echostar.jpgWith analogue TV signals dying the death, now's the perfect time to grab a digital set-top box if you didn't already have one. Which means it's also the perfect time for Echostar to launch the HDT-610R, what they're claiming is the world's slimmest PVR.

Also known as the Ultra Slim Box, it measures a slight 14mm thin, despite housing a HDMI connection, twin tuner and 500GB hard drive.

Recording Freeview+ and Freeview+ HD channels, the HDT-610R also offers on-demand services like BBC iPlayer and Box Office 365. The box also offers live TV rewinding and pausing functionality, as well as intelligently seeking out HD versions of shows when available and offering the ability to set shows to record from advertisements.

"Consumers are looking forward to an exciting summer of sport and facing a packed viewing schedule, digital video recording will be one of the key features that viewers will be looking for," stated Freeview MD Ilse Howling. Because everything is linked to the Olympics, right?

Up for pre-order from May 4th, Echostar's Ultra Slim Box will be in shops by the end of May. Pricing is yet to be announced.

REVIEW: Roku 2 XS streaming player (UK)

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Roku XS 13.jpgreview-line.JPGName: Roku 2 XS

Type: Streaming Player

Specs: Click here for full specs

Price: £99.99 from Amazon

Already holding the title of the most popular TV streaming box in the US, Roku are now setting their sights on the UK market. The Roku 2 XS, with its Bluetooth motion controlled gaming capabilities and access to Netflix movie streaming, is their top of the line streaming box. Read on for our verdict.


Sitting snugly in the palm of your hand, the Roku 2 XS is as small as streaming players get. An 84mm x 84 mm x 23mm box with rounded corners, it weighs just 85 grams, with a gloss-black finish that will see it hide away easily among your other AV gear. Connecting to the internet over 802.11n Wi-Fi or an Ethernet connection, the rear of the Roku 2 XS player has four simple connections; HDMI (with 5.1 surround sound pass-through) an A/V out port (which uses an included bespoke mini-jack to left/right/composite video RCA cable), the afore-mentioned Ethernet port and an AC socket. Using less than 2W of power when streaming HD video, there's no power button, with an auto-standby mode kicking in after a short period of inactivity and using only minuscule amounts of energy. You'll also find a USB port on the left hand side for playback of a modest range of media files.

Once everything is plugged in, you'll need to head online to activate your Roku 2 XS box. A reasonably short web form has to be filled out on the Roku website (which includes your credit card details, though these will only be used if you purchase premium content through the box), after which you'll be given an activation code for your streaming unit. It's a shame that this couldn't have somehow been achieved with a set-up process through the XS itself, and if you're a subscriber to the likes of Netflix, you'll also have to manually add your credentials to some of the streaming channels too.

Considering how clunky the initial set up is, using the Roku 2 XS after that point is as simple as can be. The XS comes with a Bluetooth-enabled remote, which looks much like a squat black Wii controller, complete with a D-Pad, A and B gaming buttons and Home, Back, Return and playback controls. There's even a little wrist-strap to stop it flying out of your grasp. The remote is used to navigate the tile-based UI, as well as the odd bit of text entry in search fields. It can also be used for motion-based gaming, which we'll get onto in a minute.
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The first, home screen of the Roku 2 XS box has the settings and Channel Store tabs, and also houses the channels you download from the store, scrolling left to right. With hundreds of channels available and more on the way, this area may quickly fill up and become a little unwieldy, but for now works well enough.

Heading over to the Channel Store tile brings up the wide-range of content available to be streamed through the Roku 2 XS box, some available for free, others requiring a subscription to access.. As well as big name providers like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Flixster and Vimeo, there are tons of niche channels whose content ranges from everything from religious sermons to retro public announcement videos. There are a few notable omissions however, and we'd have loved to have seen for instance a YouTube channel, as well as some other UK broadcaster's catch-up offerings, such as Channel 4's 4oD and the ITV Player. Having said that, there are also some excellent, rarely seen VOD offerings, such as the inspirational lectures from the TED channel, as well as plenty of web radio options.

