In comparison to the Humax T2 HD, which is very comparable on features, this is much smaller in every dimension. Typical of Sony's recent media players/recorders, a pulsating light bar in the centre front indicates that it is powering up. Once fully in business, the bar remains stable. The remote control is unusual when compared to many others in that it uses AA batteries but Sony appear to have provided a pair of own-brand standard cells rather than alkaline or lithium alternatives.
An HDMI and aerial cable are provided but you will have to provide your own Ethernet cable should you need to use one.
Most connections are at the rear, as you would expect, but a second USB port is provided at the front right and hidden under a drop-down flap, which is often the case. This also houses a RESET switch which may be necessary in the event that the machine locks up or fails to respond to its remote. The power input is unusual in that it is indirect via an adapter rather than using direct mains input. I suppose the bulk of the PSU would otherwise be internal to the unit and add to its size. It is a matter of horses for courses as to which is preferable. A small and almost invisible power button is provided on the left-hand side should it ever be needed. The recorder is Ethernet-enabled but I have yet to connect it to my network pending delivery of a PowerLine adapter.
Set-up was initiated immediately I connected it to to power and was reasonably fast without being noticeably faster than any other. Unlike the Humax, which scans first for the SD channels and then rescans the same frequencies for available HD ones, this does it in a single sweep. It actually found a channel (not on-line until May) which was not available during the recent London area digital changeover. In comparison to the Humax, there is slightly less available capacity on its hard drive, and I assume that its system software may be rather larger. However, there should be sufficient for around 350-400 SD movies and about 150-175 HD ones, if its files sizes are comparable to those that the Humax uses. In the event that the drive is fully loaded, it is possible to extend the effective capacity by adding an external hard drive connected to one of its USB ports. Those up to 2TB should be perfectly safe and it may be possible to add a 3TB version. You could also use a portable DVD or Blu-ray drive if you don't have a system player which can also be connected via USB.
To the right of the power button are two normally hidden indicators, REC1 and REC2 respectively, which will light when a recording, or two, is under way whether by timer or manually set. Most recording will probably be via the EPG which is quite clear and easy to use. Setting a recording is usually a matter of two selections form the mini-menus it offers. As there are two tuners you can record on both or on one and watch the other. A comment was made that if a user chooses to watch an incomplete recording, it will temporarily pause the recording and then resume it. A few seconds of the program will be lost. If you check the recordings list, you will see PROGRAM AND PROGRAM (1) where PROGRAM is replaced by the name concerned. If you must watch a program whilst recording it, I would suggest that you do so by switching the source on your TV from HDMI to AERIAL and the problem can then be avoided.
Picture wise, it is good but not quite as good (the difference is very slight) as that from the Humax T2 HD, although much better than older SD recorders which I now use only rarely. Sound quality is about equal. The remote control is larger than others (those batteries again) but some of the surface is empty space. the buttons are well-laid out and not unduly cramped and similar in some respects to others from Sony.
There is one feature that may be unique to this machine and that is one buried within the SYSTEM menu, namely DISK REPAIR which will fix those problems where programs may have been deleted but not completely erased from the hard drive. It should free up that proportion of the drive's capacity that was previously locked.
It is rather early in my ownership but I set-up a schedule of about a dozen recordings for the following four days, a process taking about 10-15 minutes and which may have used part of a reserved area on the hard drive or flash memory if it has any, so why would the fan need to run for more than THREE HOURS following? There was considerable bearing noise and it was during the hours following midnight when the environment is at its quietest which made far more noticeable. If I had been recording for some time or playing a movie or two, I may have expected the fan to run for a few minutes but the amount of time it was used is excessive and serving no real purpose. I use several drives with my computers, some of which are sometimes running hard for 8-12 hours and they do not have or need a fan. Sony need to sort this out! Other PVRs I own do not share this behaviour.
There is another oddity; every other PVR will allow the use of the buttons to select a channel number when using the EPG, so that if I was looking at BBC2 and then wanted to move to 5USA on channel 31, I would input 3 followed by 1 and the channel displayed within the EPG changes accordingly. The Sony does not allow that but requires that you use the UP/DOWN arrows, a slow and unnecessary procedure.
If such basic faults can be found quite so quickly, what others might I find if I were to delve more deeply over a longer period of ownership? It has some good points but is clearly not devoid of issues!