Sharp PVRs are like Forrest Gump's chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. Depending on who's been contracted to supply them, they can be long and slim, or compact and dumpy, like the Sharp TUT2HR32. The flavour of the user interface similarly changes.
As it happens, this Freeview HD recorder has a rather tasty UI. It's easy to navigate and has a live TV window to keep you connected to your channel of choice. The TUT2HR32 also has a rather unfortunate flaw, though.
It's available now for around £235.
Blue lights at night
The top-line specs look good. This Freeview HD unit has two tuners, so you can record one channel and watch another, or record two while you watch something from the library.
The box doesn't have a huge footprint either. It's just 55mm tall and 300mm wide. This dramatic downsizing has been achieved because the power supply has been relegated to an external 12V brick.
Rather unhelpfully, the PVR has no channel display or clock. Instead the TUT2HR32 offers only a small square with four blue LEDs. These form cryptic patterns depending on whether the unit is powered up or in standby, and they can't be dimmed. In a darkened room they can prove a real distraction.
Connections comprise a pair of SCARTs, an HDMI output, RF loopthrough and optical and digital audio outputs. You also get a USB port (for firmware updates only, not media playback), and a dormant Ethernet jack. The latter is provided should extra functionality, like iPlayer support, be bequeathed to the box. Don't hold your breath.
Beneath the hood is a 320GB hard drive. This capacity equates to around 80 hours of hi-def telly. Given the price of this PVR, we'd rate the disk size as a little on the low side.
The remote control is a big, generic zapper, noteworthy only for its general cheapness and the ninja-like invisibility of the record button.
Easy to use
Setup is straightforward. Once tuned you can set channels as favourites, delete those you don't want to see (sayonara Price-drop TV) and so on.
The main menu itself takes you through to the programme guide, a channel list, library of recorded content, scheduled recordings, plus general settings and info. There's also a large, live TV window. The menu density can also be adjusted, from a solid blue to 25, 50 or 75 per cent transparency.
All standard Freeview HD recording functionality is present. You can book programmes from trailers by punching the green button and implement a parental-control PIN to prevent the playback of age-restricted content. There are also Auto disk management tools; you can lock the hard drive to stop it being accidentally formatted.
Recordings are made from the EPG; if you get a clash you're given the option of cancelling one or getting a partial recording when a tuner becomes free.
There's also the ability to implement a modicum of delay to the digital audio output, which could be useful if you’re having some sync problems with your display.
With a fashionable eye on eco matters, the TUT2HR32 can be put in an Auto Standby mode, this puts the PVR to sleep if there's been no activity for three hours.
Image quality is good enough and in line with the original programme transmissions, although we occasionally noted what appeared to be interlace artefacts. While these were not overly visible during playback they became apparent during Pause, manifesting themselves as bold, horizontal lines across the picture.
It's worth setting the default so that any standard definition programme you select that is also available in HD, is recorded to the library as hi-def. The box itself will upscale SD sources to HD, although this is pretty rudimentary. There's no option to output the SD channels as source direct, which would allow either your panel or better equipped hardware to do the scaling.
And the problem is…
But none of these niggles constitute the flaw mentioned earlier. This is, very simply, operational noise. As soon as you power up the TUT2HR32, the internal fan fires up with astonishing ferocity. Had we stuck little wheels on the base of the box, we're convinced that the rear-placed fan could generate enough thrust to propel itself across the room. Yes, this Sharp is part digital recorder and part hoverjet. In terms of noise pollution, we'd put it on a par with a small video projector. It easily drowns out rival set top PVRs.
Even when you power down, the thing continues to blast away. It does stop eventually, but we couldn’t tell you how long it takes. The thing was typically found silent and exhausted the following day, after a night of huffing and puffing.
Overall, the TUT2HR32 is a workmanlike PVR, devoid of the niceties offered by rivals such as Toshiba's similarly priced HDR5010. The fact that it also doubles as a Dyson Airblade does not really count in its favour.