View 21 Freeview+HD Smart Digital TV Recorder
Your TV is stale. It’s time that dumb black box skulking in the corner of the lounge got an upgrade. That’s what the View 21 Freeview+HD Smart Digital TV Recorder promises: HD recording, on-demand TV from the BBC, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube integration and live or recorded TV streaming to an iPhone or iPad.
It’s a tasty little menu of televisual delights, and while you might not recognise the View 21 brand, it's from the same stable as established tech firms Goodmans and iLuv, backed by some innovative technology and some clearly talented tech-heads.
That high tech heritage shines through. The View 21 Freeview+HD Smart Digital TV Recorder box is simple to set up, with menus that’re fuss-free and friendly despite the advanced software and circuitry behind them. The on-screen EPG is slick and fairly responsive, and those web-connected apps are accessible from any screen, giving you a constant reminder that this is more than a TV recorder.
Once connected, it accesses BBC iPlayer in eye-popping HD quality, and Twitter feeds updated swiftly. The Twitter interface gives easy access to trending topics and searches, so you can follow web commentary along with your weekly X Factor fix, a feature that's actually as useful as it is novel.
Switching back to broadcast TV, the View 21 box lets you record shows with series link and successfully detects if there’s a HD version available on another channel. Fire up an iPad or an iPhone, with View 21’s free apps installed, and you can even watch live TV channels or recordings over your home Wi-Fi network too. Handy for watching your more niche telly choices while the rest of the household are huddled around watching something else, but do beware HD recordings can’t be streamed to the iPad.
Despite that minor limitation, View 21‘s apps are slick, stable and very fast, with only slight buffering delays while streaming video. What’s more, you can use them to show off your iPhone or iPad photos on the big screen. The EPG can also be browsed on an iPad, and recordings set on the View 21 box remotely. This could be View 21’s secret weapon. It’s a fantastic addition, and a great experience. You’ll soon find yourself reaching for the iPad rather than the TV remote to browse listings, change channels and even tweak volume.
It’s a shame the View 21 Freeview+HD Smart Digital TV Recorder doesn’t have Wi-Fi built in, and you’ll need to think carefully about how to hook it up as a result. A separate wireless adapter is available at additional cost, but we reviewed the unit with an ethernet connection and a powerline adapter which worked just fine.
We should also point out that there’s far more to the web, and even more to connected TV, than Twitter, iPlayer, YouTube and a handful of Flickr photos. The View 21 doesn’t yet offer any more apps, so if you’re looking for the likes of LoveFilm or Netflix, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re one of the dwindling numbers still sharing photos via Flickr instead of Facebook, maybe you won’t mind. But for the rest of us, there’re only a couple of apps here worth using on a regular basis.
Lastly, we experienced a few hiccups with recording during our tests, with HD content (strangely, only from the BBC) occasionally stuttering on playback.