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I have been throwing my money at a Sky subscription for many years, during that time I have had three different sky boxes. My latest box is a Sky+HD Amstrad DRX890. My mum gifted this Sky box to me over a year ago and they are also available as part of a new Sky subscription or up grade. This box is also available to buy new (£114.99 play.com) or second hand (ebay.co.uk various prices).
When I received my Sky+HD box I was happy to be swapping out my old blocky looking white Sky+ box. The black and silver box sits nicely with my assorted units on my tv stand. The box contains a minimal amount of buttons there are just enough to basically control the unit if you ever misplace the remote. The lights on the front are discreet. The light display can be customised in the options menus if you so wish.
Connecting the box was simple enough; my Husband connected the HDMI cable to the tv and then plugged the power in. After waiting a short while for the box to boot up we then inserted our viewing card. Sometimes you will be prompted to phone Sky to register the card to the box. We did not receive the prompt and were able to start checking out our upgrade immediately.
The Amstrad DRX890 comes with a 500GB internal hard drive which is for storing your recorded programs on and downloading on demand content too. We have never managed to fill the hard drive as we delete items after we have watched them. Despite our best efforts I would say it is impossible to remove anything from the hard drive that you want to back up to disk and if you do accidentally delete anything there is a undelete button, this is a good idea but to give you this option Sky sectioned a chunk of the hard drive off thereby lowering the amount of space available for your own recordings.
An element of Sky+ that I think I take for granted now is the ability to fast forward, rewind and pause programmes. I really enjoy the freedom this gives me as I can pause a programme when I pop off to make a cup of tea.
I do not have a HD subscription but I do have access to quite a few of the free to view HD channels. I find the picture and sound quality is better (Dolby Digital 5.1 surround) on the HD channels, but to make the most of HD programmes you need to have a HD capable tv and use a HDMI cable.
The Sky+ box comes with a massive interactive menu which can look a little overwhelming at first but soon proves itself easy to use and follow. The menu allows you to set up recordings in the future and link series to make sure you don't miss any episodes. You can also sort through your recordings and delete any you no longer want. There are also menu tabs that allow you to look at on demand, box office, search programs, radio channels, interactive, parental settings, customising options and settings. When you are in the menu there is a small screen in the upper right hand of the screen that allows you to continue watching your programs.
When skipping through the channels there is a search and scan banner that comes up and tells you what channel you are on and what programme you are watching and what the next two programmes are. I find this is a handy feature as you can select programmes from this banner to view later or record. I also like that when you press the information button you get an overview of the programme you are watching or want to watch.
I recently attached a small on demand box to the Sky+HD box. This box works flawlessly and has opened up extra downloadable content such as bbc iplayer, itvplayer, 4OD etc.
The Amstrad DX890 very rarely freezes up, on the few occasions it has locked up it just needs resetting. This is done by turning the box off and back on again at the plug. I really like the Amstrad DX890 it looks smart and modern, the massive hard drive holds many hours of programmes and the menus are useful and easy to use.
Thank you for reading.
Struggling to find inspiration for a review I thought I'd review something which I'm using pretty much constantly whilst at home since the TV is generally on. I'm sure there's loads of technical stuff that I'll miss out of this review - this is merely my personal experience of it!
My boyfriend and I both have the same Sky HD Box (Model DRX890 they say on the bottom - actually it is made by Amstrad rather than Sky itself), so I have used it in both our homes. I got mine free when I first signed up to Sky (I have since left - more about that in a bit) so about 5 years ago, and I believe my boyfriend's (which gets used a lot more) is a similar age. I seem to remember that it came in a box way back when, and I'm sure there is an instruction manual somewhere - however, it is so simple to use that there has never been any need for it.
---What it looks like---
The Sky HD Box is quite nice and modern looking, about the size of a smallish DVD player. It is black and silver in colour, and fits in well with the rest of our stuff! I presume that the matching Sky remote which is also black and silver came with it.
