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Sony DHG-HDD250

High-Definition digital video recorder with built-in HDTV tuner

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  • Sony DHG-HDD250

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  • Sony DHG-HDD250

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  • Sony DHG-HDD250

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Item #: 158HDD250
 

Review Summary

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Our take on the Sony DHG-HDD250

by Amanda P.
Sony

Sony's DHG-HDD250 answers two needs with one elegant, easy-to-use solution. Filling the roles of both high-definition TV tuner and high-def digital video recorder (DVR), the 'HDD250 combines the addictive conveniences and control of DVR with the captivating images of HDTV. Millions of HD-ready TV owners can finally experience the gorgeous high-def pictures those TVs were built to display — all while pausing, rewinding, and recording live TV to view on their own time.

This versatile component boasts a 250GB hard drive that can hold up to 200 hours of regular TV, or 30 hours of crisp, vivid HDTV programming. Imagine up to a week's worth of your favorite movies and TV shows — including some in HD — all available at the touch of a button.

The free TV Guide On Screen® program guide makes watching and recording your shows a cinch. You have access to an 8-day program guide, which incorporates listings from your analog or digital broadcast and cable sources. You can sort the listings by type — choose the "HDTV" tab for quick access to high-resolution shows, sports events, and movies. You also get handy, customizable keyword searching to find the programs you really want to watch. Scheduling a recording is as easy as highlighting the listing and pressing a button.

Pair the '250's built-in HD tuner with your HD-ready TV to enjoy hours of free over-the-air digital programming. Or, you can receive digital programming — including HD — via cable, without a separate tuner box (you will need a CableCARD™ from your local provider to get cable HD programs). And if your TV already has an HD tuner built in, you can take advantage of this additional tuner by watching one HD program while recording another for viewing later.

Over-the-air HDTV broadcasts in your area
Nearly every U.S household can get over-the-air HD broadcasts — over 99% receive at least one digital TV signal, and more than 85% receive five or more stations. To find out what HDTV signals are available in your area, visit this helpful site and punch in your zip code.

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Highlights:

  • High-Definition TV tuner — receives and decodes digital standard-definition and HDTV signals from over-the-air broadcasts (antenna required) and cable TV service (CableCARD required)
  • 250GB hard drive for recording and playback
  • pause, rewind, record, and fast-forward live and pre-recorded Standard-Definition or High-Definition TV
  • record 30 hours High-Definition or 200 hours Standard-Definition
  • records regular analog broadcast or cable TV signals
  • receives and records digital TV broadcasts in 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i
  • selectable 480i/480p/720p/1080i output via HDMI and component video
  • TV Guide On Screen 8-day program guide (listings for local broadcast and cable TV)
  • user-selectable chapter markers with thumbnails
  • built-in 125-channel NTSC tuner
  • USB interface (for future use)
  • cable and antenna inputs
  • 2 sets A/V outputs (2 composite, 2 S-video, 1 component video, 1 HDMI)
  • optical digital audio output passes Dolby® Digital 5.1-channel audio
  • multibrand audio/video remote (can control up to four components)
  • 17"W x 3-5/16"H x 15-13/16"D
  • warranty: 1 year parts, 90 days labor
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee
Supplied Accessories:
  • HDMI, component video, and S-video cables
  • HDMI-to-DVI adapter

Consumer Alert: This component has only an analog broadcast tuner and will require a converter box after February 17, 2009, to receive over-the-air broadcasts with an antenna because of the Nation's transition to digital broadcasting. Analog-only TVs should continue to work as before with cable and satellite TV services, gaming consoles, VCRs, DVD players, and similar products. For more information, call the Federal Communications Commission at 1-888-225-5322 (TTY: 1-888-835-5322) or visit the Commission's digital television website at: www.dtv.gov

Hands-on research from the Crutchfield Labs (what are the Labs?)

Product Research
What's in the box?

