Thomson DTI6300 Top Up TV 160Gb Freeview Recorder

This model is no longer available on the ASDA website – you can however find it on Ebay for less than £50

Summary: A high spec machine, with refurbished models currently available from Asda at just £50 Inc VAT including full 12 months warranty and Top Up TV Subscription offer with Setanta Sports 1 Free for 6 months. Well worth a look.

See below for price comparison.

Pros: Clear, easy to use on-screen menus; 14 day EPG; 6 months free Setanta Sports subscription*;

Cons: Noisy hard drive could be too loud for a bedroom

Freeview Recorder Overview

If you are looking for your first Freeview Recorder with built in hard-disk drive, then this deal is a great start. If you’re looking for a replacement digital TV recorder or a second unit for a bedroom or kitchen – this is still a great start!

Until I used a hard drive recorder for the first time, I didn’t appreciate how easy they are to use, and the benefits they have over old-style VHS recorders using tapes and cassettes. Programmes are recorded in a digital format on to the internal hard drive. So when you want to record something, you don’t have to worry about finding a tape with sufficient free space, or re-winding it to the right place so you don’t record over something else on the tape. When you want to watch your recorded programmes, simply access the library and press play. On most models you can even continue watching from where you stopped last time – great if you intend watching a longer programme over a couple of nights. Deleting programmes you’ve watched is easy but with space for 120 hours of television, if you fill it then I would suggest you watch too much television!

Thomson Top Up TV 160 GB Freeview Recorder

Thomson doesn’t quite have the reputation of Humax or Wharfdale for such devices, but you really can’t ask for much more at such a great price.

Thomson Top Up TV Freeview Recorder

Thomson Top Up TV Freeview Recorder

It’s important to realise that these boxes have been refurbished. The original models had a software error and affected units were returned to Thomson to have the new software applied and a quick brush up. The model I bought came with all the plastic wrappings including a protective sticker over the LED panel. If you buy from Asda, Thomson provides you with the warranty for the first 6 months, with Asda topping it up in months 6-12. While this is all great news, it means you’ll have to be quick because there will surely be a limited number available. Having said that, at the time of writing (April 09), they are still available to buy from Asda’s website (see link above).

The new software that has been loaded during the refurbishment brings it up to the Freeview + standard – including pause and rewind live TV, Series Link functionality and the ability to record two different channels simultaneously.
Inside the box was everything you would need to get started… power cable, aerial cable and even a scart lead. The scart lead wasn’t the best quality so you may wish to buy a more expensive one to make the most of the digital picture. There is a bizarre loop-through system for the TV aerial, but it most cases you could happily ignore this.

The first time you turn the unit on, it scans for available channels and sets up the EPG. Very straight forward to use – follow the on-screen instructions mostly pressing OK/continue – similar to setting up any other recent TV or Freeview receiver. What did jump to my attention was the noise that it produces – it was noticeable. To give an idea, I would say it is similar to the noise a traditional VHS recorded makes – the only difference is that this noise is continuous, whether the unit is in use or in standby mode.

Remotely similar: Sky controller (left) and Thomson control (right)

Remotely similar: Sky controller (left) and Thomson control (right)

The remote is very reminiscent of a Sky controller, both in shape and configuration of the buttons. It has all the usual buttons you would expect – record, play, start, stop, rewind etc. It then has buttons to access the recording function and the library, from where you can playback previously recorded programmes. The remote can also be programmed to control your TV as well. Simply pressing the TV button switches the unit to send commands to your TV instead of the Freeview box. The buttons are responsive to even a light touch, so I can’t see these buttons being worn out easily.

Thomson Freeview Recorder TV Guide

Thomson Freeview Recorder TV Guide

Scheduling programmes to be recorded couldn’t be easier. Press the ‘Guide’ button to bring up the on-screen EPG (electronic programme guide); use the up and down arrows to move between channels, and the left and right arrows to move earlier and later, highlighting the program you want. The EPG has information for the next 7 days and the rewind and fast forward buttons on the control skip back and forward 24 hours at a time making it easy to navigate from day to day. Further information about the highlighted program pops up after just a couple of seconds and from there you have further options to Record by pressing the ‘R’ button on the control. At this stage, the Freeview + feature ‘Series Link’ comes in to play. If the programme you select is part of a series it gives you the option to record future episodes without any further programming – fantastic! This really brings Freeview devices in to competition with Sky+ which has had this functionality for some time. Alternatively, you could just record the one episode if you so desired

As the unit has two tuners, you can record two different channels simultaneously (and also playback a recorded program at the same time if you wish). The 160 GB hard drive gives up to 120 hours recording time – and you can always check how much space is remaining in the Library screen.

The Freeview + features should mean that scheduled recordings are automatically amended to start and stop recordings at the start or end of the programs. This however relies on the TV network operators keeping the Now & Next information up to date. (You can sometimes see this in action on your Freeview TV or receiver– if you go to the now and next info at 8.02pm and it is still showing the 7.30pm programme in ‘now’ and the 8.00pm programme in ‘next’ this is because the 7.30pm show is running late and TV network has quite rightly updated the now & next information. This is what is required for the Freeview + features to work accurately).