When you go to the 'Guide' you can see what's on TV now. One good thing is that what you're currently watching still shows up in a small screen in the top right corner. Although I haven't owned an older Sky box, I seem to recall other people's which just had a screen with channels, and annoying music playing in the background!
The red button will take you to things "On Demand", the green button to "Planner" (where all your recorded stuff, and stuff set to record shows), yellow button to "Favourites", and blue button to "Search" ( a useful function if you have no idea when something is going to be on).
One thing which I dislike about Sky is that it shows you all of the channels, including the ones which you don't subscribe to. If you click on one which you don't pay for it says
"Call the broadcaster to upgrade your subscription to receive this channel". It's particularly annoying on my home Sky Box (where I no longer have Sky), as it shows all of these channels which I don't have - I wish I could just see those which are available!
---Watching and Recording TV---
It's simple to use - just press the 'Sky' button on the Sky remote to turn it on (or just press the button on our remote which turns everything on making things easier for me!) - when it is on a green light shows rather than red when it's on standby. If you press 'pause', a blue circle lights up (it is within this circle that a red light shows if something is recording). The light moves around the circle when you then watch the TV, showing you that you can fastforward if you want.
To fast forward paused TV, you can do this at 2, 6, 12 or 30 times the speed of normal TV - when you catch up to current time the TV will start playing again.
With this box you can record two things at once. Therefore if two things are already recording, then you either have to watch one of these, or watch something else which has been previously recorded. This was never an issue for me when on my own, but there have been occasions when my boyfriend is recording two things and I've wanted to watch something else. In which case I've just had to do something else instead!
Generally when I delete two episodes of a soap the free space goes up by 1%. So it does hold a fair bit of stuff (it says it's 500GB)- we usually have about 50% free on it....when it gets to much less I start pestering my boyfriend to delete some of his rugby matches!
HD programs do take up a lot more space, so it is worth bearing this in mind when recording things. We did actually get rid of Sky HD at my boyfriends (to save £10 a month) but obviously still get HD on the free channels (like BBC), but I tend to record on the standard non-HD channel to take up less space.
Deleting TV is easy, and one good thing is that if you accidentally delete things, it is possible to retrieve them (unless you delete something which is currently recording).
This box isn't problem free. Sometimes it will crash (my boyfriend's does sometimes when fastforwarding) for no real reason. Normally turning it off and on again sorts it out. Occasionally I have needed to take the viewing card out and put it back in again.
I find that after having my Sky Box turned off at the mains at my house (I often just turn everything off when I'm going to be away for a while to save electricity), it can take a long time to get it back on which can be a bit annoying. Then you're faced with the irritating promotional Sky channel - I wish it just went onto the TV Guide!
As with any digital TV sender, there are issues when the weather is particularly bad), but generally this Sky HD B ox deals ok with it and service is only interrupted for minimal amounts of time.
---When you leave Sky---
I have left Sky at my house (not at my boyfriend's) since I spend very little time in that house anymore, and have no need for anything other than freeview channels. It was a right hassle cancelling Sky (since although I paid, it was in my ex's name, and Sky don't have a divorce policy so couldn't change it - my boyfriend had to pretend to be my ex to cancel), but we got there in the end. Therefore at my house the Sky HD box works as a freeview box, but without the benefit of being able to pause, rewind, fastforward, record and all of that. It's really weird actually having got so used to being able to pause TV when the phone rings. It's a bit annoying really! Also, none of the stuff which was saved (having been recorded) works anymore. I did know this before they switched it off. I presume it would all work again if my Sky was reactivated.
On the whole the Sky HD Box works ok, and neither of us have had any major problems with it, but it isn't perfect. In addition to this, I absolutely cannot stand Sky (due to the problems I had cancelling with them), so cannot award this any more than 3 stars.
You can buy these online (the price range seems to make no sense to me whatsoever) but they are free when you originally sign up to Sky. I'm hoping that we don't have to purchase a new one, as when my boyfriend's one dies (which will probably be before mine), mine should have a bit of life left in it.
Sky plus is brilliant - easy to use and intuitive.
One of the best things is the fact that you can record a whole series and that you can record two programmes while watching one you have already recorded.