Download owner's manual

  • High-Definition Digital Video Recorder
  • 6' Power cord
  • Wireless Remote (RM-Y823)
  • 2 "AA" batteries
  • 9.5' HDMI cable
  • Female HDMI to male DVI adapter
  • 5' Component video cable
  • 5' S-Video cable
  • 5' Stereo Audio/Composite Video patch cable
  • 6.5' Control S cable (male mono mini-jack on both ends)
  • IR blaster with 6.5' cable attached
  • 2-Sided tape (1.924" x 0.4")
  • Operation manual
  • Quick Setup Guide
  • On-line registration card

Our Product Research Team

At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team — they open the box, verify contents, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

Features
Remote Control

Inputs and Outputs

Features

Overview: The DHG-HDD-250 is an HDTV tuner and Digital Video Recorder (DVR) with a built-in 250 GB hard drive capable of recording both standard definition (SDTV) and high definition TV (HDTV).

CableCARD: This tuner has a back panel CableCARD slot that allows digital cable reception without an additional cable box. CableCARDs will be available from your local cable provider.

Display: The front panel display shows:

  • Power: Indicates power is on
  • REC: Currently recording when lit
  • Dolby Digital: Shows Dolby Digital available with broadcast
  • Clock: Current time
  • Channel: Displays channel number and name (if available)

TV Guide On Screen: TV Guide On Screen is an interactive program guide that provides an 8-day rolling list of TV programming. This makes recording a program as easy as highlighting a show and pressing select. TV Guide On Screen can also be used to find shows you want to watch and set them for automatic recording. This service does not require a phone line and is free. TV Guide On Screen offers these functions:

  • Listings: Lists available programs with descriptions
  • Search: List shows by keyword, alphabetically, or by category (including HDTV programming, movies, sports, children's programming, educational programming, news, variety, and series)
  • Schedule: View and edit all upcoming scheduled recordings
  • Setup: Make changes in system settings, channel display, and default options after the initial setup

Recording: Using TV Guide On Screen you choose a program to record. Once chosen, you can record just that episode (one-time recording), record regularly (record that program every time it airs on that station at that time, any day of the week), or record weekly (record that program whenever it's on the same channel, same day of the week, and at the same time). The start time and end time of your recordings can be shifted up to 120 minutes in both directions (recording can start early and run late). Recording can also be set manually, without TV Guide On Screen. Simply program the date, start time, end time, and channel for recording. The 250 gigabyte hard drive will hold approximately 30 hours of hi-def programming, or 200 hours of standard programming (or a combination of the two).

Watching Live TV: While the tuner is on, the DVR continuously records the current program onto the hard drive, this allows you to pause live TV and resume watching the program where you left off. You can also rewind or fast forward through the saved portion of the program, or playback in slow motion. If you miss a line of dialog, rewind to hear it again. If you change channels, the saved portion of the previous channel is lost, and a new recording begins on the new channel. Note: Because the DVR only has one tuner, you cannot watch live TV on one channel while another channel is recording, unless you have split your cable/antenna signal and can watch live TV tuned on the TV or a VCR. You can, however watch a previously recorded program while recording a current (live) broadcast.

Watching Recorded Programs: Like live TV, while watching a recorded program, you can pause, rewind, fast forward, or watch in slow motion. You can also start watching a program from the beginning that hasn't finished recording. If you decide to stop viewing the program to watch another program or turn off the system, you can resume playback from the point where you left off. Unlike a VCR, you can watch a previously recorded program at the same time another program is recording.

Live TV Pause Time: The amount of Live TV saved continuously on the hard drive is adjustable, 30, 60, or 90 minutes.

Replay: Separate from the rewind button, the remote has a replay button that backs up a specified amount of time. Options include 2, 5, 15, 30, 60, and 300 seconds.

Advance: The advance button works forward like the replay button works in reverse. The advance time offers the same options as replay, 2, 5, 15, 30, 60, and 300 seconds.

High Speed Picture Search: You can search forward or backward through a live or recorded program using four speeds, 3x, 9x, 30x, and 90x.

Smart Cue: The smart cue feature compensates for the delayed response between the time you see a program segment you want to view and when you press the play button so you don't overshoot your target. Smart cue works in fast forward and reverse (in fast forward it jumps back, in reverse it jumps forward) and the inserted time is adjustable.

Slow: Live or recorded programs can also be played in slow motion. Available speeds are 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, and 1/8 full speed.

Screen Saver: After 15 minutes with a program paused or a menu on displayed, the screen saver appears. Press any button to return to normal viewing.

Status Bar: When you press any of the transport buttons (play, pause, etc) the status bar appears showing the current program title, playback status (speed/direction), and current position within the title (minute 14 of a 30-minute recorded program for example, or shows the time if you're watching "live" TV). The status bar disappears automatically after a few seconds or when you press the play button.

