- Channel Zero interactive technology
- Compact design
- Easy to use
- Poor five-channel EPG
- Build quality
- Picture quality
- Review Price: £17.97
- RGB Scart output
- Channel Zero
- 7-day EPG
- Subtitles and digital text access
- Auto standby
On the outside the VSTBAW10 is an attractive looking device, sporting a fetching white finish and slender dimensions – it’s about the same size as a Blu-ray disc case. Curves at each end are another nice touch. Build quality isn’t great – it’s plasticky and light as a feather – but we refer you to that ultra-low price tag. On the front is a black strip, embedded into which is an LED that glows red when in standby.
Rear socketry is as simple as it gets – an RF input for your rooftop aerial, a loopthrough output (which you’ll need if you need to pass the signal onto another device) and a single Scart output, which offers composite and higher-quality RGB pictures.
The most eye-catching feature of this box is the ability to access
Channel Zero, a range of over-the-air interactive services using Trove
technology, created by Electra Entertainment. It’s a way of delivering connected TV-style premium content and apps to non-connected set-top
boxes, and Tesco is the first of the company’s retail partners. Among
the content on offer at present is Reuters news, Met Office weather
updates, What’s On TV magazine and PlayJam games.
It’s accessed from the EPG or by hitting the dedicated button on the
remote. It doesn’t come with Channel Zero installed – you have to
activate it onscreen and it’s downloaded while the box is in standby,
which takes a few hours.
Elsewhere, the box supports subtitles and digital text, and you can group channels into favourites. There’s also a 7-day EPG and a timer.
Switch the box on for the first time and you launch straight into the setup menu. This gives you the chance to tune the TV and radio channels, a task that it carries out very quickly indeed.
The main menu is as rudimentary as it gets, but that’s only to be expected at this price. It uses two shades of blue with thin white text, plus a diagram-like layout that’s quite easy to follow but bizarre to look at. To its credit though it plays live TV in a box.
There are three options – Channels, Install and Settings. The Channels section lets you organise your channels into the order of your choosing using a straightforward list and a series of numbered commands (add to favourites, lock, skip, delete rename). You can also sort channels into four different coloured groups, which is a nice little feature.
In the settings menu, you can change languages, parental PIN and time info, but the key area is ‘TV’. Here you can alter the brightness and contrast (quite unusual for a Freeview receiver), change the aspect ratio and switch between composite and RGB video output from the Scart. There’s also an auto standby mode (between 3 and 12 hours).
The EPG shares the setup menu’s basic blue-tone design and similarly plays live TV in a box at the top of the screen. This is not EPG design at its finest though – the programme grid is tiny, showing just five channels at a time, and few of the programme names actually fit into the boxes. Hit ‘I’ and the synopsis appears, plus you can zip ahead or back 24 hours using the green and red keys, or programme the box to turn to a channel at a certain time – useful if you’re got it rigged up to an external recorder.
The onscreen information banners are fine, giving the programme synopsis, date, time and whether or not there are subtitles. The box only shows now and next information, for anything beyond the next programme you’ll need to enter the full EPG.
In general it won’t take long to get the hang of using this Freeview receiver, as it’s responsive and simple to use, but it’s a shame the basic looking menus betray its budget price tag so badly.
Despite its small buttons and even smaller labelling, the compact remote is surprisingly intuitive. That’s because the menu controls are perfectly placed under the thumb and they’re surrounded by the important Menu, Guide and ‘i’ buttons. It’s main crime is that the ‘Back’ button isn’t directly next to the multi-directional pad. The white finish is also slightly suspect.
Provided you set the Scart output to RGB, the Dion VSTBAW10 delivers passable picture quality, although we’ve seen better. The image is quite smeary and flecked with mosquito noise, which squirms uncomfortably when objects move too quickly.
The colour balance is also suspect. Skin tones have a waxy, reddish hue and stops them looking natural. Diagonal lines also suffer from stepping. Its pictures are watchable, and you probably won’t notice these artefacts on small TVs in the kitchen or bedroom, but if you really care about picture quality then invest in a more expensive receiver.
On the plus side, the overall image is vibrant and movement looks smooth, plus you can make out a fair amount of detail. We watched BBC One’s coverage of Wimbledon, and found the green grass of the court to look nice and bright, while we never lost sight of the ball.
On the sonic side, speech is clear and everyday TV soundtracks come through the speakers without any distortion. It also loads digital text and interactive services in a flash.
If you’re looking for a cheap way to add Freeview to an ageing TV, then the Dion VSTBAW10 might be worth chucking in your trolley. It’s easy to use despite its basic onscreen design, and the addition of Channel Zero gives it the edge over Freeview boxes from bigger-name brands. Don’t expect high-class picture quality though, with noise and poor colour reproduction betraying its peanuts price tag.
Score in detail