The controls are really child's play - most children will pick up how it all works quicker than adults anyway, but even for technically challenged adults, it all works really logically.
Something that has recently changed is that you can recover deleted recordings. Occasionally I had accidently deleted something that I, or worse, my wife had recorded - now you can "undelete". Sky say that as your hard drive gets full, it permanently deletes the oldest "deleted" titles. I can say that we have never had a problem with running out of space and that is with series being recorded (sometimes 2-3 at a time) and with kids recording cartoons and all sorts of other stuff.
You'll notice that I said great "when it works". One issue we have had is freezing of the whole box. Sky have been unable to help with this as the box is outside warranty, but it seems to happen when you pause something you have previously recorded during playback for a long time - say 10 minutes to take a phone call - the only solution is then to turn the box off and on which does a reset - however, it then takes about 3-4 mins to get back to where you were which is very aggravating.
However, this aside, my overall experience with Sky+ HD has been positive.
If you can afford the monthly charges, I'd recommend it over a hard drive recorder
7/10 overall rating from me!
I bought this box with my Sky+HD Package, signing up as a new member, and in the time i've had it it's been nothing but a problem child. The issues first began with the green LED on the front of the box which worked intermittently, basically whenever it felt like it, and after a month of this it finally packed up and now doesn't work.
There are no LED's on the front of the box now when just playing a TV channel and I have to rely on the red instead. I'm lucky not to be colourblind, as usually this is yellow for standby, green for on.
The box's firmware is regularly glitchy for several reasons. Occasionally the sound doesn't work, and I have to turn the box off then on again to get any sound to come through. I've tried everything, it's nothing to do with the cable, it's the box's issue. Furthermore the box tends to freeze a lot when flicking through my personal planner. This is also intermittent.
Some good points to note about this box is that the recent firmware update is very good, and has really improved the experience. Instead of having the standard planner and TV Guide menus, you can now browse by genre first, and then select the menu you want. Say you want to watch horror, select Horror, then you can browse anything in your guide or recorded shows.
The box will occasionally fire up while it's on standby to record stuff to it's hard drive that's being sent to it by Sky, this is usually some anytime movies as these are stored cache on your box, and you have to access them from a separate menu. The box has some very easy to use buttons along the front incase you loose your remote, these are basic pause, play and fast forward and back buttons.
Set up for me was done by the Sky bloke who came out and set up the satellite, but once he's done that you're on your own. I got a quick tutorial on how to use it but the rest is up to you. Setting up from first plug in, you'll get a long loading screen with the SKY+HD logo on it, claiming your box is initialising.
I found the manual a little help but when the new firmware update came out, they just put the box on channel 998 which shows you (very briefly) how to use it. I managed ok, and think the new design is pretty user friendly, but those who are not tech savvy beware, this is a complicated box to set up from scratch. My advice, get the sky bloke to answer all your questions while he's there.
Recently moved into my new house, and got a Sky HD box before quickly taking out a Sky HD subscription. I've never seen appeal of high definition previously, but thought that with my recently purchased HD TV, I should take the dive and try it all out.
Now, whilst I do enjoy watching programs via my Sky HD box, I don't quite see the point in HD. Therefore, many of my gripes will probably be due to this. Firstly, the cost of continually having a product such as this is astronomical. Each monthly cost, whilst different each customer, is quite high for what you're getting. And then each package on top of that, such as Sky Movies or channels for the kids, bump the price up a bit more.
The box has its good points of course, such as the quality of the picture. But I don't think that justifies the price, as I'll quite happily revert back to standard. Other little gimmicks make it good as well, such as the menu screens, which look considerably smarter - they're easy to use as well. Also, setting the box up in the first place was much easier than I thought it would be. For us, Sky sent someone out to do it for us, which was a bonus.
In our house, we have lots of remotes. Remotes for things we don't even use or know the whereabouts of anymore! However, the remote for this box is completely different to previous Sky box remotes, which is pretty helpful. Other quick point relates to the games available, such as Bingo and Fantasy Football and all the shopping channels, such as Bid TV etc.
