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What a brilliant piece of kit! I inherited my sagem freeview box from my parents. Att that point they had had it about 3 years. They had got a TV with built on freeview. It was from the school of 'cheap set top boxes', priced at around £20. Despite this, after 4 years in my ownership, it still works! There has been no physical degradation either, like on the connection sockets.The controller is also in perfect condition, Which ties in with the superb build quality of the box. It still provides the majority of the available channels, and gives a severely increased picture quality. The options menu is very simple yet still comprehensive. it is very easy to use. All the options which you could want are easily found.
There are so many freeview boxes to choose from, a lot more than when mine was made. And many of them are produced my more well known producers. Yet i would still pick the Sagem.
We bought this set top box early last year from Amazon for our spare room as the television in there is a pretty old model that doesn't receive freeview on it. After a bit of debating we decided rather then pay £10 a month for Sky multi-room to be installed- we would get a set top box instead. Although i do love multi-room, i bregrudge paying it for a room only our guests use!
ABOUT THIS PRODUCT
* Receives freeview channels at no extra costs
* Large Hard drive to record onto
* Can be rigged up to a recordable DVD player to transfer your recordings
* Can record one channel whiles watching another
* Self upgrading
* Pause live TV
* Comes with remote control, adapter and cables to install to TV
My first impressions upon opening the box and inspecting the contents is i was very impressed with the set top box aesthetically. Its design is very small and compact, something you dont always find when buying a freeview set top box with a built in hard drive.
It was pretty easy to set up, just plug in and go. Its a good job really as the instruction manual leaves a lot to be desired- deffinately one aspect Sagem could do with changing.
Once i scanned for all the channels we qualify for (depends which area you live in), we where basically up and running. I found the menu simple to navigate and its self explanitory how to record programmes onto the hard drive. It does state you only get about 30 channels but we received many more then this, which is a bonus i guess- i suppose again this depends on your location.
There are a few technological aspects that need tweaking with this box, one being you cant pause what you have recorded half the time if you are recording something else too. Also sometimes it is a bit hit and miss regarding the set top box managing to record the full duration of the programme from start to finish- i often found ours cut a few minutes off from the begining and added them on the end.
Overall i am a bit neutral on this product, if it wasn't for the few technological faults i would mark it ten out of ten- however i wouldnt reccomend it to anyone wishing to use it for their main box as it can become a bit frustrating. Luckily with ours been in the spare toom we mainly just use it for freeview.
We bought this Sagem PVR about 1-2 years ago as a replacement for one that had broken. I think we paid about £130 for it, which back then was a very cheap price as these type of hard drive recorders were relatively new on the market. The actual unit is about 30cm wide and 25cm deep and about 5cm tall.I have to say I was very impressed with the features this little box has for the price we paid.
It has a 80gb hard drive, this is enough memory for roughly 40 hours of recording. It comes with two freeview tuners, these means that you can record two programs, on different channel, at the same time! This has been an invaluble feature for us as I have oftens wanted to do this. A it is a digital recorder, you can also watch a program you have recorded, whilst recording another, aswell as watching the beginning of a recorded program before it has finished, these are things that you could not do with an old fashioned VCR.
You do not have to set programs by inputing the start and end times, you simply bring up the guide, go to the channel you want, find the program and hit record. This is a very easy way to set up the recorder and very good for people that found setting up VCRs in the old days difficult.
Another useful feature is that you can choose to record a whole series of a program. This means that once set up, the box will automatically record a program whenever it is on without you having to set it up.
When you want to watch a program, you go into the library, find the program by scrolling down and press play. There is a description of the program, with the date it is recorded, a clip of the program also plays so you definetly know what it is. The playback quality is excellent and it is hard to tell the difference between a recorded program and one live on tv.
Overall, this is a great PVR, very cheap and easy to use, I would definetly recommend it to anybody looking for a cheap one, or a first hard drive recorder.
It was the failure of our Virgin Media Pace set-top box that triggered my first interest in Freeview rather than the Analogue switch-off. After all, as we have cable TV and analogue TV will continue to be broadcast in this area until 2012, there was, on the face of it, no requirement. Of course, the failure of the Pace box highlighted our reliance on the five terrestrial analogue stations.