Recordings List: Press the RecList button on the remote to display a list of all the recorded programs on the hard drive.

Deleting Programs: Once you have viewed a recorded program, you can delete it from the memory to make room for future programs. As the memory fills to capacity, programs will automatically be deleted to make room for new recordings. Programs can be marked and kept until you deleted them, however, a full memory can prevent future programs from being recorded.

Parental Controls: Parental Controls allow you to set limits on movie and television ratings and to lock specific channels or specific time (of day) blocks so that a 4-digit password is required to view them. Ratings limits can be set separately for TV programs and movies, based on the industry's rating systems.

Chapter Marks: You can add chapter marks within a live or recorded program, making it easy to find that point in the show again.

Favorite Menu: The favorite feature lets you create up to 13 categories of your favorite channels (a channel can only be in one category).

Auto Off: You can pick a certain time each day for the HDD-250 to turn off, this is recommended so the TV Guide On Screen can update the programming guide (it won't update while the tuner is on).

Optical Digital Output: The optical digital output allows you to send a Dolby Digital bitstream to a Dolby Digital receiver or decoder.

G-Link: Use the included G-Link IR blaster to enable automatic recording to a VCR using the TV Guide On Screen system.

Aspect Ratio (HD to SD): When you view a high-definition source using the standard definition output, you can choose:

  • Letter Box: Black bars appearing at the top and bottom of the screen, full picture displayed
  • Side Crop: Picture fills the entire screen by cropping the left and right portions of the signal
  • Squeezed: Picture fills the entire screen with no black bars, image is squeezed (horizontally) to fit on screen

SD to HD: When you view a standard-definition source using the 720p or 1080i output, you can choose:

  • Normal: Picture with an original 4:3 aspect ratio on your 16:9 monitor, with black bars appearing at the left and right sides
  • Stretch: Evenly stretches the width of the 4:3 picture to fill the entire screen
  • Side Stretch: Stretches the edges of the 4:3 picture to fill a wide screen, leaves center unstretched
  • Adjust: Allows the 4:3 image width to be adjusted in 16 steps so the size of the black bars on the sides and the amount of the picture on the top and bottom that is cropped is flexible

HD to HD: When you view a high-definition picture using the 720p or 1080i output format, you can temporarily choose (setting returned to standard each time you change channels):

  • Standard: Displays picture with no adjustment
  • Expand: Horizontally stretched the image, useful if the program was produced in one format but broadcast in another
  • Shrink: Horizontally compresses picture to 4:3, useful if the program was produced in one format but broadcast in another

Resolution Select Switch (Format): The HDD-250 receives and decodes all HDTV and SDTV formats. The output resolution is switchable using the format button on the front panel of the tuner or the remote. The output is based on the setting and the input as follows:

Format Mode Input Signal Output Signal
1080i All inputs 1080i
720p All inputs 720p
480p All inputs 480p
480i All inputs 480i
Native 1080i 1080i
Native 720p 720p
Native 480p 480p
Native 480i 480i
Variable 1 1080i 1080i
Variable 1 720p 720p
Variable 1 480p/480i 480p
Variable 2 1080i/720p 1080i
Variable 2 480p/480i 480p
Variable 3 1080i/720p 720p
Variable 3 480p/480i 480p
SD (Standard Definition) All inputs Auto HDMI or 480p
Auto HDMI All inputs Changes according to monitor type

Auto HDMI: When the HDD-250 is connected to a monitor via the HDMI output, the format (1080i, 720p, etc) is automatically selected based on the native resolution or the monitor.

Remote Control

Remote Control: The supplied infrared remote controls this unit, plus basic controls of many brands of TVs, DVD players, VCRs, and A/V receivers. The unit is pre-coded for most brands.

Code Search: If none of the codes listed in the manual allow you to control your equipment, you can perform a code search to find the correct code.

Infrared (IR) Code: The remote control and tuner have 2 IR code settings, useful if you have 2 HDD-250 tuners in the house.

