Pictures from any of the hi-def channels look stunning, particularly BBC HD, whose worthy dramas and documentaries have an extra beauty and panache about them anyway.
Detail is resolved with impeccable clarity, colours blaze with vibrant intensity (without much banding or MPEG block noise) and even when there’s loads of movement the picture stays nice and composed. Record them and you’ll get exactly the same picture quality.
SD pictures inevitably look soft by comparison, which is down to some slightly-too-prevalent MPEG artefacts, yet the images are always watchable, thanks in part to the Samsung’s skilful 1080p upscaling.
It’s a shame that it doesn’t offer an HD option when watching BBC iPlayer though, as the quality of streamed videos is mushy. But YouTube vids look much more impressive and we didn’t have to endure a single buffering break.
Sound is clean and audible at all times, and if you’re hooked up to a sound system the unit outputs Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus when available, as well as DTS.
Overall the SMT-S7800 is a very capable Freesat recorder, but it’s a shame the Samsung’s Freesat team couldn’t have got round a table with the Freeview/Blu-ray guys and found a way to bung Smart Hub and better DLNA functionality into this machine.
That’s the thing that sets the BD-DT7800 apart from the competition, but without it the SMT-S7800 doesn’t have a significant edge over rival boxes like the Humax FOXSAT-HDR. YouTube and iPlayer are welcome, but make us feel like losing Bullseye contestants being shown the Smart Hub speedboat they could have won.
Still, there’s loads to admire, such as the hassle-free operation, gorgeous onscreen graphics, great pictures and a full gamut of Freesat (and non-Freesat) functionality. It’s not even that expensive, which means it’s still a worthy purchase despite the lack of Smart Hub, although we cant help but wonder how much better it could have been.
Score in detail