Price (RRP): $599
The Strong SRT 5492 is the entry-level unit among this collection, yet it still has a massive 500GB hard disk drive for recording, two HD digital tuners and, of course, HDMI out.
There’s no setting for a cache or buffer to always record whatever you’re watching so that you can rewind and re-watch something you’ve just seen. But like the Panasonic unit, you can hit the ‘Pause’ key to start up a buffer. Unlike the Panasonic, it does this promptly, so it is quite a bit more usable.
The video output quality on HDTV was excellent, but not all that good on SDTV when the output was set to 1080i. Sharp edged diagonals seemed a little jaggie with this setting. However Strong has provided the ability of the unit to deliver basic 576i video over HDMI, so you can just hit video format key a couple of times and, in most cases, your TV will produce excellent picture quality from this signal.
The unit worked reliably in recording and playback. It is actually programmed to allow the recording of three programs at once, two from the same channel (eg. ABC and ABC2, while also recording SBS), and still play a previously recorded item back at the same time. There is no automatic padding facility to allow for programs that run over time, so you should edit the timers to ensure you capture the end of the program.
The Ethernet port on the unit was of limited functionality at the time of writing. Apparently some file transfer capabilities to a computer are provided with third-party software, but it is not at this stage a convenient option for the general use. However a more important use of the Ethernet port is forthcoming, I am told, just a little too late to be examined for this review. In the next firmware Strong advises that it will be implementing support for IceTV, so you will (at a cost) be able to subscribe for TiVo-like recording intelligence.