The days when four, or recently five channels were enough to entertain have long gone. The UK now has more television channels than any other European country and while Sky is still the main alternative to getting more television in your box, Freeview is fast becoming the new way forward.
If you haven't already been blasted with adverts on the BBC, Freeview is just that. Pay a one-shot fee for the box and the rest of your viewing is free (you do still have to pay the licence fee however, as well as having a good-quality aerial in the absence of a dish or cable). Opening up around 50 digital channels the Netgem, once installed will scan and auto set up without you having to lift a finger. Channels will be acquired by the decoder and at the end you have the chance to watch or listen (some digital radio signals are also available) to a wealth of new programming.
Netgem's approach is simple and the unit itself well styled and easy to use. Lights on the front let you know it's active while the plethora of input jacks at the back let you connect it to everything else such as video recorder or DVD. Breaking away from the crowd further the i-Player also comes with telephone jack so you can connect to the internet as well as the capability to include a broadband modem for faster connection.
The internet option unfortunately isn't as clean cut as the television side of things and the experience is rather akin to using an email system in a hotel bedroom. As the dedicated browser works full screen you have to return to the start page every time you want to enter a web address and likewise we had trouble accessing streaming media or flash graphics as nothing can be downloaded.
The remote control features most things you'd expect from a remote and for the text conscious, inputting web addresses or emails shouldn't be too much hassle. For those of us who texting is the last thing we want to do you can get a wireless keyboard for easier control.
For £129 this player sits at the higher end of the Freeview market place, however to our knowledge no other decoder offers internet access. If you are looking for this extra connectivity to send the odd email this is certainly a good way to test the water. We think though to give it a fair chance you would have to use the optional keyboard otherwise a simple “how are you” would just take forever using a dialpad. This of course boosts the price even more, but then once you've made the initial payment all you have to pay for is the phone call. Great thinking that gives basic access and features.