The Sony SVR-HD900 is an easy to use and feature filled hard disk recorder for both standard definition and high definition TV (HDTV). Sporting two high definition digital tuners and 250GB of storage capacity, the SVR-HD900's only real let down is a slightly higher than normal price tag.
- Easy to use, dual HDTV tuners, plenty of storage space
The Sony SVR-HD900 is an easy to use and feature filled hard disk recorder with 250GB of space for both standard definition and high definition TV.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
Hard disk recorders are all the rage these days, and far outstrip video and DVD recorders for taping and playing back your favourite TV shows. In the case of the SVR-HD900, there's a 250GB hard disk waiting to be filled. That's some 69 hours of SDTV or 36 hours of HDTV. If you think this is too much, the slightly cheaper SVR-HD700 comes with 160GB and is capable of storing 44 hours of SDTV and 23 hours of HDTV. Aside from storage capacity, the SVR-HD700 and SVR-HD900 are identical.
The SVR-HD900 sports two HDTV tuners, making it possible to record one channel while watching another, watch two channels at once (with one in Picture-in-Picture mode), or even record two channels at the same time. HDTV tuners also pick up standard definition channels, so the SVR-HD900 can pick up every free to air channel in Australia.
The unit can also be used to 'timeshift', or pause live TV - in this mode the current channel simply starts recording the moment you press pause, allowing you to then pickup your viewing and watch the (now recorded) channel on demand. It's a clever a use of the technology, and a welcome addition to the feature set.
Naturally, you can schedule programs to be recorded in advance, and thanks to EPGs (Electronic Program Guides) doing so is as easy as navigating the SVR-HD900's simple menu interface.
On that note the remote is a pleasure to use, with large, clearly defined buttons for accessing the TV guide and your list of recorded programs. Oddly, the button for bringing up the list of tuned TV stations is small and hidden underneath the larger buttons for the above features, but apart from that the controls and interface thoroughly impressed us.
Recording and playback
In our tests the in-built tuners had no problem picking up all the free to air SDTV and HDTV channels. The quality of reception was excellent, and choosing a channel to record is a one-touch affair.
The live TV pause works as promised, though the first time you use it there's a short pause which interrupts your viewing. Thereafter, subsequent pauses are seamless (because now, of course, you're pausing playback from the disk).
An 'info' button on the remote will tell you the format of the signal you are receiving -- if it's 570p or 1080i for example, but strangely this information isn't available for recorded TV programs playing back from the hard disk. In truth, the SVR-HD stores recorded TV in ML@ML and ML@HL (Main Profile at Main and High levels respectively), which is a crazy way of saying 'raw' TV for the standard definition and HDTV formats. The quality of recorded video was fairly impressive, with very few aberrations or compression errors.
Once recorded, it's easy to fast-forward back and forth through a program, which makes this unit great for skipping ads. As an optional extra, parental locks can be applied as well, preventing some channels from being selected.
As you'd expect you can tailor the SVR-HD900 to your display, setting the image output to 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios as well as resolutions ranging from 576i/p to 1080i.
The only caveat to remember with your recorded programs is that they are, of course, all stored on the internal hard disk and can't easily be moved to another medium, such as a DVD-R. Once the space on the drive fills, you'll need to delete older programs to make room for the new.
Specs and ports
As an HDTV device the SVR-HD naturally supports 576i/p, 720p and 1080i formats for video recording and playback, as well as Dolby Digital and MPEG (Layer I & II) for audio. For connectivity there's one port each for HDMI, component, S-Video and composite in addition to one S/PDIF optical audio out and a stereo analogue connections.
The device itself has typical home theatre dimensions and a sleek silver fascia to fit in with your other gear, and the minimalist display can be dimmed. The front panel doubles as a hinged door to hide record, play, pause and navigation buttons for the system menus, should you need to get up close and personal.
Overall the SVR-HD900 is a simple, effective, digital tuner and PVR (personal video recorder) combined that makes it easy to save and watch SD or HD programs at your leisure. Our only complaint is the price, and this holds it back from a higher star rating.
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