Price: £200 More info: Technika
Size (HxWx): 55x205x205mm
Key features: Freeview HD recorder with twin tuners, 320GB hard disk, Dolby Digital and DTS audio, BBC iPlayer and (optional) Sky Player
Connections: RF In/Out, 1xHDMI, 1x SP/DIF, 1x stereo audio, Ethernet
Technika SmartBox 8320HD
The manufacturer IP Vision sells a range of standard-definition Freeview recorders with its own FetchTV brand name, but it has given Tesco exclusive rights to sell this new Freeview HD model under its in-house 'Technika' label for six months. It's got a supermarket price tag too, at just £200, and while it may not be much to look at, the SmartBox is a more than competent Freeview HD recorder. It has twin tuners, a 320GB hard disk, a single HDMI port, digital audio output and an Ethernet connector for internet connectivity. It does make a light humming noise when it's running, but not so loud that it interferes with the sound from the TV.
As well as the competitive price, the SmartBox has a couple of other features that help it stand out from the crowd. It's got online access to the BBC iPlayer, and is also the only Freeview box that also provides an optional subscription to the Sky Player. The subscription fees vary depending on the package you choose, but there's no contract involved so you can just sign up for a month every now and then, which will be really handy for watching sports events and other programmes that are only available through Sky.
An affordable FreeviewHD recorder with both iPlayer and optional Sky Player.
Tedious online registration process, rather cheap build quality, the Sky Player costs extra.
Its sheer range of features means that Panasonic's DMR-BW780 is an almost unstoppable home-entertainment colossus. However, its £750 price tag is a bit over the top if all you want is a simple Freeview HD recorder.
At the other end of the spectrum is Sagemcom's RT190-320, which is nice and easy for newcomers to digital television. However, the RT190-320's sluggish response was irritating, and it's beaten on overall value for money by Technika SmartBox, which comes in at just £200 and manages to provide twin tuners, 320GB hard disk, access to the BBC iPlayer and even a pay-TV option that lets you dip into the Sky Player every now and then.
I bought the Panasonic DMR-XW380 which is very similar to the BW780 with the Bluray recorder replaced by a DVD recorder and at a much more reasonable price and I can't say I have missed the Bluray recorder. I'm very pleased with it so far although there is little to watch on the HD channels, much of that upscaled, particularly on C4HD. Also I don't understand why Panasonic are dragging their heels on Iplayer availability when some other devices now have it. The manual for this device (like others for Panasonic, Sony and Denon equipment, to name but three) is in such an awful pigeon-English that it takes quite some time to get everything set up properly.