Though not officially supported by Roku, you can also use the Roku website to access a large number of "private" channels, which are downloaded to your Roku 2 XS player by inputting a code on the website. These range from international video content streams to adults-only movies. Some really useful channels, like a third-party build, are available, and if you do fancy putting a bit of blue on your Roku, there are password protection options to keep young eyes from stumbling on what they shouldn't. As "private" channels are often beta builds or made by enthusiasts, there is however no guarantee they will forever be available on the streaming box.
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For the most part, the channels make use of a tile-scrolling navigation set up, barring a few exceptions, such as the iPlayer's bespoke UI (familiar to anyone who has browsed the platform on any number of other devices). It's easy to browse with the directional pad, but not so easy to search; few channels allow you to look for specific content by keyword, and when you do, it's a painstaking task of scrolling around a virtual keyboard, press by press. As such, it's mostly a curated experience. With such a vast array of video content to browse through, we'd have loved the chance to favourite videos for later viewing, but the functionality is missing. On one isolated occasion we found that the UI inexplicably slowed down to a crawl making it impossible to use, but a hard reset achieved by disconnecting the XS from the mains solved the problem, and it hasn't happened again since.

The quality of the streams however are uniformly excellent. Thanks to an adaptive streaming system, you'll rarely, if ever see a buffering sign on the Roku 2 XS, with the stream's visual quality adapting to match that of your web connections capabilities. Even with a modest connection however you should be able to view stutter-free 1080p HD streaming. Using the Netflix app as an example, its 1080p high resolution output was pretty much a match to that found on the PS3, with clear, sharp images that just fall short of Blu-ray quality.
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Also available from the Channel Store are a dozen or so gaming apps. Though most are premium, paid for downloads, Angry Birds is included for free. Thanks to the Roku 2 XS's motion capabilities, it controls much like a Wii game, with a wave of the hand translating to a yank of the in-game catapult. While admittedly basic stuff, it worked surprisingly well for what is first and foremost a TV streaming box, and we look forward to more big-screen gaming on the Roku XS. Also, thanks to the Bluetooth nature of the controller, playing games doesn't require line-of-sight with the Roku box, meaning it can be tucked away behind a TV without disrupting play.

If there's one real disappointment with the Roku 2 XS, it's with its lack of robust media playback options from a local USB storage device. The only formats supported are MP4 (H.264) video, AAC and MP3 audio and JPG and PNG image files. Pair this with a lack of DLNA functionality and the Roku 2 XS falls short of being a comprehensive multimedia experience.


The Roku 2 XS streaming box is a great bit of kit. With access to so much online TV content, much of it of a high quality nature thanks to the likes of Netflix, TED and the BBC iPlayer channels, it's more than a match for its Apple TV rival. Of course, you're going to have to have a paid subscription with a few of the channels to get the most out of the box, but that's no different than with the Roku 2 XS's competitors. The visual quality of the streams, particularly where HD content is available, is superb, and navigating all the features is fairly simple.

Where the Roku 2 XS is found lacking is in its poor file support over USB storage and lack of DLNA features. For a UK audience, there are also a few notable catch-up providers missing but there's every chance these will be added in due course.

The real question is whether or not you need the Roku box. If you've got a HD games console or a Smart TV, you've probably already got access to many of the Roku's features. If you don't already have access to these services, the Roku 2 XS does however come highly recommended.



YouView, the long-delayed TV catch-up streaming box that pulls together online TV content from all the major terrestrial broadcasters in the UK, may finally have a launch window.

The Freeview-based TV-on-demand system is now expected to launch on May 14th according to The Telegraph's Emma Barnett, with TV executives at the Digital Television Group conference letting slip that YouView's trials this year have been fruitful.

The question is, does anyone really care any more, let alone will they care by May? With Smart TVs offering portals to catch-up TV alongside games consoles, tablets and smartphones, there is already a plethora of ways to access catch-up TV, not to mention the likes of the Roku boxes which also throw into the mix web-based video content too. A dedicated catch-up TV box may sound like a very limited, dated idea come YouView's long-delayed release.


spotify-tivo.jpgSpotify, the world conquering music streaming service, is now available through the Virgin Media Tivo set-top box.

