View21 Freeview+ HD recorder pictures and hands-on

When Pocket-lint's demonstration of the View21 PVR started we were worried that it was going to be exactly the same as a stack of other similar HDD and twin tuner loaded set-top-boxes.

Its channel line-up is restricted to Freeview HD, and its internet application and on-demand offerings are standard fare; BBC iPlayer is currently undergoing the certification process and the View21 team couldn't say any more about it, but YouTube, Flickr and Twitter are already up and running. And its pause, fast forward and rewind live TV functionality is par for the course these days.

Yes, the box itself is smart looking and a bit different, and we're impressed by the graphical user interface and the ease of which it is able to find content, but there's little more to entice newcomers to this specific free-to-air device than many others out there - from more well-known brands to boot.

However, that was until the supporting iPad and iPhone applications were rolled out. They are View 21's secret weapons, and they're weapons of mass distraction.

The View21 Freeview+ HD Recorder may be a capable PVR, with a 500GB hard drive, 1080p video output and Dolby Digital certification, including 5.1 audio on programming that provides it, but it'll be the View21 Play and View21 Photo apps for iOS that set it apart from the crowd.

View21 Play is the most expansive of the two. It provides an 8-day EPG, which can be jumped through using daily tags, and can therefore act as a remote control for your View21, as long as both devices are hooked up to the same home network. Plus, you can set shows to record through the application (on iPad or iPhone).

However, these aren't even the app's most impressive features. After all, other companies have apps, either first or third party, that can control their set-top-boxes remotely.

What they can't do, though, is allow you to watch content either recorded on their hard drives or streamed live on an iOS device. View21's can. Neat, huh?

There are limitations. Watching live TV on your iPad or iPhone means that you need to utilise one of the two DVB-T2 tuners, so you won't be able to watch another channel on your main screen and record at the same time - one of those two. But you can watch a recording from the HDD on your second screen, while watching a different channel on the television and recording a separate show. In practice, it's even more spectacular than it sounds.

What's also cool is that View21 Play can be set to control a number of different View21 HD recorders, so you can have them scattered all over the house and need only the one iPad, for example, to command them all. We were even told that there is no limit as to how many boxes the app will pair with, so a normal household will be well covered.

View21 Photo is more simple; it can transmit any pictures you have in your iOS device's photo albums to the View21 Freeview+ HD Recorder and therefore up on to the big screen, wirelessly. It's an ideal way of showing off your holiday snaps, without having to upload them to Flickr first.

On launch, both of the apps will solely be available for Apple devices, but View21 does assure us that it is looking into creating versions for other smartphones and tablets, including Android.

The box is expected to hit shops around the end of August/beginning of September. Although we weren't told a final price, some retailers online are listing it as coming for around £250.

What do you think? Would you consider the View21 box for its second screen features? Let us know in the comments below...