To compare picture quality we rigged both up to LG’s 47LE8900 Full LED TV, set the output to 1080p and tuned into BBC HD’s Wimbledon coverage. Our initial impression of the Sharp TU-T2 is that Sue Barker and Tim Henman’s skin tones look slightly waxy and unnatural (more so than usual), plus there’s a touch of noise inside the green hues of Centre Court. The pictures also look less detailed than we expected, certainly boasting a high-definition sheen but lacking the dazzlingly crisp definition that we’ve seen on other Freeview HD receivers.
The Icecrypt T2200, on the other hand, offers slightly sharper image quality with hi-def material although it also suffers from some smudgy noise on the green backgrounds. Switching over to a World Cup match on ITV1 HD, both boxes do a nice job at tracking the busy movement of the players and render crowd detail sharply. Examine the picture closely and you’ll spot some noise surrounding the players but on the whole both boxes offer impressive pictures.
With the SD simulcast of the match on ITV1, the Sharp TU-T2’s picture quality is absolutely dreadful, with swathes of block and mosquito noise plaguing the picture and surrounding the moving players. But as we’ve seen before, this has more to do with the channel’s low bitrate than the receiver, borne out by the fact that the channel looks just as bad on the Icecrypt T2200.
Both receivers back up their pictures with dynamic, undistorted sound. Sadly that means the constant drone of vuvuzelas is horribly clear, but for anything other than a World Cup game the audio soundtrack is perfectly enjoyable. Rig up the HDMI or optical digital output to your AV receiver and you get the added benefit of Dolby Digital soundtracks that accompany some HD shows.
The dust has settled on our latest Freeview HD box tete-a-tete and on balance, the Icecrypt T2200 is clearly the better of these two receivers. In fact, it’s the best of all four boxes we’ve tested in our two head-to-heads, offering more features, better onscreen design and slightly better picture quality than the Sharp TU-T2, Metronic HD T2 Zapbox and Goodmans GDB300HD – and surprisingly you can buy it for less than the Sharp or Metronic if you shop around online.
The most eye-catching features of course are the USB port, generous media format support and dual CI slots, which go above and beyond the call of duty for a Freeview receiver. There are some downsides of course, such as the muddled remote and limited onscreen banner browsing, but these are minor gripes when you consider all the other good stuff the T2200 has to offer.