Now and next information

Now and next information

This now and next information is used by the Freeview Recorder in the following manner – if you are expecting a program to start at 8.00pm but it doesn’t actually start until 8.03pm it should delay recording until 8.03pm. At the same time, it should also then add a further 3 minutes on to the finish time so that it doesn’t miss the all-important ending. When I tested this, I got mixed results, but I can’t help feel it was more down the TV networks not updating the now & next info rather than the Thomson device not functioning as it is supposed to.

Playback of recorded programmes is equally as easy. Pressing the Library button brings an on-screen list of everything you have saved on your device. The Thomson interface will even attempt to filter them by category – movies, drama, Top Up TV etc. A nice feature of the Library screen is the video preview box on the right hand side. This automatically starts playing back the selected programme so you can see exactly what the program is. I find this really useful when I come to delete episodes of a series that I have recorded but can’t remember which ones I have and haven’t watched – simply watching the first few scenes of a program is generally enough to jog my memory and this little preview is ideal for this purpose.

Finally, the physical design of the box is in my opinion fairly modern in comparison even to some more recent models. It’s clear that Thomson has used the Sky boxes as a design brief and come up with something very close and would fit in nicely with your other devices either in your living room or bedroom. All of the connections and sockets are on the rear of the unit. Starting on the left, there is an ‘aerial in’ socket, then ‘RF loop out’ and ‘RF loop in’ sockets, followed by ‘RF out’. The RF loop sockets need to have the little grey loop box connected to work correctly if you don’t need the aerial feeding elsewhere, so make sure it is present on your box before turning on. In the centre are two Scart sockets, one for the VCR and one for the TV. Finally there are 3 audio outputs – a left and right, with a digital audio out socket. The final connection is for the power.

Thomson unit consumes 19 Watts power in use, and 14 even in standby mode.

Thomson unit consumes 19 Watts power in use, and 14 even in standby mode.

I used a power meter to test how efficient the unit was, as this is increasingly becoming a concern when buying electrical devices. The Thomson isn’t as efficient as some other models, especially the Humax PVR9150T and PVR9300T which both claim to use less than 1 watt power in standby. By comparison, the Thomson consumes 14 Watts when in standby, peaking at 19 Watts when in use.

Overall, this seems to be a great unit at the advertised price. Some customers have reported problems with their units, but with a full 12 month warranty I don’t see why you could complain. It doesn’t lack any features offered by other models and is one of the most easy to use devices I have reviewed. The 160 GB hard drive is easily enough space for you not to worry about deleting programmes every day and the £50 price tag, in my opinion, makes it an obvious choice.

Have you got one of these models? We’d love to know what you think of it and whether you agree with our review. Leave your feedback below.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Carol Gray says:

    Top Up TV o.k. for a while but they sent a corrupted file to the hard drive then I couldn’t turn the boex on. The instructions on the web didn’t work. Couldn’t get in touch with them so took it back and got a refund.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Carol – out of interest, what model have you decided to replace it with?

  3. Was easy to use, but after 11 weeks the box would not come off standby or initiate after unplugging. Helpline from store advised me to return for refund and not buy another Thomson, so this seemed to be a known problem. Am interested to know whether this new software upgrade really works, or does it break down again after a few months – I’m wary now!
    Have not yet bought a replacement. Not sure whether to go for the £50 refurbished model, or spend more on a Humax?

  4. The Thomson I have (and reviewed) has the new software, and hasn’t been a problem since it was bought several months ago. The only slight issue I have is the noise of the fan. Other than that, feature-wise, it stands up to any of the other models I have seen and reviewed.

    I think it’s wise to understand that where hardware and software are involved these days, i think its prudent to expect some machines to suffer from hardware or software failure – i suppose it’s how common these issues are that determines whether it is seen as a reliable model or not. From my experience, although you do hear of some problems with Humax machines, I would always buy Humax for reliability.

  5. Ian Warelow says:


    I’ve had the DT16300-16 for around 2 years now and have had numerous problems of picture freezing, corrupt recording and downloads etc, etc. This is the first I’ve heard of software problems and an upgrade. In the early days I corresponded with Top up TV by email and telephoned with my complaints. We have had to just adjust to having an unreliable machine that has problems almost daily and sometimes 3 times a day.

  6. Paul Latham says:

    Absolute piece of junk.

    Bought one for my father in law. Seemed good so bought one for myself as well. Within 3 months we went through 4 units between us. No problems with excanging the units but now over 1 year old and both remaining boxes have packed up!
    Absolutly disgusted at the quality of the hard drives they use, as they fall over. Now i have to buy 2 more boxes.
    Verry dissapointed customer!!!

  7. barry hicks says:

    Have had nothing but trouble with mine (250gb) and I’m sorry that I didn’t research more fully before I bought. The web is full of reviews listing a whole host of problems that regularly occur with this unit. I seem to have suffered most of them eg. picture freezing; library corrupted; not recording and many other things that I can’t be bothered to list.

