Product Type: Amstrad set top boxes
Newest Review: ... the prompt and were able to start checking out our upgrade immediately. The Amstrad DRX890 comes with a 500GB internal hard drive which ... more
Is this the only HD recorder you'll ever need for your TV?
Amstrad DRX890 500 GB SKY HD BOX
Member Name: KennyG5000
Amstrad DRX890 500 GB SKY HD BOX
Advantages: Sleek and stylish, this box integrates perfectly with Sky and is really easy to use
Disadvantages: Half the Hard-drive is locked for Sky Anytime content, no digital display on front
The Sky HD+ box was really the deciding factor as to whether myself and my wife signed up for a 12 month contract with Sky or whether we'd just tough it out with plain old Freeview and a Hard-disc recorder. When we moved from our old cabled area to our new home last December it was with a heavy heart that we had to cancel our long running contract with Virgin Media and return the exceptionally useful V+ Box that we'd been so happy with (and paid £99 for to boot!). Thinking we could maybe tighten the purse strings, we flirted with the idea of settling for what was on offer on Freeview (with a simple recorder to do the whole 'catch up on live TV' gig). An order was promptly placed on line for a decently speced Hard-drive recorder with an inbuilt Freeview tuner and we thought we were set. Cue much misery at channels with poor reception (apparently a big problem with the strength of aerial signal needed for many of the recorders) and a uselessly installed aerial signal booster (which set us back a further £50!) and then eventually a returned recorder to Amazon after we could take it no more!
So enter stage left the trusty Amstrad Sky HD+ box with a 12 month subscription to Sky! Yes, this recorder at the time was the answer to our prayers; it obviously integrates perfectly with the Sky dish that was conveniently sat dormant on the side of our house (alas there was no cable where we'd moved to) and gave us back the many missing channels and HD content that were inaccessible through Freeview.
So what is the Sky HD+ box then? Well, it is a digital satellite receiver and Hard-disc recorder, coming with 500 Gbs of storage space packed in. That sounds like a lot of hard-drive space, but cheekily Sky have decided it is best for us consumers if they simply take matters into their own hands and record shows that they think we are going to watch later automatically. Yes, I'm talking about Sky Anytime, and you'll find half (yes, half!) the hard-drive space is locked from your own use for shows to be recorded and added to the Anytime choice. You are either going to love or hate this feature; personally I believe it takes away a fair bit of functionality from the box as I'd like to be able to choose how I fill the entire hard-drive with content, but you do occasionally find the odd show advertised on Anytime that you forgot to set a record for. Being in the fairly unique position of not long relinquishing my Virgin Media subscription, I can say hands down that Virgin have the beating of Sky when it comes to their 'TV Choice' and 'Catch up TV' services. This was an excellent service available free for anyone on their largest home package and basically meant you could browse through loads of content (things like complete DVD box sets and TV shows) and access them straight away (no long waits for downloads from the Sky server like on some Anytime shows) and the 'Catch Up TV' was just far more comprehensive than Anytime (in that you got access to 4 on demand, BBC iplayer, ITV Iplayer plus loads of other channels). Anytime rather shamelessly focuses on recording the content of 'Sky' channels only, so don't expect to catch up on anything you've missed on the terrestrial channels unfortunately.
So that's my little rant about Sky Anytime over, but like I say, depending on what's important to you, you may actually appreciate the service. So with this box you also get a very nice EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) from Sky. This is surely only rivalled by the one provided by Virgin Media, but it is leagues ahead of the many Freeview boxes EPGs I've used in the past. Everything is laid out clearly and accessibly and you can jump up to a week ahead to see what's coming on, and set your recordings accordingly. Also really useful is the 'record series' link (though inexplicably it doesn't always recognise all series) so you can just set it up once and forget about it. As well as the 'TV guide', there is access to 'Anytime', Interactive games and such and the 'Sky Store'. The 'Sky Store' is basically pay-for-play TV, featuring old and new films and some TV shows. Again I don't use this, but for convenience some people may appreciate this.
Overall, compared to most off the shelf HD recorders, the Sky HD+ box is a very classy piece of kit; Sky, being major players in the home TV market, have had plenty of time to refine and improve upon their system, and you are getting a recorder that is easy to use and pretty feature packed. A couple of downsides are, because it is Sky's box, they have locked it in the sense you cannot copy anything you have recorded to another hard-drive or DVD (not without some sort of modification to the original box anyway). Another point worth mentioning perhaps is that box features no digital readout on the front (unlike the V+ box) telling you the channel you are on and the time (although you do get a rather cool futuristic blue glowing circle on the front!). Also, if you try to move through the screens too quickly with your remote you sometimes find that the guide will freeze on you for a few seconds, which can get mildly irritating. But these are just very minor niggles; this box is extremely capable and you couldn't ask for a more trouble free TV recorder - Sky and Amstrad have definitely done their homework on this one.
Summary: This would surely be the best HD recorder on the market...if not for Virgin's excellent V+ Box
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