Set-top box brand Manhattan returns with new-look hardware and targets free-to-air timeshifters with this affordable PVR. Martin Pipe tunes in
The T2-R packs a 500GB HDD
PRODUCT: Freeview HD PVR
Manhattan’s entry-level PVR, next to a Freeview Play/ networked STB
PEERS: Humax HDR-1800T; Panasonic DMR-HWT130
I REMEMBER GETTING my first PVR fifteen years ago – a Pace Twin with a 20GB hard drive, rendered useless a few years later by technical changes to the terrestrial broadcast platform. Around the same time the Pace Twin was in retailers, a company called Eurosat was supplying digital satellite receivers under the Manhattan brand to enthusiasts via a network of specialist dealers.
Manhattan has since moved to the mainstream, and its latest contender is the T2-R – a lozenge-shaped Freeview HD PVR with 500GB of storage, dual tuners, and basic online functionality. Its price?
The T2-R’s emphasis is on HDMI and a 1.2m cable is supplied (although the company can sell a composite AV lead to those with sets they really should have replaced by now). Connected and powered up, you’ll find Manhattan’s onscreen tuning wizard. As with other Freeview kit, your location has to be entered so the correct channels are listed in the EPG and duplicates removed.
The neatness, clarity and responsiveness of the T2-R’s everyday user interface is worth praising. It’s driven by a decent handset that can also operate many TVs.
At this price you don’t get luxuries like app control; use the electronic programme guide (EPG) to select channels for viewing or recording instead. This can also ‘remind’ you when a programme is due to start and supports series-linking. If there’s a schedule clash, you’re invited to set recordings on the offending channel individually as some showings might not be problematic.
The T2-R also highlights alternative broadcasts of a show – specifically on ‘+1’ channels.
The box has an Ethernet port – there’s no Wi-Fi alternative – but it’s not harnessed by
HDD: Yes. 500GB TUNER: Yes. 2 x Freeview HD CONNECTIONS: Aerial input; aerial loop through output; HDMI output; analogue AV (3.5mm, composite video and stereo audio); optical digital audio output; Ethernet; USB (firmware) DIMENSIONS: 265(w) x 53(h) x 207(d)mm WEIGHT: 682g
FEATURES: 8-day EPG; favourite channel list; chasing playback; ‘retro-active’ recording (complete programme in HDD buffer can be saved to your recordings list); simultaneous recording; 30-day undelete function; HD simulcast notification; series link recording; 5.1 support (AAC transcoded to AC3)
delights like catch-up, remote scheduling, Netflix or streaming from DLNA servers (similarly, a rear-panel USB port is for firmware upgrades and not multimedia purposes). But Ethernet does provide access to online services, which are inserted into the EPG. Some (for example, Planet Knowledge) are slick on-demand portals where ad- supported programmes are selected for playback. Others, like the religious channel SBN, are live streams with individual programmes listed in the guide. When one is selected and the ‘please wait, loading stream’ banner appears, the box becomes less responsive – presumably because streaming places greater demand on the T2-R hardware.
Returning to the EPG isn’t straightforward because the relevant handset button is disabled. You have to go up or down a channel until a known ‘off-air’ one is reached; the EPG can then be accessed. Manhattan/ Freeview should identify streaming channels in the guide, especially as online content can’t be recorded, and an attempt to engage chasing playback caused the T2-R to crash.
HD channels are crisp and vibrant. It excavated detail from Bodyguard’s murkier scenes while visually complex props like computer displays are well-rendered. In comparison, standard-def channels are soft and pallid. With SD or HD, motion is smooth with no untoward judder provided the source material is up to it.
Setting the scene
The specification here is basic but well implemented, and Manhattan’s new styling is a nice improvement on its boxy designs of old. And the T2-R nicely whets the appetite for the company’s incoming T3-R, which adds streaming bells and whistles