When the Pace box was replaced the Virgin Media technician told me that the replacement one didn't have an analogue pass-though so it was cable or nothing. That left me feeling a little exposed. The previous one had enabled the analogue signals that Virgin Media transmit down the same cable as the digital ones to be viewed without involving the set-top box. Apparently, Virgin Media are not ordering any more of the old Pace boxes as they want everyone to convert to the Virgin+ boxes, so all replacements are reconditioned/repaired boxes. Not all are to the same specification. Many are very old. The technician had to try seven different boxes he had brought with him before he found one that actually worked!
We had no TV aerials at all on our roof; the old one had blown down in a storm and I had removed it completely. So, if we were to invest in the Free-to-Air Digital TV Broadcasts I would have to erect a new aerial and connect it to a wall socket beside the TV. I would also have to buy a Freeview set-top box.
Just to put you in the picture, I bought an aerial and a length of solid core 75ohm coaxial cable from Maplins and a wall plate with a coax socket module from B&Q. Installing the whole thing took an afternoon, including drilling a hole through the wall. It's not a difficult exercise so long as you don't mind climbing up on the roof; requires a head for heights.
So, what set-top box to buy?
I must admit that I didn't give it a lot of thought. I was mostly influenced on choice by the fact that my in-laws had already invested in digital TV technology (they didn't want the expense or commitment to either cable or satellite) and had bought a Sagem Freeview set-top box. Theirs was just a very simple one but they were happy with it. I wanted one with a built-in hard disk recorder as we have an old video recorder but that's connected into the cable TV system.
Sagem is a French company which manufactures a whole range of products, not just Digital Set-top boxes. They are also a major manufacturer of mobile phones. Although French, they do have a local office, based in Chertsey, just off of the M25, J11. I contacted them when I needed help and had reasonable support from them, but, once again, more about that later.
I settled on the Sagem PVR 62160T, in all major respects identical to the PVR 6280T model under which this review is listed. I can't get the PVR 62160T added to Dooyoo in its own right as it isn't listed on the manufacturer's site, so I can't provide a link or a picture, so I hope you will forgive me posting this here under the circumstances. The only real differences are that the hard disk is twice the size and this model permits you to pause a live programme for up to two hours rather than thirty minutes. Externally they look identical. Any comments in this review should equally apply to the PVR 6280T. Sagem also manufactures a 250Gig version.
Another reason that I decided to choose this model was that it also has twin tuners. This enables you to watch one programme whilst recording a different one. Indeed, you can also record two programmes at the same time so long as one is the one that you are watching, but more of this later as the actuality isn't quite as straightforward as it sounds.
The box has two SCART sockets, one to send the signal to the TV and the other to accept input from such as a DVD Player. However, the DVD input cannot be recorded to the box's hard drive; the connection is only in order to enable a single TV SCART socket to be used for both Freeview and DVD. You can, however, record a programme from Freeview whilst playing a DVD.
There is a normal coax socket to which you attach the lead from the aerial and a second from which you can pass through the signal to the TV's coax aerial socket. However, this is really only for the analogue signal received from the aerial; the box does not combine an analogue version of the digital signal with the loop-through signal. The digital signal is only available from the SCART socket. If you have a TV without a SCART socket (it would have to be very old) then this box (and probably most Freeview tuners) is of no use to you.
The package comes complete with a single SCART lead but without the extra aerial lead. If you need to run the aerial signal onto another device then you will have to buy one.
The box is entirely controlled by the remote control that comes with it; there are no controls on the box itself, not even an on/off switch. The box is powered by a transformer that delivers a 12V supply to it. The only indication of activity is the front orange LED display, which indicates current channel number or activity, such as "rec" for "recording" or "init" for "initialising" (powering up).
Normally the audio will be delivered through the SCART lead to the TV in order to feed the TV's speakers but there is also an RCA coax stereo socket as well as an optical audio socket for a feed to a surround sound system, if you have one. We have a JVC Home Theatre system with 5.1 surround sound which is fed by this connection.
