Despite their high price tags, the Goodmans and Metronic are light on jazzy features – if that’s what you’re after, check out rival boxes from Humax or Icecrypt. But they do cover the essentials, boasting a combined DVB-T2/DVB-T tuner that decodes H.264 and MPEG-2 video, as well as support for digital text, Audio Description and interactive services.

Both offer a basic range of sockets including the all-important HDMI output, which can output in 576p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. Both boxes apply these settings to SD and HD material, which may be a problem for some – an ‘Auto’ mode that outputs programmes in their native resolution would have been better.

The Goodmans GDB300HD on top of the Metronic T2 HD Zapbox

Elsewhere, the Metronic sports one SCART output compared with two on the Goodmans. If these were regular SD Freeview boxes, this would put the Metronic at a disadvantage, as you wouldn’t be able to connect to a TV and recorder simultaneously. But since most people will use the HDMI output to view TV pictures, you can connect the Metronic’s SCART to a recorder. Still, the pair of SCARTs on the Goodmans does provide a little more flexibility if needed. The SCARTs on both boxes offer RGB and composite output, selectable in the setup menu.

The Goodmans also sports a USB port, but sadly this only lets you upload new software and doesn’t facilitate digital media playback, which would have been a real bonus. The good news for Goodmans is that the Metronic doesn’t come with a USB port at all – its software can only be updated using over-the-air downloads.

Both boxes also feature an Ethernet port, which is provided for future IPTV services like the BBC iPlayer, coming to Freeview HD later this year. You also get optical digital audio outputs on both units, that can pipe Dolby Digital or PCM to an amp – as well as Dolby Digital Plus in Goodmans’ case (although no-one’s broadcasting this yet). Last but not least are RF input and loop-through sockets.

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