Set-top boxes: The Group Test

Virgin's Tivo? Sky HD? Or maybe Humax's Freeview HD box. The choice is yours...

Image 1 of 5 Sky HD 1TB Box
Sky HD+ 1TB Box
Image 2 of 5 BT Vision
BT Vision+
Image 3 of 5 Humax HDR FOX T2
Humax HDR-FOX T2
Image 4 of 5 Panasonic DMR BS880E
Panasonic DMR-BS880E
Image 5 of 5 Virgin Media Tivo
Virgin Media Tivo

Whether streaming catch-up TV, downloading recent blockbusters or scouring the schedules for a classic episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Wire – or Snog Marry Avoid, if that’s more your thing – the amount and quality of classic content available to the discerning telly viewer has never been greater. With all telly services including a built-in PVR, you need never watch anything at time of broadcast again. Sky has long been the digital TV don, but Virgin Media and BT Vision are fighting back with new services and set-top boxes. If you’re averse to their costs, Freeview and Freesat offer HD content and an increasing range of catch-up TV for no monthly sub. The choice is wide and impressive. What’s yours to be?

Panasonic DMR-BS880E
£699 (£78 standard installation)
Type: Freesat, Blu-ray playback
Tuners: 2
Capacity: 500GB
HD/SD recording time: 76 hours (HD) 212 hours (SD)
Love: Good Blu-ray player/recorder attached to a decent PVR. Option to archive programmes to disc. Impressive build quality
Hate: Not much HD. Feels overpriced. Sluggish operation. Iffy EPG and remote
Panasonic DMR-BS880E review I Link: Panasonic

Humax HDR-FOX T2
£300
Type: Freeview HD
Tuners: 2
Capacity: 500GB
HD/SD recording time: 125 hours (HD) 300 hours (SD)
Love: Easy to use. Hassle-free setup. Impressive Smart TV Portal. No monthly subscription. One more HD channel than Freesat. Web widgets
Hate: Plasticky remote. No movies on demand – at least not yet…
Humax HDR-FOX T2 review I Link: Humax

Virgin Media Tivo
£199 (£40 Installation, XL Package £33.50 per month)
Type: Cable
Tuners: 3
Capacity: 1TB
HD/SD recording time: 150 hours (HD) 500 hours (SD)
Love: Wide range of on-demand content. Built-in modem. Redesigned EPG. Intelligent recommendations
Hate: Expensive, especially when including sport and movies from Sky
Virgin Media Tivo review I Link: Virgin Media

BT Vision+
£Free (£90 without broadband.) BT Vision Gold £12.50 per month + Broadband £30
Type: Freeview with IPTV
Tuners: 2
Capacity: 160GB
HD/SD recording time: TBC (HD) 80 hours (SD)
Love: Easy to use. A very decent amount of on-demand content
Hate: Very little in the way of HD, and HD movies are both expensive and have to be downloaded to hard drive before viewing. Small hard drive
BT Vision+ review I Link: BT

Sky HD+ 1TB Box
£From free (This box £249)
Type: Satellite
Tuners: 2
Capacity: 1TB + 500MB Anytime
HD/SD recording time: 240 hours (HD) 740 hours (SD)
Love: Excellent range of HD content. Fantastic 1TB box. User-friendly interface. Growing choice of 3D
Hate: Costs soon mount up. Slow downloading times on Anytime+
Sky HD+ 1TB Box review I Link: Sky