Great news for folks planning on blasting out their favourite tunes in their living rooms (particularly if they've got home cinema set-ups sorted) Virgin will be bundling Spotfiy Premium deals in with their mobile and broadband contracts.

New and existing Virgin Media fibre optic subscribers will nab 6 months worth of the Premium version of the streaming service for free, an offer worth £59.94 if purchased separately.

Virgin Media pay monthly mobile users get 3 months of the Premium service, worth £29.97, and have the added benefit of incurring zero data charges for streaming tracks over 3G while on their network.

Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media said: "Our goal to deliver a truly unique experience for our customers and we're really excited about bringing Spotify to our TiVo service as part of our ongoing initiatives to develop the platform further with new features, applications and content."

Spotify's Andreas Liffgarden, global head of telecom business development added: "What used to be a big cube is now a flat screen connected to the speakers and surround sound system in your home. Since we like our users to enjoy the world's best music under the best possible conditions, it made perfect sense for us to develop this great Spotify app for Virgin Media TiVo."

You can find the new Spotify app in the games and apps area of your Tivo box menu.

Click here for our Christmas gift guide to the best set-top boxes.

Name: DTR-Z500HD (TVonics)

Type: Freeview+ HD Digital TV recorder

Specs: Click here for full specs

Price: £224.99 direct from TVonics

HDMI switching is a rare feature for a digital TV recorder, but the TVonics DTR-Z500HD packs it in. Does the rest of its features live up to the relatively hefty price tag attached to this PVR?

Sleek black curves and its stout boxy frame aside, the DTR-Z500HD is a rather unassuming Freeview HD set top box, completely bereft of buttons, that houses a rather unique feature. On its rear is not only a HDMI Output port, but also two HDMI inputs, allowing for pass-through switching of two further HD sources, such as a Blu-ray player or games console. Switching between the two via dedicated "HDMI 1" and "HDMI 2" buttons on the remote control, it'll be a godsend for those with a TV packing only the one HDMI port, or those looking to tidily wall-mount a TV with the minimum amount of input cables on show. With Freeview HD broadcast in 1080i, it also reveals why the need for 1080p support is included here, as so many Blu-ray players and games consoles using the sharper picture format could potentially pass through the box.

Cramming in a 500GB hard disk, the DTR-Z500HD has all the Freeview+ HD features you'd expect from a premium digital TV recorder, including series link options, one-button recording and Live TV pause, allowing you to fence off a portion of the hard drive for as many as 4 hours of live TV to be rewound through. Dual tuners allow two channels to be recorded whilst a third is being viewed. Around 70 hours of HD footage can be stored, or 220 hours of standard definition programming. There's even a recommendation service which, depending on whether or not broadcasters include the relevant information with their shows, will suggest programs you may enjoy based on those you've already recorded.

In use, the EPG and menu system is punchy and fast, skirting around the layers of programme information and channel listings briskly. Text is crisp and easy to read, and there's even some light customisation options when it comes to the skin of the EPG and its colours.

Sharp, smear-free Freeview HD images are delivered from the box, while even standard definition channels are upscaled to a high standard. Those using larger screen TVs upwards of 40 inches may see a little softening to SD images, but only minimally. Though few shows are broadcast with 5.1 sound on Freeview HD, the DTR-Z500HD supports it regardless, converting the compressed HE-AAC format into Dolby Digital 5.1, compatible with all AV amps. There's even a Dolby Surround option, converting stereo sources into 5.1 through an AV with Dolby Pro Logic codecs.

The remote control is very comfortable, if a little lightweight. Along with the afore-mentioned HDMI switching buttons, there's a central click wheel, surrounded by "Guide", "Text", "Info" and "Back" buttons. A button dedicated for switching between TV and radio EPG listings will suit those who listen to the wireless a lot too. However there's one pretty glaring issue with the remote set-up here. Though leaving the DTR-Z500HD without buttons makes a fairly sleek design for the box itself, losing the remote down the side of a sofa or, even worse, breaking it, will lead to you being unable to control the box at all.

