Thomson DHD4000 Freeview Decoder review

4 out of 5
£200

For

Sleek, records to hard drive, 40GB of space (20 hours)

Against

Noisy, even in standby mode. Dazzling recording lights

Contrary to the spin on the web, this long expected Freeview receiver is indeed the twin tuner version that was expected. Despite some last minute rumour-mongering, the twin tuner hard drive Freeview box from Thomson is everything you've been hoping for.

If you enjoyed the Ondigital service a few years back, the first thing you'll notice when watching Freeview, regardless of your set top box, is the lack of uniformity with the on screen display (OSD). The DTV service is broadcast on behalf of three shareholders-BBC, Crown Castle International and BSkyB. While the main players On Digital tailored their boxes to display branded content (Pace, Philips, Nokia), the open market allows manufacturers to design their own OSDs and most importantly, choose the guide content.

There's good news here on both counts. Providing you can receive channels clustered on MUX D (remember the channels are grouped around regions, or MUX) where you'll find the free to view music channels, you'll also be able to access a full 7-day listings guide from 4TVinteractive. This features a picture in text view, text overlay and all the search options you'd expect from digital TV services.

Thanks to Tivo-style technology, the DHD4000 will pause live TV and record and play back up to 20 hours of footage. This is stored on a 40Gb hard drive. Unfortunately, it's not possible to start watching a recording until the recording is complete unlike the Sky+ box. The recording mechanism is easy to grasp. Scheduled and saved recordings are identified from thumbnails. Playback creates a rather garish lighting display from the box. This is snazzy, but a little sickmaking when combined with the whir of the hard drive. If you are a fan of all things glitzy, you'll probably see this as a bonus. It's very Blade Runner, but without the malfunctions.

This is more like a PC than your average receiver and as such, very noisy, even in standby and you may find the whirring a little off putting.

Button wise, the on set rubber keys are small but easy to use and the remote control's fairly well laid out. Round the back there are Twin SCART sockets, video and stereo sound phono outputs and an S-video output and you get the MHEG digital Teletext service too.

Verdict

Better than the DigiFusion we reviewed last month, in that this boasts a fully fledged hard drive. The sound of the hard drive can be a little off putting, as can the flashing lights, but don't let that put you off. With 20 hours of space, the hard drive puts an end to the irksome video or expensive DVD recording process. Our testing worked well- perfect for recording music videos from the TV as the recording is one touch and very simple to start. One slight problem is that you can't start watching a recording until the recording has ceased- perhaps the only difference between this and a Sky Plus/ Tivo box in terms of recording ability. All in all though, a one off payment will buy you this great piece of kit.

This product was kindly loaned to us by www.unbeatable.co.uk