After letting the first Freeview HD receivers from Metronic and Goodmans battle it out in our recent head-to-head, we wanted to pit two more models against each other in order to help you find the best box for your money. Under the spotlight this time are receivers from Japanese giant Sharp and little-known brand Icecrypt (distributed by Turbosat), both of which offer free high-definition channels through your rooftop aerial, provided the service is live in your region.
Both receivers are functional-looking black boxes that wouldn’t make you look twice on the shop shelf, but at least they’re more attractive than Metronic’s risible effort. The Sharp TU-T2’s fascia is the trendier of the two, sporting nothing but a square of blue LEDs that garishly indicates that the unit is switched on. The lack of a numeric display means you’re reliant on the onscreen displays for channel info.
The Icecrypt T2200, on the other hand, is more old-fashioned but sports some very intriguing features. A USB port is hidden under a grey flap in the middle, while a pair of Common Interface slots resides under a flap on the right – that means it’s ready for Top-Up TV, which will offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 in time for the new football season in August. There’s also an LED display panel showing the current channel number, and in general the Icecrypt T2200 boasts the best build quality of the two, feeling heavier and less plasticky.
Both the Sharp TU-T2 and the Icecrypt T2200 offer a similar line-up of sockets arranged in different ways. The key output is the HDMI, which sends native HD or upscaled SD to your TV, as well as digital audio. Both boxes also provide two SCARTs for simultaneous connection to a TV and recorder. The ‘TV’ output on both boxes supports RGB and composite, but the Icecrypt’s additionally supports S-video.
The rest of the connections are identical – an Ethernet port for hooking up to a router and accessing future IPTV services (such as BBC iPlayer when available), an optical digital audio output plus RF input and loopthrough sockets for your aerial. The only difference between them is that the Sharp TU-T2 features a USB port on the rear panel, but unlike the Icecrypt T2200’s USB it can only be used to update the unit’s software and not to play digital media. Boo.