A tiny, but very significant contribution to the exploding Freeview HD market comes from TechniSat in the form of its diminutive HDFV. It’s highly unusual since whether it’s a simple receiver or a recorder is largely down to how you use it.
At its core the HDFV tunes into the likes of BBC HD and ITV HD - alongside all the other digital TV channels on Freeview - and pumps top quality TV into an HD Ready TV. It’s actually capable of 1080p video, though no HD channel is currently broadcast in such quality. Still, this box is at its best when outputting 1080p rather than in 720p or 1080i standards.
That’s when its picture quality and onscreen menu graphics are at their sharpest, and best. The EPG and user interface are generally impressive, though the former should really float over what’s currently playing on live TV. It’s also saddled with a font that jars with an otherwise stylish, speedy and simple system.
Slightly more confusing is what the HDFV offers aside from HD channels. To make the most of the HDFV we recommend you use the rear’s USB port for an external hard drive - that way bringing live TV pausing, rewinding and recording to the party.
If you fancy making recordings there’s a "DVR-suitability test" for any USB stick or drive, which in our test took around a minute.
Once a recording has been made, it’s saved as a TS file, a type of MPEG-2 file that can be played on a PC or Mac using VLC software, among others. In our tests a FAT-32 hard drive had to be formatted before it could take recordings, despite the HDFV passing it for suitability.
Impressive stuff, though don’t make the mistake of comparing this to a £250+ dedicated Freeview+HD box – the HDFV is without one-button programme or series recordings, and with just one tuner you’ll have to watch whatever channel you choose to record (though you can record while watching a previously made recording).
Attaching an external hard drive or USB pen drive is probably the best use of this box’s single USB slot, even if it’s solely for pausing and rewinding live TV. You can play digital media files from a USB thumb drive, though only the basic - JPEG, MP3 and MPEG - files are dealt with. Considering the popularity of MP4, AVI, WMV, DivX and even DivX HD files, that’s rather disappointing.
The other - and, we have to say, conflicting - use for that lonely USB slot is for wireless networking. The file compatibility stays the same, so don’t get too excited, but the HDFV can wirelessly (using a TechniSat WLAN adaptor, sold separately) bring files to a TV that are stored on a PC on the same wireless network. It’s easy to set-up, but it henceforth occupies the USB slot on the rear, making it impossible to stream from a PC and play files from a USB stick/make recordings in the same session. The simple solution, of course, would be to fit the HDFV’s front panel - which merely houses an abandoned foldout slot that is presumably used for viewing cards on a sister model - with a further USB slot.
If you do need to connect to a PC - and considering the HDFV’s rather "light" features in this department, it’s probably not worth bothering with - it’s best to a use a wired connection to a broadband router; in doing so you’ll free-up that USB slot for pausing and recording duties.
As well as presenting a list of recordings, the HDFV’s Nav menu has options for deleting, organising and editing recordings. The latter is impressive; you choose exactly where the start and end points are as the recording plays in a quarter-size window. Once done, the recording can be renamed, bookmarked, or scaled-up.
With a posher look than most Freeview HD receivers, TechniSat’s HDFV packs just enough punch to push it above the competition - and at enticing pricing.