back to article Freeview HD Set-top Boxes: Best Buys

If there’s one thing that’s clear from this Freeview HD set-top box group test, it’s that there’s no single box that’s right for everyone. Here are the seven set-tops Reg Hardware brought together for this round-up: Bush DVB680 Goodmans GDB300HD Humax HD-FOX T2 i-Can Easy HD Icecrypt T2200 Philips DTR5520 Sharp TU-T2 Two …

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Too early.

surely most people will want to wait. these boxes are very poor, mostly from the low-end manufacturers so what do you expect?

far better to obtain a tv with freeview hd built in, and then wait and get a freeview hdd recorder (preferably with blu-ray recording/playback also, such as panasonic are bringing out in june/july)

never makes sense to jump in with these early models, especially with how junky they look.

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Picture quality?

But what of picture quality? How sharp was the image? How well did the box handle the compression? Movment? Any artifacts noticeable whilst watching?

I know you guys aren't What Hi-fi so I wouldn't expect you to go on about how good the blacks where or anything like that. But something about the main reason you're plumping for HD wouldn't go amiss.

Or am I to presume the picture looks the same whichever you choose and its pretty much down to which box you like and what features it has?

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Anonymous Coward

Thieving Bankers boxes only

I can wait for the £9.99 LIDL one myself.

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MJI
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FAIL

None of them are any good

They are all missing the essentials of any box, 2 tuners and a hard disk. This on its own is enough for a fail.

I will wait and see what Humax or Topfield produce when we get some proper boxes.

Pace/Phillips well where do I start, Pace do not even support their Freeview PVR, leaving owners with an expensive door stop come digital switchover.

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Bronze badge

Yep...

As I mentioned in another comment, there really isn't any significant different in the picture quality that I was able to see, even when switching between the boxes fairly quickly.

All are capable of outputting at 1080p, if you really want, and all appear to give just as good a rendition of the FreeviewHD signal, in my view. You'll see more variation due to the quality of the different programmes than you will between the way the different boxes handle HD.

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Stu
Pirate

Audio

Hmmmm.

I didn't know about the HE-AAC thing that the Freeview group have settled on. Jeez its bad enough that they chose the DVB-T2 system over those HD formats in Europe that doesn't require new hardware, now it seems they've gone and pandered to industry again by choosing a wholely unsupported audio system, and relying on built in transcoding - at cost to the consumer. How convenient for them.

I have recently been exposed to the wonderous delights of 5.1 surround via my new AV Receiver. Its not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but my ears can't tell any real significant difference. Suffice it to say, the immersive experience, as I'm sure you know, is very much more enhanced by it when watching Blu-Rays.

So why then did you only recommend and award those boxes which didn't have Dolby Digital transcoding!? Do they still support AV Receiver 5.1 support via some other means?

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Bronze badge

Transcoding

Transcoding needn't necessarily add much to the cost of a box; there's a Dolby design, for example, intended for specifically this application, which can do the whole lot at - so Dolby says - a lower licensing cost than the individual components.

And it appears that some of the boxes have that design, or something similar; since the test was published, for example, Humax has confirmed to me that a firmware update for their box will add transcoding from HE-AAC. I would hope that quite a few of the boxes out there will be able to do this too, though we shall have to wait and see the response of the manufacturers.

If you have an AV system that supports multi-channel audio via HDMI, then again you should be able to get surround out of these units.

If every single programme on the HD channels actually used surround sound, and I felt that the majority of people would be connecting to a surround system, I'd have attached more weighting to the issue, and that would have altered the scores somewhat.

But as things stand, a lot of what's being broadcast right now is still only in stereo - I had to wait until appropriate programmes appeared on BBC HD to check the functionality of each box. And many people will be looking at some of those other features too, just as much as sound.

It's certainly an important issue - I'd have glossed over it if I didn't think so - but at the moment, may not affect a huge number of people. The awards are calculated based on scores, and those boxes that scored highest did so because of their other functionality, or ease of use.

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Thumb Up

DVB-T2

I was under the impression that DVB-T2 makes better use of the UHF spectrum to enable more channels to be crammed into the same space as what a DVB-T mux takes. Since HDTV (even compressed as MPEG4 video) takes more space than plain old standard definition, I'd say this is a good thing as hopefully it'll make way for a couple of more channels (or even more if Freeview dropped all those shopping channels).

Also considering that existing DVB-T boxes and a whole load of DVB-T integrated TVs only support standard definition (MPEG2) and possibly wouldn't support MPEG4 even with a firmware upgrade it's not the end of the world as we'd still probably have to buy new boxes to support MPEG4 video.

Personally I'm holding off getting one of these boxes. £150 is a bit much for me. Luckily I do have Virgin cable TV so I'm possibly going to plump for the V HD box (yes I know technically it'll cost near enough the same as a Freeview HD box but at least I'll be able to enjoy the benefits of HDTV and then when the Freeview HD boxes come down in price and improve I'll then probably pick up a box).

Good article by the way.

Rob

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Humax

I had my fingers burned with the Humax PVR 9200 Freeview receiver, it's extremely buggy.

I've lost all my recorded programmers for a 3rd time this year. I could go on about the bugs for ages. It can take often as a minute or two to respond to the remote control, I have no idea what the thing is doing during this time. It does respond eventually, which means it has buffered the key press message somewhere.

I'm really reluctant to buy Humax again. But you can't really be sure about what bugs are present until you've been using it for months. Some bugs take ages to show up.

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Go

Can you review the 3view one when it comes out?

While it's about double the price (300quid), looks pretty good.

Dual tuner, 500gb hard drive, dnla, internet, youtube, iplayer to come.

Course, at that price, knowing it it's worth it's important, so a review please? 27th may is the release date.

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MJI
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WTF?

The sound

Well I have now had a good read - the sound issue is a right nightmare. My receiver can take Dolby Digital or DTS. So transcoding as far as I am concerned is essential. So add that to the twin tuner and hard disk requirement please!.

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How confident can we be about updates?

Is this a division of the home electronics market where after-sales software upgrades really can be expected? That's been a variable experience with Freeview SD equipment. Updates don't a!ever happen, or they break the boxes, or they give you a reportedly awful ITV advertising-sponsored EPG instead of the manufacturer's edition of EPG. So for instance I own a Daewoo VHS recorder that no longer receives Freeview because of something called "Split NIT". And as for recording onto USB devices, some of your manufacturers say, "uh, maybe". It would be most sensible to assume "never". Of course, this isn't the review that covers PVRs.

Other "features" that I'm interested in are crashability - I think every Freeview SD box I've owned has been liable to crash in an individual annoying way, which only shows up in long term use - and "radio" reception and recording, although that probably doesn't go above stereo most of the time.

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