In 1983 my dad bought our first new car, an Alfa Romeo Arna.

It was the first offspring of a joint venture between Alfa Romeo and Nissan.

On paper it sounded exciting - marrying the Italian flair of Alfa's styling department with the bulletproof reliability of Japanese engineering. Somewhere along the way the two firms got their roles mixed up. Nissan set up their desks in the styling department while Alfa decided to have a go at the electrics.

Short of ideas, Nissan hoped nobody would notice that they simply changed the grille on their frumpy old Cherry design, while Alfa stayed true to form, providing a driving experience that was briefly thrilling - before it broke down.

What does all that have to do with gadgets? A fortnight ago I reviewed the Humax DTR-T1010 YouView, a perfectly fine hard-disk recorder rendered painfully slow by the addition of YouView, Lord Sugar's set-top box software for accessing live and on-demand TV programmes.

The question is, can the South Korean team at Humax do a better job on their own without our meddling? To find out, I tested the HDR-2000T, the firm's latest Freeview HD recorder.

Plugging it in for the first time the improvements are clear. First, it starts up quickly - several times faster. Next, the on-screen menus are simpler and more responsive, with straightforward buttons on the remote to skip between functions.

Dual tuners allow the unit to record two shows at the same time as a third is being watched. There's plenty of space thanks to a 500GB hard drive that will capture up to 300 hours of standard definition TV, or 125 hours of HD recordings.

The electronic programme guide works well, allowing a series to be recorded at the touch of a button, while on-screen prompts suggest you switch to the equivalent HD channel where available.

Picture quality is excellent, both on HD channels and on standard definition, where the box does a good job of upscaling the picture to high-def over an HDMI cable.

There are a few minor niggles, though. The unit lacks wi-fi, making a wired connection necessary to take advantage of the box's online features. Once online, the unit has access to a range of apps including BBC iPlayer and YouTube but there are no apps for ITV, Channel 4 or 5.

More positively, there's a great media player app that automatically finds photos and videos on other computers within a home network, allowing them to be streamed to the TV without any additional software or settings. The box does the same trick with USB memory sticks and external hard drives, making it a versatile media hub.

Humax HDR-2000T


Positives: Fast, responsive menus; dual tuners.

Negatives: No apps for mainstream commercial channels.