If you want high-definition TV without forking out for a Sky HD or Virgin Media subscription then Freesat is the ideal alternative. At present, there isn't a great deal of hi-def content available on the platform (BBC HD and ITV HD are the only channels officially available), but as broadcasters move from SD to HD over the coming years you'll soon have a lot more to choose from. In the meantime, you can enjoy over 80 standard-def channels and radio stations available on the platform, all of which can be accessed without having to pay any ongoing subscription costs.
To take advantage of the free hi-def channels, you'll need to pick up an HD-capable set-top box and there are already a few of these on the market, including the very impressive Humax FOXSAT-HD. Goodmans goes up against Humax with its GFSAT200HD, which comes with the same £150 price tag and £80 installation cost (recommended if you don't already have a dish installed). Goodmans has also launched a £70 non-HD version (the GFSAT100SD) which is aimed at those without HD-Ready TVs.
On the outside the GFSAT200HD boasts a very simple, understated design with only a small cluster of controls on the gently sloping fascia. Its compact size makes it easy to tuck under your TV and there's a generous array of sockets on the rear. Of greatest interest is the HDMI output, essential for watching high-definition broadcasts and standard-definition channels upscaled to 720p or 1080i (another of the box's key talents), and it's joined by two SCART outputs that let you connect to a TV and recorder simultaneously. These could have been very useful given the lack of internal hard-disk recording, but the lack of RGB output from either is disappointing as it means that non-HDMI users are stuck with dodgy composite picture quality.
Also on the rear is an Ethernet port for future broadband IPTV services and advanced interactivity, and an optical digital audio output for sending Dolby Digital audio (which accompanies most HD broadcasts) to an amp with the relevant decoding. Finally you'll find an LNB input to hook up the satellite dish feed, plus an output which is supposed to let you pass through the signal to another receiver, but we couldn't get this to work.