If we had any other major complaints with the box, it's how underused both the dual USB ports and Ethernet port found on the device are. The USB ports can only display photos stored on a memory stick rather than music or movie files, with their purpose predominately for updating the system software. Likewise, the Ethernet port is incapable of grabbing content from a networked PC or other DLNA compliant device, though it will be future-proofed for eventual Freeview+ HD web features.


Delivering class-leading Freeview HD images and offering a genuinely useful feature in the shape of its HDMI switching function, there's a lot to love in this latest TVonics box. However, it's got quite a steep price tag, and those looking for a little more storage space or a more robust feature list may be better served


Name: DTR-HD500 Freeview+ HD recorder (TVonics)

Type: HD set-top box and recorder

Specs: Click here for full specs

Price: £255.31 direct from TVonics

Let's not beat around the bush; £250+ is a hell of a lot of money to pay for a Freeview+ HD recorder these days, considering you can get very capable set-top boxes for little over the £100 mark. While the entry price may prove a barrier for many, there is no denying however the quality of TVonics' latest flagship recorder, the DTR-HD500 Freeview+ HD recorder.

A slick, curved, black gloss design makes the 85mm x 380mm x x200mm DTR-HD500 very easy on the eye, with a small display on the front showing channel names and other info snippets. The first clue as to the reasoning behind the DTR-HD500's premium pricing can be found on the unit's rear, where you'll find a HDMI output accompanied by a pair of HDMI inputs. Though labelled for a DVD player and games console, they can in fact be used as a dual HDMI switch for any device that uses the connection, including Blu-ray players.


Two USB ports are available for viewing media files, equally useful for those looking to update the box. After listening to the requests of early testers, the DTR-HD500 can now playback Dolby Digital Surround audio, installed via a download popped onto a memory stick. An Ethernet port sits on the back too, though its purpose isn't all that clear. We'd have much rather had a Common Interface slot for Top-Up TV, sadly absent.

Housing a 500GB hard-drive, the DTR-HD500 is just about the biggest Freeview+ HD recorder we've seen, allowing you to store a veritable library of around 65 hours worth of Freeview HD programming or 250 hours worth of standard definition content. Twin DVB-T2 tuners also allow two channels to be recorded at once, as well as set up series links; very handy should the X-Factor clash with the footie.

All of the excellent features above however would be a bit pointless should the DTR-HD500 suffer from poor image quality. After a quick and simple channel scanning set-up, the box thankfully doesn't disappoint, offering vibrant, pin-sharp HD content and top-notch standard def upscaling. A clear EPG offers lists nine channels over 90 minutes per screen-filling page, while an overlaying pop-up box can be used to browse channels while watching shows. The EPG can be a little slow to refresh if you try to quickly scan far into the future though, which was a little disappointing at this price range.


Recorded shows are kept in a dedicated library area, displaying how much hard drive space has been used and is left to fill. The remote control proves a little confusing here, as as sorting and navigating through stored shows is overly complex, while an "editing" function only allows you to block minors from shows or lock a show to prevent its deletion. Both live TV and recordings can be paused, rewound and (providing you're running slightly behind broadcast time with live shows) fast-forwarded, at two different speeds.

All in, the TVonics DTR-HD500 Freeview+ HD recorder is a very capable set-top box that, while having a few quirks, does well to keep the pace with the standard-setting Sky+ HD box. Those quirks can be a little annoying considering the premium price tag, but you still get a load of quality features for the dough.


If you're looking for a nettop box as sleek as the flatscreen you're planning on pairing it with, take a look at Acer's latest offering, the Revo 100. Stylishly slim, the Revo 100 can sti vertically or horizontally by your screen, grabbing media content from your home network over Wi-Fi and more.

