LaCie has a long-established reputation for producing some lovely-looking and quite desirable kit. From monitors to hard drives, its offerings always look as cool as a cucumber. The LaCie LaCinema Black Record is no exception. It's a glossy black piece of tech that will look great in even the trendiest lounge.
It also makes some impressive promises. There's a Freeview-capable receiver that can record TV shows onto the built-in hard drive (the 500GB version costs around £365, and the 1TB version costs about £420), and it can also play a variety of media formats, as well as your photos and music. Can this attractive package win over our hearts, as well as our eyes?
We don't relish starting on a negative note, but the LaCinema's remote is one of the first things we took out of the box, and, from the moment we set eyes on it, we realised it was going to be like a thorn in the bottom.
It is, you see, made out of plastic, with some thoroughly ghastly rubberised buttons -- the most prominent of which is the multi-directional control. The rubberised buttons really don't work especially well, and we found that button presses weren't at all positive. To make matters worse, the labelling of the keys isn't entirely logical.
On the plus side, the LaCinema does tell you on-screen what button does what. That's a really good feature, and it makes the lack of sensible labelling on the remote much less of an issue. After a while, we began to grow used to the remote, but it's still far from a desirable device.
There are two delightful things about the LaCinema. The first is the external styling, which is really very cool indeed. The second is the attractive user interface, which matches the awesome external design and makes us very happy indeed. The LaCinema certainly gives Apple's products a run for their money in this regard.
At the back of the machine, you'll find the usual connections: a pair of USB inputs, HDMI out, digital audio out and component/composite connections. As you would expect, you'll see aerial connections for the built-in TV tuner, too.
The front of the machine is broken up only by a single USB input, designed to offer a convenient way for you to plug in USB memory cards and enjoy the contents quickly on your TV.
Recording from TV or other sources
We were looking forward to seeing how the LaCinema handles Freeview recording. After stabbing at the remote control for a while, we found ourselves getting cross. Not only was the remote making our experience thoroughly miserable, the device was also not finding a full complement of channels. We repeated the scan, but didn't manage to improve the situation.
We were able to record quite easily from the tuned channels though. It's a simple matter of pressing the red record button. Sadly, the LaCinema is a single-tuner device, so you can't record one channel and watch another at the same time. That's a great shame. Adding a second tuner wouldn't really increase the cost of the hardware by very much.
We like the fact that TV recordings can be copied from the device onto a memory stick with very little hassle. This makes watching shows on a laptop or portable media player very simple. You can also copy files from a USB stick to the device's hard drive. That can improve performance if you're dealing with a large file.
Another one of the many things that made us want to sling the LaCinema out of the nearest window was a problem it had with the audio on broadcast TV channels. Whenever we turned to one of the 11 Freeview channels that the LaCinema did manage to tune in, it switched itself over to a supplementary audio track. This meant the audio was mute, and we had to poke and prod the idiotic remote to get into a menu to switch to the other audio channel.