Product Type: Digital Stream set top boxes
Newest Review: ... some of the buttons are very small, the Media button in particular could do with being much bigger as it's one of the most used buttons. ... more
Look After The Bits And The Bytes Will Look After Themselves
Digital Stream DHR8203U Freeview HD PVR
Member Name: lilmsnaughty79
Digital Stream DHR8203U Freeview HD PVR
Advantages: Good value, great HD picture
Disadvantages: Some reliability issues, small remote buttons.
When I was looking for a Freeview HD PVR there were basically two makes I was looking at, Humax and Digitalstream. The clincher was the Digitalstream was £100 cheaper than the Humax for the same capacity (500GB). The box itself is black and a little bit chunky but doesn't look out of place under my TV. There is a front display that shows the channel or the name of the program you're watching if watching a recorded program.
The Digitalstream has twin freeview HD tuners, meaning that it will record two programs at the same time, and will allow you to watch another channel. If you are recording two channels the channels you can watch becomes more limited, you can only watch the channels that are on the two tuned in Muxes. A Mux is a collection of channels.
The picture quality on HD channels is excellent, it's surprising how much better they look to SD
channels. The SD channels are good, they are a bit soft but after a little while you don't notice.
It is a bit sensitive to signal so I had to go in the loft to realign my aerial to get the HD channels,
but now the switchover is almost complete it shouldn't be a problem as they have boosted the signal.
Hopefully more HD channels will come soon.
The remote control is a nice size and fits in my hand well but some of the buttons are very small, the
Media button in particular could do with being much bigger as it's one of the most used buttons.
However, once you get used to it it's ok. You can pick up compatible remotes from other companies
relatively cheaply if you can't get on with it.
The menus are usable, the text is big and easy to read and the colour scheme is nice. There are some
issues with the Media screen, sometimes the selected line can move below the last item and if you're not careful you could accidentally delete the wrong program, I have reported this problem but so far it has not been fixed. Some functions should be easier to get to, such as the delete file option but you get used to it.
As with all PVRs you can select an individual program from the guide but if it's a series you can record
the entire series with the series link option, this is a great. If you want you can get the box to
automatically create folders for series linked programs.
The box gets updated via USB memory stick from files downloaded off the Digitalsteam website, not over the air even though there is an over the air option. This is ok for computer literate users, but some may find it difficult or may not even have a computer. The updates have addressed some issues and added some new features.
The biggest problem I have with the box is it's reliability, sometimes after coming out of standby the
box will refuse to respond to the remote control, the IR light on the front comes on when you press a
button but nothing happens. Putting on the latest update has not helped to fix the unresponsiveness and this is an often mentioned topic on the forums. Also, it has been known to miss the odd recording, but I believe this is mostly the fault of the broadcasters, often channel four or five.
On the subject of forums there is an excellent forum on avforums.com and one of the members has direct contact with the developers in Korea so you can get some good answers. They have also created a useful wiki site.
Another frustration is how long it takes to delete files, sometimes it can be quick but most of the time
it takes ages, it's not a major problem but could do with improving. It would also be very good to have
an 8x speed mode for forward and rewind, not sure why they haven't added it during updates it often asked for by the users. It also doesn't automatically switch on the TV or switch the TV's input when it's switched on which is something you'd expect of most devices these days.
The latest update has BBC support, this has taken a long time to come mostly because of the BBC dragging their heals. This works as a red button function. The interface for the iPlayer is functional but plain and it will stream in normal or higher quality, I had no buffering issues on my connection. There are no HD programs available and from what I've read this is the BBC dragging their feet not the box itself. There is no built in wireless, but you can pick up a wireless bridge for around £20 if you don't want to use a cable.
There are also some streaming internet channels but as of yet they're not worth bothering with, but it
does have future promise.
It is possible to hook up an external hard disk or USB memory stick to store programs, only SD programs can be played back on other devices, HD files are encrypted so cannot be played but can be stored and watched back on the machine later if the machine is running low on disk space. There is also a user mod that you can download that allows you to setup a Samba share to your computer. To do this a USB stick needs to be permanently attached to the machine with the update on it. There may be other user mods in the future.
On the whole I do recommend this box, it's not without it's issues, but at £100 cheaper than the
equivalent Humax and from what I've read the Humax is not without issues too. It still gets updates from the developers so the manufacturer support is good. I think it is good value for money. If you don't want Sky or Virgin then it's a great addition to the living room. I picked mine up from John Lewis, it was as cheap as anywhere else and came with a two year warranty.
Summary: Good Value Freeview HD PVR With Some Minor Issues
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