TVonics DTR-Z500HD review update

As I mentioned in my recent piece on choosing a Freeview HD recorder, I’ve been playing with the TVonics DTR-Z500HD; I omitted to update it with the link to my review on RegHardware though.

I confess to one mistake in the review – corrected in the comments – which was not originally noticing the EPG genre browse/search functionality. In fairness, this is partly the way things are labelled on screen, with the colour keys used for some functions, and the |<< and >>| icons at bottom left and bottom right not labelled. It isn’t immediately clear that these provide access to an extra screen of functions for the colour keys, which includes the search option. Still, I shouldn’t have made the mistake, so many apologies.

The TVonics EPG does have search - but it's not immediately obvious where to find it

I think the photo shows the problem – on the left, a quick glance may make you think the |<< button is actually PgUp, and on the right >>| isn’t labelled at all. Perhaps ‘More…’ would be a suitable label.

On the whole, I think the TVonics has a pretty reasonable interface, it’s pretty straightforward, though a little on the sparse side. Mostly that works well, and means menus don’t look too scary, but it sometimes has its downside. For another example, here’s the screen when you set a recording:

Setting a timer on the TVonics

The screen gives you all the information you need, without clutter, but that grey box always covers the whole of the centre of the screen, with options below, right at the bottom. Personally, I think that large space makes things less obvious; while there’s a reminder to press Blue for Series, the Red button for HD is tucked away in the corner.

I know there are design reasons for always having that box the same size, regardless of the name of the programme, but I think from a usability point of view, I’d prefer to see it shrunk to fit, with the colour keys indicated clearly, right below the message about the recording being set.

Of course, once you’ve been using the box for a while, this sort of thing will become second nature, just like on other boxes I’ve learned to press the Record button, then down to select series, and tricks like that. But for the casual user, or someone just coming to a box fresh, it can make it a little less straightforward.

A good performer

None of this is to detract, however, from the fact that the TVonics is a pretty good box; it’s an affordable price, has the all-important Dolby Digital output – and a fix for a bug I found in that while testing appeared very quickly from the guys at TVonics – and isn’t so laden with extra features and complexity that it will confuse the less tech-savvy members of the family.

I still wish it had folders for organising recordings though…

I’ve just written up a review for Computeractive, by the way, which should be published soon.

One Reply to “TVonics DTR-Z500HD review update”

  1. Have they fixed the horrible MPEG engine integration on the earlier boxes? I have one of the pre-FreePlay ones (that they promised to update but didn’t) and that gets amazingly unhappy if you try pausing , rewinding and playing a lot. If the box is recording while you play another program, pretty well any interaction with the playback process results in a crash, reset, and the loss of the program being recorded.

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