With the box, you can easily connect to the internet via your router, giving you access to Sky+, BBC iPlayer, ITVPlayer and YouTube (including 4OD Player). The Sky Anything + option is particularly useful, as it remembers your favourite programs and recommends them for your viewing pleasure. For those that like to spend their time more proactively, you probably won't like this feature as it will see you watching far more television than you should!
I haven't had any issues so far with the box, and would happily recommend it to anyone. Do note though, that some (if not all) Sky contracts will see you receive the box for free, so check that out first if you're new to Sky.
I acquired my Sky HD box late last year when I moved into my old house and took out a Sky HD subscription to go with my new 42" HD TV - I had opted for the HD subscription as I thought getting the basic box with this TV would be a waste of potencial and I would regret it months/years down the line.
Generally I do love my Sky HD box but at the same time the love is full of regret. What are the conflicts? Well for one the picture on my screen when watching a HD channel on the sky box is amazing - a massive difference to a normal screen when the TV is also Full HD. Another good point for me would be the much more attractive Sky Menu screen when you compare to the basic Sky box - much easier to use and looks better (this has also undergone a recent revamp which looks even better than before)... Now on to the bad point. THE COST! I did get the box for free when I took out the Sky which is ok, but the monthly costs are horrendous. Thankfully unlike some people I do not have Sports or Movies which helps but to many it is a cost which they can live without.
Setting up the box on to HD is simple - Sky wil send someone from the company out (with box and connections) and set this up for you. If for any reason such as a house move you need to dismantle the connections away from the box it is very easy to set up again.
On to the appearance of the Sky HD box... Compared to the older box which is a grey/silver colour the HD version is mainly black with very minimul silver features - on the front just a small strip of silver which runs through. To most this would be more attractive as when the older normal Sky box's came out the favoured appliance colour for TV's/Stereo's ect was silver which is not to everyones tastes anymore. On the face of the box are your regular sky buttons which are used to record/play/forward/rewind ect and the opposite side holds your channel changing buttons (which are handy if you ever happen to lose the remote!). One great feature which doesn't appear on the older box is the screen at the front which lights up in blue and red colours and indicates when the box is recording a programme or you are watching a pre-recorded programme. To me this makes the box look very modern.
The remote control which comes with the box is also different to the original remotes that came out with the older box's and the theme goes with the mainly black features on the HD box.
OK, so what features does the HD box have that the older box doesn't? As well as the HD content one of the main things I love is the fact you can connect your internet router directly to the box and have instant access to Sky Anything + which is many favourite programmes that Sky has picked out available for immediate download. This holds many different programme types such as documenteries and kids shows so there is something for everyone there. To me its a great feature as there is always a point in our lives where we can't ever find anything on TV to watch!
Like the older Sky box's you also get all the games such as BeeHive Bedlam and all your shopping and gambling needs.
To date I have not had any issues with how the box runs / recordings although my parents got a HD box as soon as it came out to go with their new TV and they have had some problems where it has just stopped working and Sky being very slow to try and sort it out (not to mention rude call centre staff liking to hang up rather than resolve the problem). Whether you have problems or not it seems to be pot luck with Sky, but if for any reason you are unsatisfied with their service if you threaten to go to another provider you can usually get reductions and free things added to your package!
Would I recommend?
As previously stated its a luxery which we all love and hate. We love it compared to the boring Freeview but we hate it for the running costs. The box itself is free of charge from sky but you make up for this with the high monthly bills. Being honest I don't think I could live without it as I do tend to put my feet up when I come in from work and watch a bit of TV and I do like that Sky has more choice than Freeview. And in a way the HD content is worth it. I would recommend to all but be prepared to pay the price for it which can be costly depending on the package you are after.
