Boot up the deck for the first time and you’re welcomed by a small dialogue box inviting you to enter the initial settings, which include language, resolution, aspect ratio and antenna setup. After detecting the satellite signal and finding your region through a postcode search, it launched straight into the channel search, finding 135 TV and 38 radio stations in around a minute.
The first thing to say about the SMT-S7800’s operating system is that it’s completely different to that of the BD-DT7800, not only because it uses a different TV platform but also because the box was developed by a completely different division of Samsung.
The main menu's pure eye candy but not at the expense of practicality. It uses a row of icons along the bottom of the screen, with each option represented by a brightly-coloured graphic that flips round when highlighted. From here you can zip straight to the EPG, recording library, your media (HDD, USB or network) and Samsung WebTV. One day all menus will be this slick.
In fact there isn’t a weak link in the onscreen design. The recording library uses a clear list structure, giving all the relevant details (title, date, channel, duration and an icon denoting new recordings) and providing a pop-up menu with limited editing options (protect, rename, that sort of thing). A separate submenu shows scheduled recordings.
The eight-day EPG is equally well presented, stuffing an eight-channel programme grid, a live TV screen, colour-coded options and the synopsis into a single screen – no mean feat. Like all Freesat EPGs you can initially filter the listings by genre. There are also onscreen banners that let you browse the entire schedule 24 hours ahead without having to access the full EPG. This beautifully presented display is peppered with little icons giving lots of info about each programme.
Other small menus like Tools and Channel List are superimposed over the picture and provide helpful shortcuts, while the Setup menu makes it a doddle to tweak any option, from digital audio outputs to satellite channel management.
Meanwhile the Media menus and YouTube work brilliantly, particularly the latter, which streams videos without a glitch and packs its wealth of content into a series of logically presented menus with easily accessible playback controls. Network streaming is a neat bonus but the format support is fairly limited (just XviD, MP3 and JPEG) and we initially had trouble getting it to recognise content on our Windows 7 laptop.
One final operational note concerns the remote, which may not look particularly glam but is as fine a piece of handset design as you’re likely to see. The buttons are tidily and ergonomically arranged for maximum thumb comfort (thumbfort?) plus they’re nicely sized and clearly labelled.