To set up the Sagem is very straight-forward. As soon as you connect it to the TV and to its power supply it recognises that this is a first time use and enters the initial setup procedures. It first asks for the language you want to use and then starts scanning for channels. It found all the ones I was expecting it to find.
I started watching the various channels but noticed problems with the picture jumping and breaking up. One of the menu options allows you to check the technical details of the signal being received by the box. The signal strength and signal quality is indicated with strength bars and for all of the channels it indicated a quality of 97% and a strength of 97%. On the face of that sounded as though it couldn't be better.
I contacted Sagem and explained the problem. They immediately queried the strength and quality readings. They were concerned that they were so high! They said that they would have expected a much lower strength level at the very least. I explained that, in order to enable the signal from the aerial to reach all of the other TVs in the house, via various splitters, we had installed a signal booster immediately after the wall socket. So, all the TVs, including the one right next to the socket, to which the Sagem was connected, were receiving a boosted signal.
The Sagem customer support guy explained that it is possible for poor performance to be caused by too high a signal strength and recommended that the Sagem receive the unboosted signal and then use the loop-through to take the signal on to the booster, to feed the rest of the house. After rearranging the cabling this way the Sagem started working normally. The strength level went down to 69% (perfectly adequate) and the quality level went up to 98%.
The picture and sound quality out of the Sagem are good. The picture aspect can be selectively changed according to the type of TV you use, between standard 4:3, widescreen 16:9 and what is described as 4:3 letterbox (most of the widescreen picture but with black borders top and bottom). The sound, if not to the TV via the SCART can be stereo or, via the optical link, AC3 surround sound, where broadcast.
The Electronic Program Guide is probably the place you will want to start for selecting the channel to view. You get this by pressing the Guide button on the remote control. What you see is pretty much what you would expect. The current selected channel continues, with a reduced size picture in the top left-hand corner. Below it is the list of channels available and opposite that on the right is the list of programmes for the highlighted channel.
The selection of the channel to examine and the presentation of the programme list can be quite slow. I found this surprising as other set-top boxes seem to react a lot faster.
Along the bottom of the screen is a confirmation of the buttons to press if you should choose to record one of the up-coming programmes and on the right a list of the days of the week for which programme information is supposedly available. It was here that I identified the first software bug in the Sagem.
The screen information (confirmed by the printed User Manual) indicates that you can move quickly between days by the use of the << and >> buttons on the remote control. Not so! These buttons have absolutely no effect whatsoever. The only way to get to subsequent days is to laboriously scroll through all of the programmes for every day until you reach the one you want! I reported this as a bug to Sagem but, once again, more of this later.
However, what is most astonishingly missing from the functions of the box is the ability to set a programme reminder and to get the box to change channels to it automatically, when the programme starts. Yes, you can set a recording for the programme but not set reminders. This is another example of things you don't find out until you start using a device in earnest.
Recordings playing back is achieved through a button dedicated to this function. Pressing gives you a complete list of all the programmes still held on the hard drive and the one highlighted with start playing in a window in the top right-hand corner. The names can be, though, misleading. Depending upon what programme was actually being broadcast at the moment the recording started, the name shown may not be the one you expected.
In the recording options there is the ability to indicate a number of minutes before and after a scheduled programme start and end time when the recording should start and end. This allows for the inaccuracies in broadcasts that seem to be more and more prevalent these days, even with previously reliable Aunty Beeb. Activating this option enables a recording to be made with a reasonable chance of not missing the start or end due to broadcaster sloppiness. However, if you are recording two different programmes, one starting immediately the other one is supposed to end then the end and start times of the respective programmes seem to take preference, so there is still a chance that you will miss a bit of one or the other.
Once a programme is recorded, however, there is no direct access to the programme from the hard drive. If you should want to keep the programme but delete it from the hard drive then there is only one way; you have to connect the SCART lead of the Sagem to a video or DVD recorder and play the programme back in real-time. This is one of the biggest pains of the Sagem and makes me wish I had bought a combined DVD recorder/hard drive/Freeview box instead but, of course, they are a lot more expensive.