The Sky HD+ box was really the deciding factor as to whether myself and my wife signed up for a 12 month contract with Sky or whether we'd just tough it out with plain old Freeview and a Hard-disc recorder. When we moved from our old cabled area to our new home last December it was with a heavy heart that we had to cancel our long running contract with Virgin Media and return the exceptionally useful V+ Box that we'd been so happy with (and paid £99 for to boot!). Thinking we could maybe tighten the purse strings, we flirted with the idea of settling for what was on offer on Freeview (with a simple recorder to do the whole 'catch up on live TV' gig). An order was promptly placed on line for a decently speced Hard-drive recorder with an inbuilt Freeview tuner and we thought we were set. Cue much misery at channels with poor reception (apparently a big problem with the strength of aerial signal needed for many of the recorders) and a uselessly installed aerial signal booster (which set us back a further £50!) and then eventually a returned recorder to Amazon after we could take it no more!
So enter stage left the trusty Amstrad Sky HD+ box with a 12 month subscription to Sky! Yes, this recorder at the time was the answer to our prayers; it obviously integrates perfectly with the Sky dish that was conveniently sat dormant on the side of our house (alas there was no cable where we'd moved to) and gave us back the many missing channels and HD content that were inaccessible through Freeview.
So what is the Sky HD+ box then? Well, it is a digital satellite receiver and Hard-disc recorder, coming with 500 Gbs of storage space packed in. That sounds like a lot of hard-drive space, but cheekily Sky have decided it is best for us consumers if they simply take matters into their own hands and record shows that they think we are going to watch later automatically. Yes, I'm talking about Sky Anytime, and you'll find half (yes, half!) the hard-drive space is locked from your own use for shows to be recorded and added to the Anytime choice. You are either going to love or hate this feature; personally I believe it takes away a fair bit of functionality from the box as I'd like to be able to choose how I fill the entire hard-drive with content, but you do occasionally find the odd show advertised on Anytime that you forgot to set a record for. Being in the fairly unique position of not long relinquishing my Virgin Media subscription, I can say hands down that Virgin have the beating of Sky when it comes to their 'TV Choice' and 'Catch up TV' services. This was an excellent service available free for anyone on their largest home package and basically meant you could browse through loads of content (things like complete DVD box sets and TV shows) and access them straight away (no long waits for downloads from the Sky server like on some Anytime shows) and the 'Catch Up TV' was just far more comprehensive than Anytime (in that you got access to 4 on demand, BBC iplayer, ITV Iplayer plus loads of other channels). Anytime rather shamelessly focuses on recording the content of 'Sky' channels only, so don't expect to catch up on anything you've missed on the terrestrial channels unfortunately.
So that's my little rant about Sky Anytime over, but like I say, depending on what's important to you, you may actually appreciate the service. So with this box you also get a very nice EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) from Sky. This is surely only rivalled by the one provided by Virgin Media, but it is leagues ahead of the many Freeview boxes EPGs I've used in the past. Everything is laid out clearly and accessibly and you can jump up to a week ahead to see what's coming on, and set your recordings accordingly. Also really useful is the 'record series' link (though inexplicably it doesn't always recognise all series) so you can just set it up once and forget about it. As well as the 'TV guide', there is access to 'Anytime', Interactive games and such and the 'Sky Store'. The 'Sky Store' is basically pay-for-play TV, featuring old and new films and some TV shows. Again I don't use this, but for convenience some people may appreciate this.
Overall, compared to most off the shelf HD recorders, the Sky HD+ box is a very classy piece of kit; Sky, being major players in the home TV market, have had plenty of time to refine and improve upon their system, and you are getting a recorder that is easy to use and pretty feature packed. A couple of downsides are, because it is Sky's box, they have locked it in the sense you cannot copy anything you have recorded to another hard-drive or DVD (not without some sort of modification to the original box anyway). Another point worth mentioning perhaps is that box features no digital readout on the front (unlike the V+ box) telling you the channel you are on and the time (although you do get a rather cool futuristic blue glowing circle on the front!). Also, if you try to move through the screens too quickly with your remote you sometimes find that the guide will freeze on you for a few seconds, which can get mildly irritating. But these are just very minor niggles; this box is extremely capable and you couldn't ask for a more trouble free TV recorder - Sky and Amstrad have definitely done their homework on this one.
SKY HD BOX