THE THOMSON brand name has been absent from the shelves of UK electronics retailers for a number of years but has now been resurrected by Strong, formerly best known to readers as a manufacturer of satellite receivers.
This budget-priced Freeview PVR (a £25 zapper box, the THT10S, is also available) caters for standard- definition reception only, which makes it perhaps best suited as a digital upgrade for smaller second room TVs.
A 320GB hard disc should accommodate at least 160 hours of recordings and twin tuners allow for dual recording.
The casing is smart looking for a budget box – mainly black with silver trimmings and incorporating a nice four-digit LED display that shows the channel number and box status (e.g. REC if you’re recording). The rear houses a UHF loopthrough (but no modulated output) and twin Scarts (usefully for archiving to VHS or DVD, both support composite as well as RGB output). There are no separate audio outputs. A low power mode switches off the hard drive with little discernible effect on boot-up time.
The remote also has a fairly decent build quality and button layout with coloured buttons acting as shortcuts. The record button, which sits among the PVR controls, could be better highlighted.
It’s a little low-res but the use of white text in red-and-black menus means the user interface is in keeping with Freeview’s own branding. You can view either TV or radio channels from a main list and channels can be locked, skipped, deleted or renamed and a single favourites list created.
A compact three-quarter screen EPG displays seven days for five channels at a time with the ability to call up synopses.
The programme information bar can be expanded to display synopses, but browsing is limited to now-and-next data for the current channel only. Recordings can be scheduled via the EPG (with series linking) or the programme information bar.
You can play back a recording while recording two channels or record two and watch a third live channel if it occupies the same multiplex as one of the others.
Recordings are accessed in the Library (oddly only accessible via the EPG rather than directly), which also shows those you’ve scheduled. You can start playing a recording while still in progress, fast-forward and rewind at 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x or 32x normal speed or jog forward in slow motion after pressing pause.
Timeshifting is supported – including while recording another channel at the same time.
There’s no editing facility, however, and (as there’s no means of connecting external storage) recording exporting or multimedia playback.
While localised signal strength and quality was in the high 80s for most channels during testing, pictures from the tuners look decidedly average with a mildly pixellated and washed-out look on our large-screen Philips TV. This was less pronounced on smaller screens, however, to where the box is perhaps best suited ■ Grant Rennell
Though it’s too much to expect HD reception at this price, this recorder has enough on offer in terms of build quality and functionality to make it worth considering as a digital recording upgrade for smaller screens or second-room TVs.
■ Good price
■ Large hard disc
■ Record two and watch a third live channel (provisional)
■ No HD reception
■ Average picture performance
■ Few extras
What Satellite & Digital TV rating
Hard disc size: 320GB
Freeview+ HD: No
CI slot: No
EPG days: 8
BBC iPlayer: No
USB media playback: No
Media streaming: No
SD out: 2x Scart (RGB composite)
HD out: No
Audio out: Via Scart only
Peter Capaldi is the new Doctor Who
An interview with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns
plus World TV highlights, Buyer's Guide, opinions, letters and comprehensive channel check
ON SALE: Now
Missing a copy from your What Satellite & Digital TV collection? Good news! You can now buy back issues to fill up those gaps. Click HERE for more information.