It's rammed full of cool tech too, so it's not just a pretty case. A dual-core AMD Athlon II Neo processor and next-gen Nvidia Ion graphics chip make 1080p playback a breeze, while a built in TV tuner will be handy for those not rocking a set-top box.

A DVD burner or optional Blu-Ray drive are available, the latter of which plays back full 3D content should your TV allow. 750GB of hard drive space is available to store files on, with three USB ports and a multi-card reader built-in to help move content around.

Not content with just a slick box, Acer's remote for the Revo 100 is a touch of class too. A touch-type QWERTY, features a toggle which turns the device into a multi-touch gesture pad.

Out now, prices for the Acer Revo 100 start at around £600.

Virgin's Tivo-powered PVR UI revealed

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virgin-tivo-2.jpgVirgin Media have released a few pics of the interface for their new Tivo-powered PVR, and very slick it looks indeed.

The connected TV service will bring together video-on-demand catch up content, as well as apps and games.

Shows, music and films can be searched through text input, with each piece of content categorised by actors as well as the usual show, channel and genre parameters.

Options to series-link recordings of entire seasons will also be included, as well as the ability to grab shows that have already aired and been missed.

Cindy Rose, Executive Director of Digital Entertainment at Virgin Media, said: "Virgin Media's next generation connected TV service, powered by TiVo and combined with our superior broadband, will blow other connected TV products out of the water. It will appeal to anyone and everyone looking for the best of live broadcast TV, catch-up, on-demand and Internet apps and services."

Expect to hear more news on the service when it launches in December.

Details of Sony's Google TV hardware leak


google TV old.jpgHot on the heels of Logitech's Google TV plans comes leaked news of Sony's web-TV roadmap. With a glitzy launch event planned for the 12th October in New York, Sony Insider appear to have grabbed details of what to expect from Sony's partnership with the search giants.

They're expecting for models to be revealed, the NSX-24GT1, NSX-32GT1, NSX-40GT1 and NSX-46GT1 screens at 24, 32, 40 and 46 inches respectively. Prices will start at $1299.99 for the smallest screen and raise to $1899.99 for the 46 inch model.

Much like Logitech's Revue set-top box, priced at a reasonable $299.99, Sony Insider are reporting that Sony will have their own cheaper add-on to convert regular HDTVs into Google TVs. They're stating a model number of NSZ-GT1 for Sony's set top box, but are also listing that it may feature an eject button, suggestive of DVD or Blu-ray playback.

We'll be able to confirm or dismiss these rumours come that October 12th launch date, so check back to HDTV UK then.


TVonics are today launching their first Freeview HD recorder, the DTR-HD500.

With a 500GB hard-drive, the recorder squeezes in plenty of top-spec features at a reasonably affordable £279.99. These include:

Trailer bookings - record a programme during its trailer.
Recommendation - recommends programmes associated with pre-set recordings.
A twin tuner - to record two channels at the same time as watching a third.
Twin input HDMI ports - to plug in supporting HDMI devices.
Two USB ports - to plug in supporting USB devices.
1080p viewing quality
Accurate recording - automatically adjusts the recording time if a programme runs over.
Series record - record an entire series in one touch.
Parental control features - sort and hide channels and recordings.

The box also features a HDMI switch, meaning owners of port-strapped sets won't have to keep swapping leads around the back of their tellies.

A Dolby Surround Sound firmware update will also be available from the 20th October.

Grab the DTR-HD500 now from John Lewis, Comet, Sainsbury's, Tesco direct (online), Leekes, Audio T and Eurosat, as well as the TVonics online web store.

Axar.jpgProVision, who wowed the CES crowds earlier in the year with their wireless high-def streaming kit, have just lifted the covers off of their potentially game-changing AXAR2010 HD video system.

Though not yet available to buy, the AXAR2010 will allow four separate HD signals to be streamed to multiple sources around the home from a single box.

Using the 5GHz 802.11n wireless standard, four different 1080p HD streams (HD TV channels, Blu-ray, games consoles etc) can be sent to different TV sets around the house. Potentially, the technology could do away with the need for separate set-top boxes per room in a house.

