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There are so many Freeview boxes available to buy these days, that it's difficult to know which ones are good and which ones are, well... less than good. It's easy to spend hundreds of pounds on a feature-laden device, but it may well be money wasted if it's being used on a tiny television in the spare room. The Matsui DTR3 is the very definition of a cheap Freeview box (currently available for only £15 from amazon.co.uk) - but how does it perform? I've owned a number of Matsui products over the years, and always found them to be better than expected.
- - - - - - - - Design & Appearance - - - - - - - -
Constructed from silver plastic, the DTR3 is actually nicer looking than you would expect for a budget product - it's pretty small too, measuring just over twenty centimeters in length with a depth of fifteen cms. The mains cable is non-removable, but it should be of adequate length (over a metre and a half) to reach to the plug socket. On the front panel is a light which illuminates green when the product is on, and turns red when the device is in standby mode. The box's plastic outer shell does feel a little flimsy, but I have actually dropped it (albeit from a low hight onto a soft surface) and it survived to tell the tale.
- - - - - - - - - It's all in the wrist: The Remote Control - - - - - - - -
As there are no external controls on the box itself, all of the DTR3's functions are controlled via the remote. This rather cheap looking 'dobber' takes two AAA batteries (included) and is comfortable to hold. All of the buttons are in easily accessible locations and are rubberized for ease of use. In fact, however cheap it may look, the remote actually performs rather well. The numbers are nicely separated, preventing people hitting more than one button at once, and the range is good, easily operating the device from across the room.
- - - - - - - - - Hooking it up to your TV - - - - - - - -
As it's a cheaper box, you wouldn't expect the DTR3 to have a wide range of connections round the back - and sure enough, it doesn't. There are simply two SCART sockets and two aerial sockets ('in' and 'out') - that's it. Then again, a simple connection is all you may be looking for - not everyone has a hi-def TV, or surround sound system to hook up to. Setting up the device for the first time is really easy; connect one end of the the SCART cable to the TV, pop the other end into the 'TV' labelled SCART port on the box - then connect the aerial cables, and switch on the mains. The device will ask you if you want to scan for channels, and clicking yes will begin the installation process - easy.
- - - - - - - - The Menu System - - - - - - - -
The DTR3 is a really easy device to get to grips with, as the pleasant looking menus are simple to use. The clear and straight-forward options are navigable via the four arrow keys on the remote, and the whole process is generally responsive. The menu's background is a medium blue in colour, creating a decent contrast with the white text which is easy to read. In terms of the features, there's a TV guide - but it only shows you what's on 'now and next', rather than the eight-day guide which is more commonplace nowadays. The other main features are very limited, but they include a channel favourites setting, and a rudimentary timer option.
- - - - - - - - Picture Quality - - - - - - - -
It probably goes without saying that this particular Freeview tuner operates in standard definition only - you'll have to pay a significant amount more for a high definition version. That said, in my experience, the DTR3's Freeview pictures are sharp, with natural looking colours and smooth movement - of course, this will also depend a great deal on the quality of your TV, but the box seems to do its part very well. The built-in tuner is very receptive, and in adverse weather conditions manages to receive some channels that the more expensive box upstairs is unable to.
- - - - - - - - Final Word - A product worth 'investing' in? - - - - - - - -
The Matsui DTR3 is a very cheap and reliable Freeview box which does a good job in doing what was designed for. No, there aren't any fancy features - and because of this, the DTR3 would be perfectly suited to an elderly person who has no need for all the extras. On the downside, there's no real 'off' switch apart from the mains - so you'll have to leave the device on its less-than-eco-friendly 'standby' mode if you want to access it quickly. Certainly recommended for the price, but if you want more from your Freeview reciever then you'll probably want to look elsewhere.