Freeview HD: The set-top boxes
Freeview HD is now official, although we know you Pocket-linters will have been following the move of HD into the broadcast spectrum for some time.
Last month we brought you a comprehensive run down of Freeview HD-equipped TVs and today the "supply chain" of Freeview HD was on hand showing off their wares at the official launch. We thought we'd give you a run down on what was being shown off at the event.
Freeview HD set-top boxes will come in three flavours to add Freeview HD to your existing TV. There will be the basic receiver box, then there is the Freeview+ HD box, which will let you record SD and HD channels. Finally there are those devices which incorporate Freeview HD into something else, like a Blu-ray player.
There will be extra functionality available on, or coming to, some Freeview HD and Freeview+ HD devices, like BBC iPlayer and other streaming TV services, as well as the possibility in the future of downloadable extra content a little like Sky Anytime.
Here is what was shown off at the Freeview HD launch in London, broken down into sections.
Freeview HD receivers
Most of these boxes offer the same functionality and connections, but with different designs and price points. There may be a difference in performance due to the hardware being used and the EPGs and remotes will differ, which might be a deciding factor. Starting with the cheapest:
- end of March 2010
The Vestel T8300 was the first digital set-top box to receive Freeview HD certification, offering support for all the HD and SD channels. You might never have heard of the company, but they often supply the hardware for rebranding, for example with Maplin or Proline. The T8300 will offer HDMI and SPDIF for your audio, Ethernet and USB ports. The Ethernet connection will support interactive or streaming services, but no details have been given.
- to order from end March/in stores May 2010
- Harrods, Selfridges, Argos, Tesco, Costco, QVC, Combined Independent Holdings, Harris & Russell
We brought you news of this one recently. The GUD300HD offers access to all the HD and SD programmes on Freeview HD and an 8-day EPG. It supports resolutions up to 1080p via HDMI and has an Ethernet port for future services. Updates will be available over the air or via USB.
Philips DTR 5520
- last week of April 2010
- Currys, Dixons, Comet, Richer Sounds, John Lewis, Tesco, Amazon.co.uk
The Philips DTR 5520, made by Pace, was announced last week and is one of the better looking devices out there. This set-top box offers access to all the Freeview HD channels with an 8-day EPG. It has the normal collection of HDMI, Ethernet and USB ports, again providing future-proofing for interactive services. It also offers upscaling to 1080p.
Sharp Freeview HD receiver TU-T2
- 26 April 2010
- Currys, Dixons, Tesco, QVC, TJ Hughes, Littlewoods and Bennetts
The Sharp TU-T2 supports both DVB-T2 and DVB-T formats. It supports HD resolutions up to 1080p and boasts upscaling for SD channels with an 8-day EPG. It offers Dolby Digital Plus via HDMI or optical, so you can split the audio off into your amp. An Ethernet connection will provide "interactive services and future internet-based services" likely to be things like BBC iPlayer, although no specific details are given and a USB port is present for upgrading the software.
ADB i-CAN 2851T
- TBC from individual retailers
- end of April 2010
- "Online retailers"
A more distinctive design comes with the i-CAN in the place of any real detail. It will offer access to the HD and SD channels of Freeview HD with an 8-day EPG and Dolby Digital Plus. An Ethernet connection will let you access online services (when there are some) and it is Pay-TV ready. OTA updates will keep you in shape.
Humax HD-Fox T2
- already available
- John Lewis, Amazon.co.uk, Dixons, Comet
The Humax HD-Fox T2 is a tuner we have already reviewed here on Pocket-lint.com. It offers access to all the Freeview HD channels (although we reviewed it before Channel 4 HD was on the scene). It uses its Ethernet connection to offer a modicum of home networking features, as well as playing back media from a USB drive. It has an HDMI offering 1080p and an optical output for your amp.
Freeview+ HD recorders
Again the recorders offer a similar range of specs across the board, but with a greater range of variations. You'll be able to choose hard drive sizes and enjoy a wider range of features in your PVR. Ditch your VHS recorder, now you can record in HD with one of these boxes shown off today.
Sagemcom RT190-320 T2 HD and RT190-500 T2 HD
- £249 (320GB), £299 (500GB)
- April 2010
- Major UK retailers
Kicking off the recorders is this model from Sagemcom that comes in two varieties, 320GB and 500GB. It offers access to all your Freeview HD channels with an 8-day EPG and offers HD recording. It has a twin tuner, so you can record two channels at the same time, as well as pause and rewind live TV. Series link is also here. The 320GB version will give you 160 hours of (SD) recording, the 500GB version offer 250 hours (SD).
Philips HDT 8520
- between end of April and mid-May 2010
- Currys, Comet, Richer Sounds, John Lewis
Announced last week, this is another Philips-branded box from Pace and again one of the better looking boxes out there. It gives you all the normal Freeview HD channels twice, with twin tuners offering the possibility of recording two channels at the same time, series linking and an 8-day EPG. You'll be able to pause and rewind live TV too and you get 500GB of space which will give you 125 hours of HD recording.
DigitalStream DHR8202U, DHR8203U, DHR8205U
- 26 April 2010
- Currys, John Lewis
The DigitalStream box offers all the Freeview HD channels with twin tuners. It offers the usual recording, pause and rewind functions, but is also Pay TV ready, coming with a CI slot. It has an 8-day EPG and upgradable software via USB. Details are a little light on this one, but we'll be sure to update when we know more.
The Other options
Two other options were shown off today, offering a much wider package, as both are built-in to Blu-ray players.
Samsung BD-C8200 and BD-C8500
- £550 (C8500)
- April 2010
- "across all outlet channels"
This Samsung unit offers all your normal Blu-ray player features, with built-in Wi-Fi, Samsung's Internet@TV service and DNLA. It also comes with twin Freeview HD tuners and a 500GB hard drive (the C8200 is 250GB, but we don't have a price on that one). Other details are a little thin on the ground at the moment.
Panasonic DMR-BW780EBK and DMR-BW880EBK
- £649.99 (BW780), £799 (BW880)
- June 2010
- Play.com (pre-order), high street stores
Following up on the Blu-ray recorders that Panasonic launched in the UK last year (pictured above, which we reviewed here), the DMR-BW780 and 880 are 250GB and 500GB variants of the same model. As well as the twin Freeview HD tuners, you get the option of recording to Blu-ray Disc. As a much more fully-featured device, you also get an SD card slot and multiple format support, DNLA functions and Gracenote support for ripping CDs to make it into a Jukebox. Oh, and it's a Blu-ray player too.
Not enough for you?
Above are all the models that were shown off today and some variants we added for the sake of completeness. But there are and will be many more options, especially when it comes to simple Freeview HD tuners. There is the Goodmans version of the Grundig tuner mentioned above, the 3view box that offers Freeview HD and on demand services, as well as Toshiba's HDR5010 offering.
Rest assured we will be reviewing as many of these boxes as we can, especially those offering more advanced features. As always, we will keep you posted.