Recordings can also be edited on the hard drive, by lopping off chunks at the end, beginning or out of the middle. That way you can cut out the "safety zone" at the beginning or end or edit out the adverts from a film.
Earlier I mentioned that it is possible to record two programmes at the same time but I found that it isn't quite as straight-forward as that. The instructions state that one of the programmes must be the one you are watching. I had assumed therefore that if I set the viewed channel to that of one of the programmes I wanted to record I could set automatic recordings for both. Wrong! It only recorded one of the two programmes, the second one I set. It turns out that you can set one programme to automatically record but the other one you have to kick off manually at the time it starts, using the manual record by multiples of thirty minutes facility.
So, what about Sagem Support? Well, as I mentioned above, early on in my use of the box I had cause to need to ask for their help and, true enough, they were able to assist me effectively and promptly; about that I have no complaints. However, as you will also have noticed, the box is not without its faults; the programme guide scrolling is a prime example of a software glitch that needs fixing.
Freeview set-top boxes are essentially computers and like all computers they run through installed software, although mostly its called firmware since it's installed, in most cases, on computer chips inside the box. On the Sagem the software is stored on the hard drive but written to the computer chips at startup.
When it is necessary to release a new version of the software, this is done by scheduled broadcast over the air from the same transmitter from which you get your programmes. It is usually done in the early hours of the morning when such activity is unlikely to disturb your viewing. You can see a schedule of the software downloads here: http://www.dtg.org.uk/retailer/download_schedule.pl. You can look to see if a download is scheduled for your specific box.
When I reported the problem with the programme guide scrolling, Sagem initially fobbed me off by saying that there would be bound to be a broadcast of new software soon and that I should keep an eye on the DTG website to see when it would next be taking place. They couldn't tell me themselves, however, when this would be! A month went by, and then another, but still no download. I got back to them again and again and eventually they had to admit that they didn't know when or even if a download for my machine or, indeed, any Sagem machine would ever take place!
Eventually the only way they could suggest upgrading the software for my box was by swapping it for a replacement! This would mean that I had to copy over all of the programmes I had recorded and wanted to keep first! Having gone to the pain of doing that and then swapping the new machine for the old, when I came to start it up and check that all was in order, what do you think, yes you're right, the bug I had reported was still there!?!?!?!?
And this is generally symptomatic of what is wrong with Sagem and their products, I feel. Perhaps it's because they are a French company and the whole concept of Freeview is uniquely British, that they really don't have any commitment to the British free-to-air market. They seem to have produced these boxes simply so that they can say they are participating but I really don't think their heart is in it. After all, you would think that they would have checked first to see if a reported bug was resolved by a software upgrade before putting their customers to the annoyance of replacement boxes, wouldn't you?
The Sagem is a prime example of a design that could have been so much better than it is. It's not as though it was particularly cheap even. I originally paid £150 for it in Currys. For that price I would at least have expected something that did what it said it was supposed to do. For that price I would have expected it to at least do what would be expected to be the sort of functions most of us want from such a device.
My recommendation is that if you are thinking of a Digital Set-top Box which includes a hard disk recorder then there are almost certainly better machines out there than Sagem.
UPDATED - December 2007
Well, miracle of miracles, I come to switch on the TV the other day and would you believe it, there was a message on the screen that a software upgrade was ready to be broadcast and would I like it installed? Too right I would!
The download and install took about ten minutes and on reinitialising the box I noticed quite a few changes. First and foremost, the long outstanding bug of not being able to fast-forward through the days on the programme guide has been cured. You can now use the >> and << buttons to move from day to day rather than having to scroll through every programme for every day in order to get to the day you want!
The other change I noticed is that the recordings now seem to appear in alphabetical order and then date, which is a nice touch, as it brings together all episodes of a programme no matter when they were recorded.
That is, however, about it, as far as I can see. There still appears to be no facility for automatically changing channels when a programme that you want to see starts. The only thing you still can do is set a recording for it.
So, close but no cigar. My rating for this box remains unchanged.
Digital quality picture and sound. Records TV programmes in DVD-like quality. The silver set top box is designed with a slim and stylish finish offering powerful and easy-to-use features.