Key to summary test reports
Ease of use score. A score which combines the overall ease of use rating and overall convenient features score – both explained below. It is a weighted score on the basis that ease of doing things is more important than the helpful features that each product had.
Ease of use ratings
The star ratings are scores out of 5, where 5 is easy and 1 is awkward to use. The ratings measure: isetting up; remote control; on-screen TV guide; advanced use and front panel -using the controls on the box itself if you have lost the remote. These and the overall ease of use rating were assessed by our experts – see test methods.
Features score. This score is calculated by adding up all those features that made the product versatile and convenient. They include things like a remote control that also operates your TV, direct access buttons for important features and favourite channels. A total of over 50 items were included, with some given higher importance than others.
Price. Typical selling price according to the manufacturer when we bought the product, or otherwise the price we paid for it. Once every six weeks we check on line for widely available high street and internet prices for all the current products on the site, and update to the cheapest of these.
Digital tick. A box can carry this logo if it has been tested to carry on working through and after digital switchover. Currently it does not guarantee the box can take on new features that are being introduced – see updates in the more information summaries for manufacturer assurances on this.
Verdict. Our view of the pros and cons of each product.
Tuner. A digital TV recorder with two tuners lets you record one digital channel while watching another and usually allows you to record two programmes simultaneously. Worth having.
High Definition (HD) TV. This means the recorder can receive high definition broadcasts which offers higher quality, more realistic pictures - see HDTV.
On-screen TV guide. An electronic/interactive listing of channels and programme times, often refered to as EPG.
Favourite channel groups. Shortlist the channels you watch regularly. With some boxes, different members of the household can set up their own favourites. We check if favourites work from both the TV guide and the basic channel listing.
Now and Next. See the title of the current programme and what programme is coming up next. With most boxes you can also scroll through these N&N titles for all channels – all while keeping up with the programme on the screen.
Programme information. Most digital remotes have an ‘i button’. Press this for a brief synopsis of each programme. With most boxes this can be done for the current programme, for the N&N screens or, if you are really planning ahead, for the TV guide.
Digital TV recorder features
Disc size. The capacity of the computer-style hard disc that stores your recordings. As a rule of thumb 250GB (Giga-Bytes) stores about 125 hours of standard definitionrecording, 1TB (Terra-Byte) about 500 hours of standard definition or 230 hours of HD.
Freeview+or Freesat +
This is a Freeview standard for digital TV recorders with extra recording features - see Freeview+ for more information.
Recording. The various recording and viewing options available for making TV and radio recordings. This shows that twin tuners are more versatile than single tuners and Freeview+ recorders have even more features.
Pause live TV. Watching TV when the phone rings? Press a button on the remote and the digital TV recorder starts storing the programme on to its hard disc. When you get back, press ‘play’ and carry on watching from where you were interrupted. You can also fast forward through the programme to catch up if you want to. Some people use this system to skip the ads.
Performance. The result of basic technical tests covering picture quality and how well the terrestrial boxes performed in weaker signal conditions.
Viewing and listening. Sessions to make sure there were no problems with picture and sound quality and synchronisation.
Power consumption - in standby and in use. The lower the better – for the environment and your pocket.
Audio description When available this feature can decode
extra spoken descriptions of what is happening on the screen – when
these are broadcast. It is intended for people with visual impairment. See
[in our existing general report] for how to get it on the different platforms.
SCART socket. Convenient way to connect most older, standard definition devices together. The SCART connection gives stereo sound, the best picture quality and automatic switching functions. Two SCART sockets can be useful, but not necessarily essential, for connecting to both a TV and a recorder. See connecting up to record.
HDMI. This is the connection required for connecting external High Definition set top boxes to an HD-TV(or HD Ready TV). It gives HD picture quality, stereo or surround sound from HD broadcasts and should also give automatic switching functions with compatible equipment.
Modulator. This is necessary for
connecting the box to a TV that does not have any external input connection.
Not many new set top boxes have this facility because this type of TV is
no longer common. However, if you need this facility it is possible to buy
a separate modulator from some electronics stores. See Connection
wizard for how to set up the kit. It sends the TV signal to the TV through
its aerial socket.
Slot for pay TV. This is required for accessing some pay TV services such as TopUp TV or ESPN. Most recoredrs do not have this facility, a few have a wide slot to allow you to install a pay TV card reader modul and a few have the card slot module already built in.
Internet Services. The TV can be connected to a broadband Internet connection and access a variety of services. The actual services varies slightly with different brands but most give access to services such as YouTube, BBC iPlayer, music, movie and photo web sites plus 'apps' including games and information. The system requires that your home has a local area network (LAN) connection to the internet. The TV may have a wired (ethernet) connection or wireless (Wi-Fi) connection (or both).