Classic rather than wacky
Design wise, this PVR is conventional not wacky. A slim, 52 mm-tall unit dressed in black, it'll slip anonymously into any system. Only the glowing blue/red power button and clear channel display attract attention.
Beneath the lid are two HD tuners, allowing you to watch one channel whilst recording another, or record two channels simultaneously. The 500GB SATA drive stores around 250 hours of standard def material, dropping to 120 hours for HD content from providers such as the BBC, ITV 1HD and 4HD.
The HDR5010 may have a single HDMI output, but it also has two inputs. This is because it features an integrated HDMI switcher. Very handy if you have a Blu-ray player and games console you want to hook-up, but are running out of sockets on your TV or AV receiver. Just punch the relevant HDMI input button on the remote to flick between sources.
There's also a digital audio output, Scart and Ethernet LAN. The latter is dormant, apparently awaiting some future functionality (presumably BBC iPlayer and YouTube) to arrive via a firmware update.
There are also two USB ports (one front, one back) but neither can be used to play sound and vision files -- they're for viewing photos only. Confusingly, Toshiba's own website says they can handle video and MP3 files, but there's no evidence to support the claim.
Up and running
The HDR5010 is a doddle to install and setup. Just pop in the RF aerial cables, connect via HDMI to your TV and you're good to go. The PVR dutifully searches out all available Freeview TV and radio channels while you make a cuppa; switching between these is made simple by a dedicated TV/RAD button on the remote.
The key to a successful PVR is ease of use and reliability. It needs to be intuitive yet bulletproof. And to that end, the HDR5010 acquits itself well. The user interface is bold and simple, with lots of lime green. If you've seen a TVonics device, you'll be right at home.
From within the DTR Settings menu you can specify the length of the deck's Pause Buffer. The adjustment ranges from zero (not advisable), through one, two and four hours. A couple of hours should work for most of us. You can also make your recordings library self aware. There's provision for auto-deleting recordings, filtered by file size or age, but it's probably best not to engage this -- lost shows inevitably lead to tears and a flurry of torrenting. Equally, you can lock your recordings, to prevent accidental erasure.
The HDR5010's presentation is good: the Library screen is a translucent overlay over a live channel; the seven-day TV EPG does much the same trick.
Series linking and time travel
Recording functionality is in line with other Freeview HD PVRs. You can capture your shows by either hitting the Record button directly, or by planning ahead on the EPG. And if you want to record a set block of time, then there's a manual option for that as well. If the show you select to record is also available in HD, you get a option to select that version. Picture quality is synonymous with the original transmission.
There's support for series linking and you can watch stuff on time delay, playing back footage even as the PVR continues to record, nimbly fast-forwarding through ad breaks.
If you're into archiving your recordings (via the Scart output to a DVD recorder), then the system's Playlist option comes into play. You can set multiple recordings to play out one after another. Want to back up the latest season of Primeval? Just set it up to feed to your recorder overnight.
If you're a Freeview radio addict and worried about leaving a static station logo on your plasma screen, then there's a one-button screensaver; rather amusingly this is just text inviting you to cancel the screensaver. Guess the guys hit a creative brick wall with that one.
The box is pleasingly quiet in operation. The unit runs cool and does not use a fan; there are no HDD grumbles of note.
Overall, the HDR5010 works well. It's a shame that the USB inputs are blind to anything other than photos, and that the Ethernet is snoozing, as both would add some welcome clevery-dickery to proceedings. But if you're looking for a PVR that's simply useful, this Toshiba model represents good value.
Edited by Jennifer Whitehead