"AXAR software technologies are sold under an IP licensing model and will be integrated into set top boxes, TVs, DVD players and media routers from major consumer electronics manufacturers and multinational OEMs", said Steve Cliffe, CEO of ProVision.

No word on a retail release yet, but ProVision are said to be in talks with distributers on both sides of the pond.

Apple TV 2 in the works?


appletv.jpgApple are rumoured to be re-launching their Apple TV service. Though just last month Steve Jobs shrugged off the platform as just a "hobby" at a D8 conference interview, sources have now revealed that a fully-fledged re-vamp of the hardware could be in the pipeline.

According to Apple sources quizzed by the NY Times' blog, there is a whole team working on re-vamping Apple TV. Graphics and user interface specialists are in place, as well as a hardware team tasked with producing a new bit of kit for the software to run on.

The iOS based re-launch would also be more app-centric than its predecessor, with the likes of Hulu and Netflix potentially coming built-in.

Though Jobs is certainly keeping his cards held closely to his chest with this one, it's hardly a far fetched proposal. With Google TV just around the corner and the likes of Samsung throwing themselves head-first into the trend for web-connected TVs, you can almost guarantee that some sort of plans for a re-vamped competing device are in place.

We'll keep a close eye on this as any further developments are revealed.

Preview: Sky Anytime+


Sky Anytime+.jpgSky's Anytime video on demand service is to get a massive overhaul later this year. Called Sky Anytime+, we got a sneak peak at at a preview event today which will allow Sky viewers almost instant access to over 500 movies and hundreds of hours of programming.

Piped into your existing Sky HD set-top box through an Ethernet connection, movies and shows will be offered up in standard definition as opposed to full HD, presented in a dedicated section of the Sky EPG. Programmes can be watched within a minute of selection n a 2MB broadband connection, taking around 20 minutes to download an average-length film.

Downloads can be queued, trailers can be watched and the whole system can be searched using a revamped interface tailored to hunting out specific VOD content. Content is subdivided by genre and channel, and can be searched using the alphabet characters on the Sky remote. Downloads can also continue while the box is on standby, using less power to grab shows and movies overnight.

Sky's Box Office service is now fully on-demand too. Purchase a flick and it becomes available within minutes, rather than having to wait for one of the scheduled slots to begin.

A background over-the-air update later this year will upgrade all existing Sky HD boxes with the software needed to run Anytime+, so you wont have to really do a thing to get going with the new service. You wont need to upgrade your Sky HD box in any way, as it already features an Ethernet port which can be used to download the films to your box. However, a Wi-Fi unit will be available for those who'd rather a fully wireless set-up, which looks something like a mini Sky box. Made by NetGear, you'll need a separate Wi-Fi box for each Sky HD box you want to connect to your router.

There is a catch however, and it's a rather big one. The service will only be available to those who also subscribe to Sky's own broadband package, or at least initially.

That means subscribing to Sky's £7.50 a month 20MB broadband tariff. The service comes with an unlimited download quota , which is handy as you'll burn through most limits within a few hours of using Sky Anytime+. Of course, the VOD content you can access is also limited to the Sky TV package that you've already purchased. Don't expect to be streaming movies if you cant already access the Sky Movie channels.

With the service going head-to-head with Virgin's own VOD service, you can understand Sky's reasoning for this closed approach to other ISPs. It's good to hear they are planning to roll it out to other ISPs in the future, but it would have been great to have this feature from the off.

Providing it eventually rolls out to all broadband providers this service could be very exciting indeed. More news on this as we get it.

Official: Google TV on its way


It's been rumoured for quite a while, but yesterday Google officially unveiled Google TV, bringing the Android OS and Google Chrome to HD TVs and set-top boxes.

The idea is to bring the best of the internet and Google's operating system to your living room, making it easier to combine web and traditional TV sources to find the shows you want to watch. You'll have access to a full unrestricted web browser with Google TV, as well as apps from the Google Chrome web store.

