Reviews for these products tend to be in comparison to other freeview/tv recorders, but unfortunately I do not have much experience with other freeview boxes! The last one I owned was about 6 or 7 years ago so would probably not compare favourably with probably any newer, modern models. However, I do have a subscription to Sky HD; and having frequently come close to filling up the memory on the Sky HD box, I had been thinking about getting an extra tv recorder for a while, so finding this was ideal for me.
I also thought it would be a little different for people to read how a freeview HD box like this compares to a subscription service - specifically Sky HD. So first of all, I'll start with a few pro's you get from the Toshiba Freeview+ HD recorder that you don't get with Sky HD, I'll then go on to state what you might miss out on, and finally what other pro's you get from the Toshiba. I won't go into specs of the machines etc as you can find those on the amazon product details/sky website, so this is purely a "personalised" review of my experiences with the two products.
Pro's of the Toshiba over Sky HD:
* PIP (Picture in Picture) - A nifty little feature that you don't have on Sky. Whilst watching one channel, you can have a little box appear on the screen which shows another live broadcast from a different channel. At the push of a button, you can then switch between the two channels effortlessly! I find this is ideal for watching things such as the football when two matches are being shown simultaneously on separate channels. When a goal is scored in one game, just press the PIP button and you can go live to that channel and still keep an eye on the previous game in the corner of the screen! You can also move the picture box to any corner of the screen easily. A great feature that works really well.
* Recordings clash - On both the Toshiba and Sky HD, you can only record two programmes at the same time. However, the Toshiba will scan alternative channels/times to suggest recording a programme at another time if the timings of any programmes on your planner are set to clash. Sky has a habit of just "part recording" programmes or just not recording them at all if there is a clash.
* USB Port - There is a USB port on the front of the Toshiba which allows for easy accessibility when wanting to view pictures and other media. As far as I'm aware, there is no function for this on the Sky HD box at all! In fact, there is even an extra USB port at the back of the Toshiba.
* Display screen - On the front of the box there is also a digital display which tells you what channel you're watching and even the name of the programme itself scrolls across the display! Very snazzy! The front of the Sky HD box is very boring in comparison.
* HDMI ports - If your tv doesn't have many HDMI slots, this function would be very handy. You can plug up to 3 extra devices into the machine and choose which to view very easily as each port has its own button on the controller, saving you from having to tirelessly scroll through which input you want to view.
There are other functions too that I haven't actually tried yet, such as creating a playlist of your recorded programmes, which I can imagine being very useful in the future. Also, if you go to record a programme on, say, BBC1, if the programme is also available in HD, a little message will appear on screen that tells you this and at the touch of a button you can record the HD version instead. It is a very intuitive machine.
Now, onto the con's. And I have to admit, I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel slightly here.
* Channels - As with my old freeview box, there still doesn't seem to be a great range of channels available. That's not necessarily a criticism of the box itself, but it is something that you wouldn't get with a subscription to a major provider. It's also something that could easily change in future and isn't always important to everybody.
* Speed - The Toshiba takes a little while to start up, and "channel surfing" can be quite frustrating as it doesn't glide through the channels very quickly at all. However, using the handy Guide will render this habit pointless as it is simple to use. Even more so if you organise the channels into the order of your choice (which you can't do with Sky!)
The other great pro's of this machine are that it's very easy to navigate/use, it's lightweight, it looks slick and makes virtually no noise at all. The picture and sound quality seem to me to be fine and it has a very large hard drive so can record a LOT of TV! The set up was very simple; if I think back to my last freeview box, I had to go through about 2 or 3 different menu's to tune the channels. This was a case of switching the machine on and pressing "ok" and it does all that for you!
The functionality of the Toshiba is probably its main asset over a subscription to something like Sky HD. In fact, I never knew how basic my Sky box was in comparison to other products on the market. I'm not sure I'm quite ready to give up my subscription just yet, however! But the Toshiba is a very welcome addition to the TV stand in the front room and will most likely stay there.