Currys own brand electrical Matsui might not be one of the leaders in entertainment, but when I was considering whether to get a Freeview box or not, they came up trumps. After all, one Freeview set top box is much like another, isn't it? Similar ones by Philips and Sony came with higher price tags, and all I wanted was the basic, all-you-can-get-for-free-channels. No monthly subscriptions, satellite dishes that need installing, or menus of choices which would leave me having to decide how much time I want to watch sport, or Cartoons, or film channels. Just buy the box, take it home and set it up.
5 or 6 years ago Freeview boxes were just starting to become more popular with die hard 5 channel enthusiasts, and were soon coming down to a price which represented good value for money.
The one I opted for may not have as much to offer TV viewers as its' newer Freesat counterparts, but as a standard-definition Freeview set-top box which needs no fiddly installation or a dish, the DTR 1 was a sound choice for me.
The set top box, which might seem large compared to the more modern ones that are for sale now, but it still seems small in comparison to my DVD player, and having a CRT television (still!) it sits on top nicely and doesn't take up too much space.
Aside from that, just a remote control, batteries and a nice instruction manual. Both the box and remote are silver coloured, which blends in nicely with my silver television.
Is a piece of cake. It has two scart sockets, giving more flexibility than those which only have the one. One connects to the TV and means you should get a better quality picture than those which rely on the older co-ax sockets for a signal. The second scart socket is for connecting to your DVD or other equipment connected to your television.
Thanks to the easy 'First time installation menu' all the available channels are tuned in within about 4 minutes, with the help of the remote control. Once tuned though, I did notice that my existing TV aerial wasn't strong enough to get a decent picture, so I did have to buy a small aerial which is attached to the box.
This box also has a separate audio output at the rear, for those that want to connect it to their hi-fi speakers.
At the front, the box is rather plain of face. Apart from an LCD display showing the channel you are watching, the only three buttons are for power, and to move the channel up or down. So if the batteries in the remote die late at night, you can still change channels if you're happy to get out of your seat, but not much else.
~ Versatility ~
For a box which is now not modern, I'm still happy with it's versatility. I probably use the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) more than any of it's other features. Partly out of laziness, partly because it's very simply laid out. This calls up the current programme together with the following programme, in pages of 5 channels, simply by pressing the Guide button on the remote. Whatever programme is currently broadcast on the channel you have last watched is displayed in the top right hand corner of the screen together with a synopsis of the programme and the start and finish times. This has made the need to buy a weekly programme magazine almost redundant in my house.
There are numerous menus and options available via the remote control, most of which I have no need for and have never tried. There is a means of accessing your most watched channels quickly by means of a 'favourite' mode, although I find it unnecessary. I usually channel surf and if something catches my eye I will watch it. You can also delete those channels which you know you are never going to watch, but again, it seems like unnecessary effort on my part so I haven't done this.
What I do quite frequently, is set a programme reminder, which is also accessed through the EPG Menu, and this will enable a prompt to be displayed on the screen at the start time. Not important, but handy to have if you're at all forgetful.
There is also the ability to switch from digital to analogue TV channels on the remote if you should want to, though I stick purely to the digital channels now. It also adjusts the volume level of the box, which is independent of the television volume control. Ideally, they should both be adjusted so that they're reasonably level, otherwise if you switch from digital to analogue viewing, the sound level might suddenly become very high.
Perhaps more importantly for parents with young children would be the facility to lock certain channels. Thus, the channel can't be selected for viewing without a 4 digit pin code being correctly entered (which has been pre set to 0000). Anyone determined enough could overcome this by arranging for the entire channel list to be reinstalled, which would bypass the lock. But Matsui have thought of this. There is a means of locking the complete Menu system, which would stop any youngsters unless they have the pin code. Again, not something I've had to use, but it is more sophisticated than other boxes which simply block all channels.
~ Ease of use ~
It's no good having a multitude of options at your fingertips with any gadget, if it's so fiddly setting the thing up you want to give up in despair. Fortunately for me, this Matsui is virtually idiot proof. The screen Menus are all simple to use, and the EPG in particular, although may seem basic to those with Sky or Virgin subscriptions, makes my channel hopping a doddle.
As for the 'press the red button now' scenario, I've only used it occasionally during Wimbledon when the BBC gives it's digital viewers coverage from a choice of courts, but it couldn't be easier.
The remote control, despite having cheap looking rubber buttons, is still responsive after constant wear and tear for nearly five years. Not just the occasionally being dropped on the floor, it also passed my Labrador chew test too. Once, when my dog was about 6 months old, I had carelessly left the remote within her reach. I found it on the floor complete with teeth marks front and back. A less robust remote control would have been consigned to the rubbish, but not this one. The damage luckily, was only superficial, so although it now looks a bit shabby, it still works perfectly well.
~ Performance ~
Having owned this model for around 5 years, it's passed the test of time well. Apart from occasionally replacing the batteries, it's given me no problems. Manually updating the available channels is also a simple process which takes around a minute every once in a while.
Visually, I don't really think that it helps make my television picture a great deal crisper than it would be otherwise, but then I live very near to a transmitter, so the picture quality on any televisions in my neighbourhood should be first rate. It's possible that those with high resolution widescreen televisions would notice its limitations more though.
Any Freeview box should improve the quality of the reception although some parts of the UK still get a poor signal. There are Freeview websites which can tell you how good the Freeview signal is in your area, if you don't already know.
~ Energy Consumption ~
Everything from kettles to washing machines now seem to state how green their credentials are. I can't find any information in relation to my Matsui box, although one drawback worth noting is that the manual actually recommends leaving the box on standby overnight rather than switching it off. This is for Over Air Download, which apparently happens at 3am every morning, when the latest information is downloaded automatically to the box. Maybe Matsui see this as an advantage, but as I've already said, I manually search for any new channels, and so I don't leave mine switched on overnight.
Having had around 5 trouble free years with this, I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone wanting to dip their toe into the world of digital television for the first time. The only downside is that the DTR1 isn't available to buy new from Dixons or Currys any more, but a look at websites such as eBay may prove worthwhile.
~ Anything else? ~
* There are currently over 70 channels available for viewing, from Cbeebies to Al Jazeera and Russia Today;
* Subtitles and digital Teletext are available at the touch of a button on the remote.