Google TV will be powered by an Intel Atom CE4100 "system-on-a-chip" processor, which Google claim will be able to produce home cinema style levels of performance. Sony have signed on to make the first batch of Google HD TVs, while Logitech are working on a companion box and universal remote to give existing TVs similar functionality.

Though there are now plenty of internet connected TVs and services, such as Samsung's Internet@TV and the Cello iViewer, few have been as ambitious as Google's plans to put the web and apps at the heart of your living room. With the platform set to be open source, it'd be unsurprising to see many TV manufacturers experiment with Google TV in the near future.

No word on pricing yet, but expect an early 2011 release date for the first batch of Google TVs. Steve Jobs must be looking at his Apple TV unit and sighing pretty heavily right now.

humax HDR-FOX T2 Freeview HD recorder.jpgHumax released their impressive HD-FOX T2 Freeview box back at the start of the year, but it's this, the Humax HDR-FOX T2 Freeview HD recorder, that we've been really looking forward to. Humax have now finalised the details of the recorder's release, so read on for the low-down on this impressive set-top box.

Due out in July, the Humax HDR-FOX T2 Freeview HD recorder can playback and record the free High Definition TV service offered by Freeview. It features a 500GB hard drive, storing 125 hours of HD video, and roughly double that for standard definition content.

The Humax HDR-FOX T2 Freeview HD recorder will also play back mp3s, photos and video from a USB port or across your home network via Ethernet.

Pick this one up for around £349 when it launches in July.

Sky World cup boxes.jpgWith preparations for the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa now getting into full swing, Sky have announced details of a limited edition range of Sky+HD boxes.

With specially decorated 1TB boxes from designer Wayne Hemmingway, illustrator Gerald Scarfe and Quadrophenia star Phil Daniels, footie mad tech fans can pick up the limited editions from 26th May, priced £249.

"To mark the World Cup being broadcast live and in high definition this year, Sky has joined forces with three famous faces to produce a limited edition collection of football themed Sky+HD 1TB boxes," Sky's press release reads.

"The exclusive designs are a must have for any football enthusiast looking to soak up every detail of World Cup drama," it adds.

Humax Freeview boxes to get Sky Player

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Humax Fox HD T2.jpg
Sky have announced a new deal this morning, bringing their on-demand Sky Player to Humax Freeview set-top boxes, expanding the number of Sky viewers by thousands.

The deal comes hot on the heels of similar ones made with 3View and TV manufacturers Cello, as well as Microsoft and the Xbox 360. However, the new partnership with the popular Humax brand is a significant move for Sky, as Humax themselves are key players in the now-lucrative Freeview market.

"Until recently, Sky Player has largely been confined to the PC screen but that is changing fast. Since last autumn, it has been available on the Xbox and this year it will roll out to more broadband-enabled devices through deals with the likes of Fetch TV, 3 View and Cello," said Sky's chief executive Jeremy Darroch.

"Just today, we're announcing a further expansion of Sky Player through a new agreement with Humax, the leading provider of Freeview boxes. And there are more deals in the pipeline."

Speaking in Cannes, much of Darroch's speech focussed on Sky's fight with Ofcom over the price of its premium sports content. The expansion of the Sky Player and the increasing move away from satellite based services seems to show that quality content is the most high on Sky's agenda.

"In providing both new and existing customers with more choice and control over how they access Sky content, we continue to harness secure and high-quality distribution platforms like Humax," said Griff Parry, Sky's Director of On-Demand.

"We know that many Sky homes also have Freeview in other rooms, and this provides a great way for them to enjoy Sky away from their Sky box. And for new customers, particularly those in Freeview homes, it provides an innovative new access point to Sky's high-quality pay TV content."

Humax's Graham North added:"The addition of Sky Player on our Freeview HD boxes ensures Humax is positioned to offer consumers an exciting way to experience digital TV, with great content and a range of home networking and content sharing features."

Sky's online TV service will launch across Humax's new range of IP-enabled high definition Freeview boxes, including the Humax HD-FOX T2.

