The launch of Freeview HD might have taken the some of the shine off Freesat with its extra HD channel and through-an-aerial accessibility, but the subscription satellite service remains a hassle-free and cost-effective way of getting high-definition TV. There are loads of excellent Freesat HD receivers and recorders out there, and the Technisat HDFS is one of them.
This box has been available since last year but for one reason or another we never got our hands on one. However, it was thrust back into the limelight recently with news that it can now access the BBC iPlayer Beta trial, and is the first box capable of accessing it wirelessly – the perfect excuse for us to investigate this new feature and find out what else this feature-packed receiver has to offer.
The box itself is one of the more attractive Freesat receivers out there. It’s slim, compact and boasts a sleek black finish accentuated by a silver stripe and menu controls on the front panel. In the centre of the front panel is a scrolling alphanumeric LED display, which helpfully shows the name of the current TV or radio channel. Overall build quality is highly impressive.
A flap on the front drops down to reveal a USB port and SD/MMC/MS and Compact Flash card slots, hinting that this box does a lot more than just receive Freesat programmes. The Technisat’s multimedia capabilities are unrivalled in the Freesat receiver market, but we’ll discuss those in full later.
On the rear panel is a wide range of sockets covering all bases. Pictures can be piped to your TV using the HDMI output – crucial if you want to watch hi-def Freesat broadcasts on BBC HD and ITV 1 HD – the SCART output, or the composite video output. A second SCART is provided for connection to an external recorder, but both SCART only support S-video and composite video, denying you the ability to make best-quality RGB recordings. On the audio side the HDFS generously offers coaxial and optical digital outputs as well as analogue stereo.
As mentioned earlier, one of the HDFS’ main selling points is its ability to access the BBC iPlayer wirelessly, and for that reason you’ll find a second USB port on the rear, which allows you to plug in a Technisat W-LAN USB adaptor (or you can use the front mounted port if you prefer). This gizmo will set you back around £30 but it’s worth the extra expense for the added convenience. It’s discreet and comes with a little antenna to improve reception and a USB extension cable.
You’ll also find an Ethernet port on the rear, providing a wired connection to the web. But whether wired or wireless, you can the connection to stream MP3 audio files, MPEG-2 video and JPEG photos from networked PCs using the Windows file sharing (CIFS) system. This is the unit’s killer feature and works brilliantly – it’s easy to locate your content thanks to the straightforward menu screens, and our sample streamed music and photos from our networked laptop without a hitch. Alternatively music, movies and pictures can be played back from storage devices connected to either USB port, or from memory cards.