a strange shape, like a large doorstop. Its slanted body limits its practicality, and we'd suggest that you don't stack anything on top of it. The remote control is also strangely formed, a case of too many buttons crammed into too small a space. It's confusing that it features a redundant Photo button -- it's only the next model up that boasts this feature. The manual is a fold-out sheet of paper as opposed to a proper book, and it's more like one of those massive guides that you get with a DIY coffee table rather than a digibox.
Connectivity from Sagem's box is good, but like a DVD player, it's very simple. The link between the box and the display should be made via RGB Scart, and if you want to connect to a DVD recorder, there's a second, non-RGB Scart output. If you use this (it's called VCR Scart on the box), then fidelity and colours aren't as good as they are through RGB. It's not really an issue though, as most DVD recorders now come with an RGB Scart input and output, with which you can loopthrough to the TV.
On the audio side, there's an optical output which will provide a digital signal through to your amplifier or home cinema system. From there, audio quality is decided by your sound system, and it's just a shame that Freeview broadcasts are only made in stereo. It's possible that we may get a 5.1 upgrade in the future, but we suspect any extra bandwidth will be handed over to another shopping channel.
While the EPG is excellent, the system menus follow their own rulebook. The main settings are tucked away under Installation, which sounds scarily like the setting you'd choose to boot the system back to factory defaults. When we plucked up the courage to choose it, we had to then go through a security code (to prevent a five year old changing the menus to Italian, presumably) before you can change essential settings such as your TV format (4:3/16:9) and favourites lists.