It doesn’t take a genius to understand the appeal of Echostar’s HDT-610R Freeview+ HD receiver. Hailed as the slimmest digital TV recorder in the world, it looks more like a tablet computer than a PVR. Astonishingly thin at just 14mm, it barely provides enough space for traditional rear-panel connections. But this really is a grown-up PVR, with a 500GB laptop drive squished beneath the hood (enough for around 300 hours of standard-def telly and 125 hours of HD).

In use, the HDT-610R proves virtually silent. The aluminium chassis is a fanless design and runs as cool as a cucumber. By way of proof, the box has no ventilation slots. This really is a lovely piece of engineering.

Rather less impressive is the plasticky remote control, which is inconveniently powered by two CR2032 batteries instead of AAAs. This is a clicker in every sense of the word, with buttons that are decidedly rickety to use - disappointing given how polished the main unit is.

Squeezed onto that pancaked rear panel is an HDMI output, optical digital audio output (via adaptor, supplied), two USBs, Ethernet and an IR blaster port. The USB ports are for software updates only, but we’re told that DLNA media playback functionality is on the roadmap. There is no integrated Wi-Fi.

In addition to Freeview HD, streaming internet TV services are also meant to be part of the package. However during our audition they had still to make a convincing appearance on the platform, despite being promised earlier in the year. There’s an Apps area in the menu, which can be accessed via the vertical control bar, but it remains vacant. BBC iPlayer is onboard, but it can only be summoned via the Red Button when you’re tuned to BBC1 or BBC2. Frankly, this kind of access feels a little retro in comparison with its rivals.

Hopefully at some point a firmware update should bequeath video-on-demand from BoxOffice365, and possibly others at some point in the future – just don’t hold your breath. It’s worth noting that the HDT-610R doesn't support Freeview’s IPTV services (including Connect and Vision) which can be found lurking at the back of the Freeview listings.

General usability is good. The deck comes with all the familiar Freeview+HD recording refinements, helpfully offering series linking and prompting HD recordings when an SD show is selected for timeshifting. The straight-talking display is sharp and easy to navigate.

Picture quality is extremely good, with recorded hi-def shows appearing particularly textured and detailed. As with other PVRs in our grouptest, upscaling to 1080p is benign. Two different channels can be recorded simultaneously, and the deck supports chasing playback if you just want to view a programme on time delay.

Significantly for readers of HCC, this deck is also able to deliver multichannel sound over HDMI and optical digital. This talent can’t be taken for granted, owing to the generally incompatible (with AV receivers) DVB-T audio standard adopted in the UK.

A little treat

While it has yet to fully deliver on its promise, there’s no doubt that the Echostar HDT-610R is a treat to own. The user interface is clean (if a little wordy) and its ultra-slim fanless nature means that it can be easily accommodated within fully-populated equipment racks. Even those who already have plenty of source components will find it able to slip into a previously unusable gap. Equally, if you’re trying to keep things simple and are just looking for a minimalist recorder, it’ll also do the job.


HCC VERDICT

Echostar HDT-610R
Price:
£260 Approx
www.myechostar.com

Highs: Astonishingly slim design; near silent in use; surround sound capable over HDMI/optical

Lows: No integrated Wi-Fi; poor remote; no apps; BBC iPlayer only accessible via the Red Button

Performance: 4/5
Design: 5/5
Features: 3/5
Overall: 4/5