Inputs and Outputs

Rear Panel:

  • Ant In: Threaded female 75 ohm RF jack, connects to over-the-air antenna
  • Cable In: Threaded female 75 ohm RF jack, connects a coaxial cable outlet
  • Component Out (1080i/720p/480p/480i): 3 RCA jacks labeled Pr, Pb, and Y
  • Audio Out: 2 Pair RCA audio jacks, left and right
  • Composite Video Out (480i): 2 RCA composite video jacks
  • S-Video Out: 2 S-video jacks
  • HDMI Out (1080i/720p/480p/480i): HDMI port, uncompressed digital audio and video to a high-definition TV or monitor
  • Control S in: Mini-plug input for remote commands through compatible Sony equipment
  • Digital Audio Out: Toslink optical digital output jack
  • USB: USB type A, reserved for possible future use
  • CableCARD: Slot for CableCARD
  • AC in: Power input for use with included cord
 
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Sony DHG-HDD250 Reviews

Average Customer Review:

4 people say:

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5 out of 5

100% satisfied

Written By Sparky, Hanover, Pa. on Friday, December 16, 2005
 
Although I read a lot about problems others were having with this unit, it seemed to be mostly 'cable card' related. I intended to use it via outside antenna to record HDTV. I can't tell you how satisfied I am with the results. The picture is stunning quality. The TV guide has filled in 100%.. (although I had to try 3 different zip codes before I got the listings I was looking for)
If you intend to use this with direct tv or digital cable etc. I'd think twice....but for over the air HD it's great.

In the past, friends would drop by in the afternoon and want to see what high definition TV looked like, but usually there was nothing on, but now, I play something back I recorded and get the same WOW! ! factor when I saw it for the first time.
5 out of 5 people found this helpful
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4 out of 5

Nice but not perfect

Written By Philip, Broken Arrow, OK on Friday, October 07, 2005
 
I am generally very happy with this DVR. The picture quality is excellent. Analog cable channels look much better than they did on the cable co's own Motorola DVR. It is nice to be able to combine antenna reception with cable reception since most cable co's don't carry all local HD channels. Most complaints with this unit come from the TV Guide On Screen software. I haven't had any major issues with that aspect. I do wish it was a little more like a Tivo so that it would skip reruns and grab the same show from multiple channels at multiple times. The software is also not very intelligent about resolving recording conflicts. There is no way to give one show a higher priority if two scheduled shows come on at the same time. But TV Guide On Screen doesn't cost 13 bucks a month like Tivo does. It also would have been nice if Sony had included dual tuners as the cable co's box has. Overall, this is a very nice product if you want to record HD programs without paying a monthly fee to the cable co.
If it had dual tuners, the ability to skip reruns, and didn't cost so much, I would have given it 5 stars.
18 out of 18 people found this helpful
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3 out of 5

Exellent....except....

Written By P, Irvine, CA on Thursday, September 29, 2005
 
This HDTV DVR is excellent, except it does need to have a built-in DVD Recording capacity, so anyone can transfer recorded hi-def programs(even recorded in 5.1 Dolby Digital)ontp DVD discs.
9 out of 15 people found this helpful
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4 out of 5

Good features, a bit too pricey, clunky interface.

Written By Joe, Seattle, WA on Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
I really like this unit, Ive been looking for a cable-card equiped HD DVR for a while. This is the first Ive seen.

My cable company doesnt offer a DVR yet, so this was really the only option. Your cable company probably offers a DVR box for between 10 and 20 bucks a month and its probably a better way to go since this thing costs 800 at the time of this writing. Minus half a star for the price (especially since youll still have to pay your cable company for the use of the cable card if you get that) and the lack of a dual tuner.

The DHG-HDD250 looses another half a star for the use of TV Guide on screen which is a bit clunky. Ive heard reports that its hard to get working. I really had no problem with that (though it did take a few days before the program guide was populated). The interface is horrible though, it puts the channels in order of "popularity" and theres no way to re-sort it by channel number except to manually edit each channel (would take hours). Ive also had issues with it dropping some of my regularly scheduled recordings when I schedule new ones without telling me. Luckilly I checked the recording schedule before I was done.

Overall it does what it is supposed to though and the quality of the tuner and the recordings are great. Now that the new season is starting, Im able to watch all the HD I want!

PRO:
Great quality recordings.
Huge amount of hard drive space (even bigger if you get the 500).
Good remote.
Playback controlls are great and easy to use.

CON:
TV Guide on-screen interface is hard to use and wierd.
Single tuner only.
May still need to pay to rent a cable card.
Expensive.
41 out of 47 people found this helpful
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