PVR 3_4G - Small.jpg
Philips have timed the launch of their new HDT8520 HD PVR and DTR5520 HD receiver set-top boxes to perfection. Packing in Freeview+ HD receivers as the high-def channel list continues to grow and just in time for the World Cup, these sleek-looking new items from Philips could be sitting pretty underneath your HD TV this Spring. Here are HDTVUK's first impressions after our quick hands-on session.

First up is the HDT8520 HD PVR. Broadcasting and recording Freeview HD channels, it's 500GB HDD can store 125 hours of high-def content or 125 hours of standard definition broadcasts. There's an upscaler inside that will boost standard definition content up to 1080p, while the broadcast resolution itself ranges from 720p to 1080i.

The 8 day EPG was very easy to navigate, with a dedicated back button to jump straight back to the previous channel watched. Most impressive was the recording library, where a picture-in-picture preview of your stored shows was shown. Recordings are automatically protected, making the dreaded accidental wiping of a series finale a thing of the past. Dual receivers also mean that one channel can be watched whilst another is recorded, and there is a series record function too. The box features one-touch recording in increments of ten minutes, with a 3 hour time shift buffer and playback speeds ranging from x1/4 slo-mo to x128 super-fast-forward.

Next up was the DTR5520 HD receiver set-top box. Again receiving Freeview and Freeview HD channels, it features the same EPG, upscaling tech and HD resolutions as the PVR, minus the recording functionality. As a result, the set-top box is a shade slimmer (290x37x160mm), and consumes less than <6W of power on average. Both boxes also feature a USB port for photos and MP3's (sadly no video playback) and an Ethernet port for any future software updates.

It was an impressive showcase. Both the Pace-built boxes were very responsive, with little lag between inputs and the commands shown onscreen. Philips proprietary EPG styling is simple to use, and the low carbon footprint across both models was again impressive.

The HDT8520 HD PVR will be available in May, priced £299, with the DTR5520 HD receiver due a little earlier in mid-April, priced £159.

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Sagemcom have unveiled their first set of Freeview HD TV recorders for the UK, the RTI90-320 T2 HD and the RTI90-500 T2 HD.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that Sagemcom were once the communications arm of tech manufacturers Sagem. Sagemcom are now a manufacturer in their own right, and these two brand new DTRs represent their first step out into the big wide world of consumer tech.

Both models have basically the same set of specs, barring the amount of storage available on each. The RTI90-500 T2 HD features 500GB of recording space, while the RTI90-320 T2 HD has 320GB. 500GB equals roughly 250 hours of SD video or 125 hours of HD, while the 320GB model can hold around 160 hours of SD video or 80 hours of HD.

Both are capable of recording and playing back the full range of Freeview + channels, including the growing number of HD channels the service provides free of charge. As both are packing in dual twin tuners, you're able to watch one channel and record another at the same time.

There's an eight-day EPG at the heart of the UI, as well as one-touch recording, series recording and one-touch access to your library of saved shows. Looking t the future, there's also an Ethernet port for a potential roll out of interactive services.

The the RTI90-320 T2 HD will be available at the end of April, whilst the RTI90-500 T2 HD will hit stores at the end of May. No pricing available yet.

Film4 HD headed to Virgin Media boxes

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Virgin Media have secured the rights to broadcast the new Film4 HD channel, as well as E4 HD.

It's a big coup for Virgin Media subscribers, as Film4 HD offers one of probably the best catalogues of films outside of Sky Movies and Sky Movies Premier.

"Channel 4 has a great track record in delivering innovative and compelling content and we're delighted to bring some of their very best films and most popular programmes to our customers in stunning HD", said Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media.

"As more and more households become HD-ready, we're lining up content that makes the most of High Definition and are making HD available to all our of customers for no extra fee."

As well as Film4 HD and E4 HD, Virgin Media's HD line up also includes BBC HD, C4HD, ESPN HD, FX HD, MTVN HD, National Geographic HD, LIVING HD and Eurosport HD, with Discovery HD also on its way.

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