Sky has polished up its On Demand services and parked them in a set top with a humungous Sky+ HD 2TB drive. Welcome to TV nirvana…
The latest Sky+HD receiver (the Sky DRX95) is a seductive upgrade for subscribers forever wrestling with a fit-to-busting PVR. With room for 350 hours worth of hi-def, this box can cope with pretty much anything throw at it. Its closest competitors are the Virgin Media TiVo recorder and the Humax YouView set-top box.
Sky+HD 2TB box: Features
All glossy curves, this Sky/Amstrad-made receiver looks anything but drab. It measures a tidy 351 x 265 x 73mm (W/D/H) but boasts best-in-class recording capacity. In point of fact, only 1.5TB of its 2TB 7200RPM HDD is available for timeshifting; the remaining 500GB is partitioned off for Sky's growing On Demand offerings.
In addition to the usual digital recorder shenanigans, Sky recently added Undelete to the +box feature set, which conveniently lets you retrieve accidental deletions from the recycle bin.
Sky+HD 2TB box: Connectivity
In addition to HDMI there's two digital audio outputs (optical and coaxial), a Scart, dual F-connectors (for the two tuners), RF loopthrough, Ethernet, RJ45 telephone jack, RS232 control plus e-SATA and USB ports front and back. A pull-down flap on the fascia hides the Sky viewing card lot.
Sky+HD 2TB box: Content
Sky's headline attraction has long been its extensive HD coverage. With 65 channels and counting, the service remains our favourite port of call when it comes to high definition entertainment. The broadcaster has also made big strides integrating catch-up services.
Anytime has been rebranded On Demand, and now comprises both Push VoD, downloaded to the box overnight, and Pull downloads via broadband.
If you've somehow failed to record your favourite show, there's BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, Demand 5 ready to come to the rescue, with 4oD waiting in the wings. You can also peruse offerings from Sky One, Sky Atlantic, Sky Living, Sky Arts and Sky Sports. Want the earliest possible access to the latest movies? Sky has its own Pay Per View movie store too.
Sky+HD 2TB box: Performance
Fed the best looking channels (BBC One HD, Sky Sports F1 HD, NHK), this PVR is a persuasive advert for 1080i hi-def. This box looks great connected direct to a TV or as a source in a home cinema system. It's also 3D compatible.
The broadcaster's side-by-side format may lack the crispy detail evident in its flat HD shows, but the result is undeniably entertaining.
As with other Sky+ boxes, there's no provision yet for Dolby Digital 5.1 over HDMI, a consequence of Sky's early arrival on the digital telly scene. But taken via a digital audio cable, the platform is still capable of delivering immersive surround sound from movies and DD-encoded TV shows.
Sky+HD 2TB box: Verdict
The Sky+HD 2TB set -top box is the slickest, fattest TV recorder yet. It looks smart, runs quiet and offers unbeatable ease of use. As a step-up from the broadcaster's previous 1TB offering, it's darn near impossible to resist, given the sheer number of HD channels Sky now offers.
The pay platform's improved On Demand services are also a major step forward. Overall, we rate this 2TB titan as probably the best all-round TV recorder you can buy right now.
Sky+HD 2TB set-top box: Out now
Sky+HD 2TB set-top box price: £49 for existing Sky customers who take a HD subscription. New HD customers can get the box for £149 (other charges may apply.)