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I've had a HD ready tv for a few years now and decided in December 2010 to make the most of it's features by buying a HD set top box. I had also been paying an extortionate amount of money to Sky tv over the years and rarely watching anything of worth.
I sat down and itemised the channels I was actually watching on a regular basis and realised the majority were available on freeview - with the exception of the childrens channels (he should play out more anyway!).
I was therefore looking for a set top box which allowed me to watch programmes in HD when available. a box with a freeview facility and something that was relatively new to me at the time - a box that could record and not only that - it could pause live tv, shock horror!
My mum had sworn by this device for years, she has Sky+. Great I thought, I'll get all this with a one off payment.
After much deliberation and then a great deal of boredom and apathy we decide upon the Technika Smartbox 8320HD Freeview+ HD recorder.
It was cheapest at Tesco at £200 and being an avid club card point collector how could I resist?
The pride for this box has now significantly reduced, current retail price inb Tesco is £150.
The black box is extremely compact, most unintrusive, you would hardly notice it is there.
It is operated by a small, very basic, old fashioned looking remote control. The type where the buttons need to be depressed very firmly. It is also small enough to lose (on a regular basis!).
I'm not a technical wizz, so I will describe its features as best I can, forgive me if I leave something out as I'm concentrating on the features I use and understand!
It does as stated previously pause, rewind, forward wind and record live tv - there is a series link facility, wherein a whole series can be recorded at the touch of a button.
Great for someone like me, particularly where soaps are concerned and the usual clash with the children's bedtime.
Two programmes can be recorded at the same time or you can watch a programme and record another simultaneously.
The box has a 320gb hard drive, enough space for me!
It broadcasts free to air channels in HD when available eg BBC HD, ITV1 HD.
If a channel is not broadcast in HD, text appears on the screen along with a timer, counting down in minutes and seconds when the next HD broadcast will resume.
The box is also able to upscale standard definition programmes to 1080p. This improves the picture quality significantly.
The use of a HDMI cable further improves picture quality, there is one HDMI port.
The box also incorporates on demand tv. Fetch Tv, channels are limited - a few films (rarely that up to date), childrens, music channels. You need to register and activate your smartbox in order to use this facility. I have registered but have only downloaded channels for the children as they were free during the month of April this year. I find Fetch Tv too costly and defeats the object - it would be cheaper to stay with Sky!
The best feature of the box in my opinion is that BBC I Player is built in! The box can connect to your home broadband wirelessly or via ethernet. We initially connected wirelessly but found that programmes stopped and started every few seconds, most frustrating.
We have now connected through ethernet, there tends to be one pause at the beginning of a programme - as if it is being forced to wake up but then runs smoothly for the rest of the programme.
Is it too good to be true? Unfortunately yes. I thought this box would be a product that I couldn't believe I had been living without!
The whole concept of the box is brilliant, it does everything I want it to do in theory but not in practice.
In comparison to Sky+ the box fails miserably. Sky+ is extremely easy to use, whereas this is not. The box fails to respond on many occasions to the firmest of touches, taking three or four pushes of a button to pause a programme, like wise rewinding/forward winding. The box has the facility to rewind/forward wind at 5, 10, 30, 100 and 600 times ordinary playback speed, however due to the lack of response when using the remote control when winding at 600, a programme has normally finished by the time I have managed to get it to stop!!
When pressing the tv guide facilty, the volume is activated, or the box may shut down and re-start for no apparent reason.
For those of you using the Sky tv guide you will understand how effortlessly you can speed through the channels, when using this box you would be lucky if they change at all!
On many occasions I have sat down to watch a programme I know I have recorded and it isn't there! The box can also miss the beginning/end of a programme on a regular basis.
Moreover Dr Who series link failed to kick in as did Emmerdale series link - I know what you are thinking it is blonde female user error - not so, two users - one male and not blonde!!
Overall this box is a massive disappointment, even my 7 year old son complains saying it is faulty. We both want to return it but the male none blonde isn't having any of it - he keeps saying it will improve!
My mum the Sky+ fanatic was all for purchasing one until she tried ours, she's now opting for one that is around the £300 mark.
Let's hope she gets what she pays for - I certainly did! Not much.