The ridiculously named VW11FVRHD50 is a Freeview+ HD PVR from View21. The brand may not be too familiar, but it’s part of Harvard International, a company better known for the iLuv and Goodmans ranges.

This deck offers compelling functionality. In addition to the usual Freeview+ HD feature-set, there’s BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter onboard - and it literally comes with a killer app...

Stablemate design

View21's digital recorder shares the design lines of its sibling VW11FVSZU Freeview set-top box, with a distinctive lipped roof. The unit communicates via red, white and blue lights on its front fascia and in use proves to be whisper quiet. Connectivity is good, comprising a Scart loop-through, single HDMI and digital optical audio out. There’s also Ethernet and a USB port, although this isn’t yet functional. There’s no integrated Wi-Fi onboard. The 500GB hard drive provides enough room for 312 hours of SD TV, or 125 hours of hi-def.

Setup is fast and painless. You can opt for Easy or Advanced options. The former skips ‘complicated’ questions about resolution and aspect ratio, but either way technophobes will have nothing to fear. The deck’s hi-res user interface immediately impresses.

The TV EPG is a standard Freeview offering with a live window. There are HD recording prompts as well as Series Linking options. The View21’s twin tuners allow two different channels to be recorded simultaneously, with playback available on progressing recordings. There’s a standard Live Pause feature, with adjustable cache variable between 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes.

Both the BBC iPlayer iteration and YouTube implementations are well executed, the latter enjoying a completely bespoke design. The deck’s social media clients are less compelling. You can follow Twitter posts, and search for hashtags or topics, but you can’t post – you're left looking in from outside. A minimum speed of 2Mbps is recommended for stutter free ‘net streaming.

Recorded image quality on the View21 is high; HD images offer plenty of fine detail, while upscaled SD is free from deinterlacing artefacts. Audio performance is merely functional. The digital audio output can’t be used for surround sound; the View21 doesn’t deliver multichannel PCM over HDMI either.

Where this recorder really comes into its own is integration with iOS apps. There are two, View21 Photo and View21 Play, available for iPhone and iPad. The former can be used to throw digital still images from mobile device to screen; it works well enough and is a good way to quickly share pictures.

The latter is more transformational. It serves as both an 8-day TV guide and as a live TV display. You can programme recordings or reminders via the app, or view the output of one of the deck’s two tuners. Even better, you can stream recordings direct from the STB’s hard drive library. There is a catch though; the app doesn’t support HD recordings. If you understandably timeshift hi-def shows, you’ll not be able to view them on the second screen.

When it comes to usability, the View21 PVR shines. We used the iPad version of the View21 Play app and were hugely enamoured with its slickness. While other brands seem happy to tout apps as glorified remotes, View21 has taken the concept to another level. Couple this with the fact that the box is the cheapest in our group, at just £220, and you have a very tempting package indeed. View21 is a name to  keep an eye on.


HCC VERDICT

View21 VW11FVRHD50
Price:
£220 Approx
www.view21.com

Highs: Whisper quiet in use; superb hi-res user interface; excellent app integration

Lows: Unconventional design; half-baked Twitter app; limited catch-up; no surround sound output

Performance: 3.5/5
Design: 3.5/5
Features: 4/5
Overall: 4/5