    My advice? DO NOT BUY AT ANY PRICE!!

  8. David Dunn says:

    I have also had one of these recorders for 15 months (this was a replacement)
    It has performed reasonably until recently, now it is a pain in the proverbial. I have taken note of remedies stated in various sites and am going to format the hard disc and revert to the previous software, also look into replacing the two suspicious capacitors on the mains imput circuit, apparently these are cheap ones and possibly “blowing”, If all this fails then it means replacement by hopefully a better make.

  9. I have had my Thomson DTI6300 box for a year now. Appart from the box freezing every now and then we have had no problems. However last week we lost all the programs we have recorded and now our program library is empty and it won’t record anything now. Due to it being just out of warranty we can’t return it either.

  10. I had 2 Luxor 250gb tv recorders freeview+ sent by top up tv as a monthly contract at 19.99 and when i got my first one the was a card read error then I they sent a replacement then again same problem card read error and they replaced it with the Thompson 160gb freeview+ box with just espn on 9.99 a month and it works with no ploblems so I recommend that u don’t trust Luxor 250gb freeview+ tv recorder box the main channles work but not top up tv even if u got ya monthly top up tv card in it will just say not present in the set up menu I even nearly smashed the second Luxor cos it was very stressful geting it to work so I say no to Luxor and yes to Thompson

  11. Dean King says:

    We bought the Thompson it didn’t record when was ment to and wait the HDd was 49% full but had nothing on it, I took it back and got another and that would not set up took that one back for a refund I definitely would not recomend it!

  12. I had the same problem as Amanda, probably about the same time too. Would not buy another one either. They are terribly noisy

  13. ive owned the 160gb version for 2 years without any probs apart from the fan noise. Dean King you needed to go into settings and untick the top up tv providers to get 100% free hdd as it reserves the space for downloading content. Great pvr and cheap now.

  14. ricky wollaston says:

    i bought 2 from argos, a while back and had nothing but problems so took them back and got a refund, tried other makes and still had problems, i kinda think that you are going to get troubles with whatever make you get, though i havnt tried them all. this year i went into tesco’s and bought a reconditioned one, and its excellent have had no problems it seems to have ironed out any of the problems with the refurb. im actually on here because ive lost the list of the codes to set your controller up with the t.v. if anyone would be so kind to mail me the codes for Sony televisions i think there are 4 or 5 codes for each make and also the buttons you press to set up the controller i would be eternally grateful, i cant find a website for thompson and im hoping some kind person will take the time to help me out. if anyone can help it really would help me out. many thanks ricky

  15. Michael Duffy says:

    I have had my Thomson recorder for 3 years, and apart from a slight hiccup at the start, which I rectified myself with the help of the helpline, at this moment in time, I really enjoy it.

  16. I have nothing but criticism for Thomson – we’ve had our box for 14 months and it has finally wiped all of our recordings which we made over Christmas – my little boy is gutted. I would never buy a Thomson product again and I’m not impressed with TUTV either!

    You can see why Sky do so well!

  17. anyone else have any problems with candy stripes when trying to record on channle five?

  18. Hi, iv had my Free view box for eight months and was doing a good job coping with the occasional missed recordings for unspecified reasons. Besides this – oh, and the occasional freezing up of whatever was on screen often resulting with the current recording being lost – all was well with this model :-) ? That was until I set my Thomson DT16300 Digital Freeview Box to record a free view program a few days ago (Jackie Brown). When i attempted to replay the program i discovered all previous recordings (in programmes) were no longer listed. It’s as though all recordings had been erased and the box will no longer provide pause live TV. Since this fault happened the record red light stays on once the unit has attempted to record a program and remains so until the unit is temporarily unplugged from the mains. Settings for disc states 35% free! I suspect this is some kind of virus issue? If i cannot rectify this problem i will not be getting another Thomson model as i need to take time out to preserve the remains of my good health! Any help with this would be appreciated. Cheers

  19. i have had thompson freeview boxes for about 5 years now and dave not any trouble from them,,,i have thtee now,,..still very satisfied with them…..t.

  20. had my thompson for 3 years apart from one or two freezes sometimes my fault? untill recently i lost all recordings and stuck in recording mode switching on and off no good rang helpline very helpful told me how to go in default mode reset worked a treat good as new

  21. Had the thomson dt160gb hdd recorder as above for 5 years, brought it for £50 from asda, Excellent quality reliable item, with latest software no problems with freezing or as stated in other posts..
    you do need to format hdd* once a year to keep things running sweet…
    *get into the menu navigate to ‘help’ and pressing green button brings up the format/servicemenu.
    if your hdd shows partial full with no recordings, turn off all your top-up tv items if not using top up tv and you will regain 100% of hdd back.

    Overall 99% happy with..

  22. We are thinking of cancelling Top-Up TV and just using the Thomson box as a TV recorder (250GB). Is this possible after cancellation and easy to adjust if necessary?

Speak Your Mind