Sagemcom RTI90-320 review
Sagemcom, formerly Sagem, is the first company that's sent us a Freeview HD recorder. The RTI90-320 is only the third Freeview HD set-top box we've seen, following Humax and Goodmans' Freeview HD receivers.
For the extra money over the playback-only units you get a second Freeview HD tuner and a 320GB hard disk, a 2.5in Hitachi CinemaStar C5K500 which is almost silent. This provides up to 160 hours of recording time in standard definition, and around half this in HD. If you need more, there's also a 500GB model, the RTI90-500 for around £300.
As we've said before, a Freeview HD player is a rather short-sighted purchase as it's still expensive, but offers none of the benefits of a PVR. These include being able to pause live TV, rewind it, record two shows at once and, with almost all boxes these days, also watch a recorded programme while the two tuners are recording.
Sagemcom's box is much smaller than we'd expected, with a footprint little bigger than an A5 sheet of paper. The glossy black finish will require constant polishing to keep fingerprints and dust at bay, and the absence of any curves means it won't win any design awards. The compact dimensions mean there's limited space for a display and, while the blue-LED digits are easily readable, there are only four of them. This means the display is only really useful for showing the time and channel number.
The USB port on the front looks inviting, but is currently used only for updating firmware. The Ethernet port at the rear isn't used either - hopefully this will eventually be enabled via a firmware update to bring BBC iPlayer and other services. Similar updates could allow video, photo and music playback via USB, but no timescale has been given for any of this.
As it stands, the RTI90-320 differs from existing Freeview PVRs only in that it allows you to watch the three new HD channels from BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Thanks to the bundled HDMI cable, installation is a doddle and once you've run through the setup screens, searching for channels and setting your TV's resolution (up to 1080p), you're ready to go. Bear in mind that the power supply is external, so you'll need to find room behind your TV for yet another power brick.
The remote control has a clean layout that's easy to read and the navigation pad is surrounded by menu, media, back and exit buttons. The media button brings up a list of recordings so you don't need to trawl through menus. We particularly like that you can rename recordings, but the real gem is the ability to create folders and move recordings into them. This is ideal for keeping series together.
Hit the guide button and you get programme information for the next eight days. Although the EPG isn't cached in its entirety, there's still plenty of information visible when you resume from standby, so there's no waiting to see what's on immediately. Seven channels are visible at all times, but you can also choose how much information is shown - either one, two or four hours' worth.
As with all Freeview boxes, you get the option to record an entire series or just one show. A nice touch is that you're offered alternative showings of the same programme if both tuners are already recording other shows. As well as recording two channels at once, you can watch a recorded programme, and all three can be in HD - just as you'd expect.