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Up until two months ago I subscribed to BT Vision for my tv needs, but when I lost Sky Sports due to not being able to receive Infinity in my location, I decided it was time to give up subscription TV at least for the time being. I realised I would save over £30 a month by giving up the subscription and buying a set top box, and started to shop around for a suitable box, which would offer me a recording facility (PVR), pause/rewind live TV, and also I really wanted access to HD channels. This Goodmans box looked a real contender, doing all those things for £135, plus it would pay for itself in 4 months or so if I was struggling to live without my sports!
Functions/Features & Performance
The main features offered by the box are:
- Twin Tuner Freeview+HD Terrestrial PVR, meaning it's possible to record one channel whilst watching another, or record two channels simultaneously if you need to. All standard freeview channels can be received as well as several HD - BBC1, 2, ITV1 and Channel 4 for me. HD reception is good, using the HDMI cable supplied.
- 8 Day programming guide for all channels where you can view programmes upcoming and see a brief summary of the selected programme. When this is accessed, the currently-viewed programme remains running in the top right corner.
- Play, Pause & Rewind Live TV, the system allows you to rewind and forward up to speeds of 64x down to 2x, which is a good range in my experience.
The capacity of the box is 320GB, and I haven't come remotely close to using this capacity, it seems perfectly generous for regular needs.
The look of the box is nothing outstanding, which is fine by me, it's black in colour with a square angled appearance. It's relatively slim, around 5cm high with a digital display which shows the selected channel number as well as a friendly "bye" when switched off.
Installation and Start up
Installing the box was simple, plug in, attach the HDMI cable (included) and plug into the TV, plug the aerial into the box, and away we go! Switching on for the first time immediately launches the process of searching for channels and I was up and running within a few minutes.
Start up of the box from standby takes around 1-2 minutes. It shows a "freeview" logo for 30 seconds or so before a black screen followed by the tv picture without sound whilst it boots up with a progress bar at the bottom of the screen. It sounds incredibly pedantic to moan about wating 1-2 minutes for startup, but I'm going to! It just feels too long, and doesn't compare well to other boxes.
My experiences of the box
Unfortunately my experience of the box has been almost entirely negative. First, lets be fair... watching tv via the box once up and running will in the main give no problems. No sound problems or actual picture problems. The HD quality is not spectacular, but my TV is only "HD Ready" as opposed to full HD, and it's certainly detectably better than SD.
The problems start if I need to do anything other than just watch ... for instance, I have had the system freeze on me a several times over the past 2 months when I've been simply scanning through or changing channels - I'd say at least once a week which isn't acceptable. Selecting some radio channels is also hit-and-miss, often greeting me with silence and refusing to launch, requiring a reset (another 1-2 minutes!!).
The remote control is a recurring problem throughout all features, seeming to require a perfect perpendicular line-up with the sensor to get it to register, and even then, it still requires the firmest of presses of every button. Switching channels is a bit clunky in terms of scanning being painful if the remote loses it's direct line of sight with the sensor midway through scanning, which again happens quite often. When the channel is selected there are a few seconds of silence/blank screen whilst the change is actioned.
The text of the main guide is very small, and navigating around is sluggish to say the least. This is something I have got used to as I use it daily and my eyesight is quite good, but could certainly be a problem for some.
Using the PVR is an absolute nightmare. Firstly, it's tiresome to use because of the remote control issue, but besides that it's not intuitive at all in the way you need to navigate through either to set recordings, or even worse, finding what you want to watch from your recordings and watching. The system is always sluggish when accessed for the first time each use, taking several minutes to recall all your recordings and sort them into order. If you try to access anything whilst this process is ongoing, the system jumps around inexplicably, I will be scrolling through episodes to suddenly find myself dumped back to the initial list screen. This happens regularly and often, and is infuriating.
Deleting programmes is equally troublesome, requiring a long-winded scrolling process to get to the programme you want to delete, hitting delete, toggling to confirm, and then back to the initial list screen to start again or to delete the next programme. Imagine trying to delete multiple programmes, a nightmare, and that's assuming you can go through the process each time without being kicked back to the start for no reason.
Watching programmes in part and returning later is another problem, the system doesn't always save the place I've viewed to. Sometimes it does, sometimes not, depends how it feels. Aaaargh!
When using the PVR for anything more than watching a one-off recording - for instance, opening a recording, realised you've opened the wrong one (happens a lot due to button delay) and trying to go back to rectify, the system will often and regularly freeze. This requires a switch off at the plug and reset of the box again.
I've additionally had isolated issues of programmes failing to record and vanishing completely from the list for no reason.
On the plus side, when you do get to highlight a programe you wish to record, it is a one-button press to record, and a simple toggle to record the series.
=Pause/Rewind Live TV=
Being aware of the remote control issue, pausing and rewinding/forwarding is equally troublesome to operate. Sometimes it will wind at the selected speed, but other times not at all. Re-pressing might rectify the problem or it might register another press, it's impossible to tell. It's performance is appalling really. If there has been a glitch during rewind or pause then restarting will mean the sound is out of sync from the picture, or gone altogether. Also, when rewinding or forwarding, the picture just jumps 5-10 seconds at a time rather than running faster or slower, so it's difficult or impossible to stop and resume viewing at a specific point.
Here's where the story ends ... for me, at least.
This weekend I am returning my box. It is simply not reliable enough and its performance unacceptable when using TV guide and PVR functions, which I consider to be fundamental. It may be a case of "you get what you pay for", but I still paid out £130 for this equipment, and if it's not up to its job then it shouldn't be on the market at all.
My partner bought one of these boxes at the same time, he watches his at his home far less than me, and uses the PVR only rarely, and he is happy to keep his. He has had two occasions when the whole thing has "frozen" on him, so it's clear that mine isn't just a case of bad luck. My conclusion is that this box is only suitable if you want to watch occasional tv with the range of freeview channels offered and would like to watch in HD. If you are likely to want to make use of a PVR then there is no way I could ever recommend this box.