Goodmans GDB15HD upscaling Freeview box

Goodmans has been churning out budget family favourites in the A/V market for what seems like forever, but its modest yet capable collection of low-end electronics rarely makes much of an impact when compared to the big boys.

Having said that, it's rarely one to be left far behind the latest developments, and in releasing a budget priced upscaling Freeview tuner the GDB15HD on test could well be one of its most desirable assets yet.

For under £50 you'll find a full complement of digital freeview channels, an HDMI out and upscaling capabilities to 720p/1080i.

The unit is dead easy to set up, also offering dual scart if you're not HD-ready along with composite stereo out. You'd do well to utilise the HDMI port here to get the full benefit of the upscaling features, but regardless of your connection a short setup routine quickly populates a channel list and offers access to a versatile EPG.

You'll find two main view modes here, "Now and Next" along with an alternative 7-day listing. It's not quite as easy to navigate as Sky's schedule but with an alternative full channel list view thrown in we've got no real complaints.

Elsewhere you'll find digital teletext support, programme reminders to flash up a warning when a favourite show is about to start, and timers to automatically switch to a specific channel to help simplify recordings.

None of these features are particularly innovative when compared to similar devices, but when taking into account Goodmans' price tag it's important to know nothing important has been left out.

When it comes to the headline upscaling abilities we were very impressed. It's not quite up to the standard of more expensive solutions but certainly not far behind.

Most importantly you'll notice a significant increase in quality right away when comparing digital channels upscaled through the Goodmans box to regular definition television, both in terms of the picture and the more engrossing digital audio on offer through HDMI.

Our biggest qualm with the GDB15HD is the lack of a TopUpTV slot, a significant oversight in our opinion, particularly when you bear in mind the likely impact of channels such as Setanta Sports and other upcoming pay to view content.

This is the only real issue we have with what is otherwise a very impressive product. Despite the fact that you can pick up regular Freeview boxes for as low as a tenner now we'd still say it's worth the extra money if you have an HD-ready TV without a digital tuner built-in.

Verdict

The increase in quality of the Goodmans tuner over non-upscaling boxes is significant enough to garner a recommendation, particularly if you don't have a built-in Freeview tuner in your HDTV.

It's a great low-cost way to take advantage of higher definition resolutions without paying through the nose for expensive equipment.


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