Reviewer: Thomas Bartlett
There is not yet quite such a thing as the perfect High Definition Personal Video Recorder, but the Strong SRT-5490 will do quite nicely in the meantime. Oh, it has its little flaws and irritations, but it also works very reliably – which is the most important attribute of a recorder – and has a few rather useful features for the power user.
At its core, the Strong SRT-5490 is a twin tuner high definition unit. It has a 250GB hard disk drive, of which about one-fifth is reserved for system use. That still leaves room for up to 60 hours of high definition recording, depending on the channel that you are using, and up to 90 hours of standard definition.
The two tuners allow you to capture two programs and, if you wish, playback a third, all at the same time. Of course, you can set timer recordings to do this automatically. There is no ability to edit your recordings once they have been made, but this is a rare ability indeed for HD PVRs.
You can set the output of the unit to standard definition via component video, and the various high definition standards (576p, 720p or 1080i) with both component and DVI video. DVI is the video-only equivalent of HDMI.
The SRT-5490 has on its rear a USB port and an Ethernet connection. The former is used for firmware updates, which can be downloaded from Strong’s website. These appear periodically, providing incremental improvements in performance. It can also be used to plug in a flash memory card or a hard disk drive, from which the unit can display JPEG photos and play MP3 music.
The Ethernet connection allows you to fully network the unit, so that you can read from or write to its hard disk from a computer on the same network. This allows you to download your recordings onto a computer for creating DVDs, or upload MP3 and JPEG files for listening or display.
The reception of signals on this unit has always been an, ahem, strong point with extremely reliable picture and sound display. That also has translated through to good recording quality.
There is also a time shift facility. Once you press the relevant key, the unit will buffer whatever you are watching onto the hard disk so that you can pause it at will, or even rewind up to an hour to re-watch something earlier in the program.
There are jump keys for when you’re playing back your recording, and also a good range of fast forward and rewind speeds of up to 300x. Resuming play caused a stutter several seconds before the video and sound got back into synchronisation.
The video scaling was a weak point, so it’s best to change the output resolution to match the resolution of the station you are watching.
Nevertheless, the Strong SRT-5490 is a reliable recorder that does its job, and provides excellent high quality high definition video.