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One year after its launch, Freesat is going from strength to strength. Sales figures have reached the 400,000 mark and companies like Panasonic, LG, Alba and Humax are pushing the platform forward with a range of superb TVs, PVRs, receivers and Blu-ray recorders. French brand Metronic joined the party in December with the SAT 100 HD receiver - the first box launched after Humax and Alba's exclusive agreement expired - and we're taking a belated look at it here.
The SAT 100 HD doesn't feature a hard-disk like the Humax Foxsat-HDR and features a single Freesat tuner, but it does allow you to access high-definition channels such as BBC HD and ITV HD. The unit itself is very well constructed and feels reassuringly sturdy, plus its compact dimensions mean it won't take up much room under your TV. But from an aesthetic perspective the Metronic is no great shakes, sporting a bland black finish, a single LED and a row of cheap-looking buttons on the front that control volume and channel changing. It's far from offensive but hardly screams 'cutting-edge'.
The rear panel is much more inviting. It sports all the sockets you need to incorporate the unit into your existing system, including an HDMI output, two SCART outputs (one offers RGB, S-video and composite, the other S-video and composite), and an optical digital audio output for connection to an AV amp - but oddly there are no analogue outs. There's also an Ethernet connection on the rear, which will become an essential feature when the BBC iPlayer makes its way onto Freesat later this year.
You get LNB input and loopthrough sockets for your satellite dish and it's great to see a USB port on the rear, which allows you to playback MP3 and JPEG files from a USB flash drive. The onscreen menus for music and photo playback (see page 4) are a little clumsy but get the job done, allowing you to find your files with little fuss. There are even controls on the remote purely for MP3 playback (although they might be a nod to Metronic's forthcoming Freesat PVR).
If you don't already have a dish, then professional installation will cost around £80. But if you do, setup is quick and painless - simply screw in the cables from your dish and away you go. During first-time installation, a series of setup screens ask you to check the basics like language and time zone, then after you've punched in your postcode (to determine which BBC regions you require) automatic channel tuning begins. It finds all the Freesat channels in around two minutes but if you want more there's a Manual tuning mode that lets you search for non-Freesat channels by satellite or by transponder. Be warned though - searching the Astra 2 satellite took a good 20 minutes.
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