The hard drive is one limitation of the box, in that it can only hold around 25 hours of recordings (depending on bit rate). This is a lot more than you'd get at full quality on a separate HDD recorder, but it's still not enough to archive a full series of 24 or The Sopranos, and you can't drop the quality to fit more on. If you find the hard drive size isn't adequate, you can always whip it out and drop in a larger capacity one in - a 120GB one will triple the storage capacity and will only cost around £50. However, as it involves opening the box we wouldn't advise it unless you have some technical confidence. We hope that Thomson itself will increase this limited size in time, only without charging the £280 price tag that Panasonic is demanding for its 80GB TU-CTH100 PVR.
This feature-packed box also performs very well. It's the best out of any of the FreeView boxes we've had at picking up a signal -- grabbing absolutely everything first time even with a small portable area. Recordings are also indistinguishable from the original broadcast. If you're watching on a digital screen (LCD, plasma, or projector-based) the artefacting can be quite severe but this is a Freeview resolution issue, rather than the box itself. Regular CRT owners will be treated to a picture that's detailed and artefact-free.
Audio performance is particularly good though, thanks to the options offered by digital outputs. When you connect through to your receiver or home cinema system in this way, most will process a Dolby Pro Logic II soundtrack, which processes the audio to create surround effects. Although you won't confuse it for a Dolby Digital soundtrack, it works rather well with most systems, and if Freeview ever starts to broadcast in the latter, the box will at least be able to support it.
Additional editing by Tom Espiner