Disclosure: This product was sent to us free of charge for the purpose of this review. However, as per my disclaimer, this review represents our honest opinion of the product.
Price: £239.99 RRP (currently available for less than £200)
Age Range: n/a
Manufacturer’s Description: Enjoy a variety of content with this Freeview Play compatible Recorder. 4K Video Playback lets you play 4K content via a USB connection. Internet apps, such as those, for NETFLIX and amazon instant video are also supported. And TV Anywhere lets you watch and record programmes both at home and while you’re away.
Review: We don’t pay for any live subscription TV services, instead preferring to stick with Freeview for our live TV. A HDD recorder is the perfect compromised between a paid service and a basic Freeview player. With this Panasonic box you are able to pause live TV, rewind, and record TV.
This Freeview Play box is great as there are no monthly charges, yet you have the flexibility of the boxes that come with those expensive services. You can access a large amount of content from the past 7 days right from the tv guide, as well as browsing each of the Catch Up services using their apps. At the moment the box supports BBC iPlayer, ITV on demand and All 4, with 5 on Demand promised to come soon via a software update.
Freeview Play includes around a dozen HD channels, as long as your TV supports it. Once nice thing about this is that if you are looking through the TV guide it flags up programmes on SD channels that are available to watch on HD instead. It even flags those that can be recorded in future in HD when on a different SD channel… we were watching a programme on E4 which doesn’t have a HD channel on Freeview, and it had the option to record it in HD later in the week on channel 4HD.
The box looks really smart and was very easy to set up. Included in the box with the unit are three cables (HDMI, power & an arial cable), an instruction manual, the remote control & batteries. You just hook it up to your TV via HDMI, plug in the power cable, and hook up the arial – one in from your antennae and one out to your TV. It walks you through the on screen setup step-by-step, which is easy to follow.
We’ve found that the software on the box can be a little bit little clunky at times, but I think this is just a case of getting used to it. It isn’t the easiest user interface in the world for a lot of the functions, it does seem to work well, with loads of features that we have found were missing from our previous PVR. Being able to specify start & end times for recordings is really useful, and being able to watch DLNA content from our network is a bonus – it even respects our playlist order too, which our TV does not.
TV Anywhere gives us the option to watch our recordings over the network on our mobile devices – I’ve installed it on my iPad and it works OK. Not all recordings are able to be played due to copyright restrictions, however.
The remote looks a bit complicated to begin with but we’ve got to grips with it quickly, and the dedicated TV buttons at the top to change input and turn the TV on & off are handy – especially in a house full of kids where the remote goes walkabout a lot! It has dedicated Freeview Play and Netflix buttons, which are really handy to go directly to all of your on demand content.
Our main negative aspect for the box is that a lot of functions are restricted if you are currently recording. This includes the basic settings menu, and also prevents you from watching content over your network while a recording is taking place, which is a bit irritating. I’m not entirely sure why this restriction is there; perhaps it is down to the processing power of the box.
Overall though, we have been very impressed by the box. The tv guide itself is easy to use once you get used to it, and it looks really smart on our shelf. The quality of the recordings and the functionality of the box is fantastic. 4 stars.