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i-CAN Easy HD 2851T review

i-CAN Easy HD 2851T
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £129
inc VAT

A great little device for enjoying both Freeview HD and iPlayer HD programming.

We’re generally a bit sniffy about single tuner set top boxes, as opposed to fully-fledged dual-tuner PVRs, but the i-CAN Easy HD has really impressed us. It’s a small set top box equipped with a Freeview HD capable tuner, as well as a slick interface for accessing catch-up content via the BBC’s iPlayer service – again including HD programming.

The box itself is far smaller and neater than any PVR we’ve seen; and its two-tone colour scheme looks pretty stylish too. The rear of the box is packed with connectors, though you’re only likely to need three of them. The HDMI output supports up to 1080p video, plus there’s an Ethernet port to connect to your router, and an RF input for your aerial lead. There’s no built-in wireless, so you will need to run an Ethernet cable to the Easy HD, which could be a faff for some. Other connectors include USB, SCART, an optical S/PDIF and an RF passthrough. There’s even a modem port, though it serves no obvious purpose.

Setting it up was very straightforward, instantly scanned for channels and the automatic network setup worked without a hitch. Freeview looked fine, with just the usual artefacts on show, plus channel changes where swift at around two seconds.

There are lots of neat touches, such automatic subtitling when you press mute and easy to setup and access channel lists. With the latter, everyone can assign their favourites to a list and name it appropriately; you can then access these using the List button on the remote. You can lock channel lists with a PIN, so you can limit the options of younger viewers.

We quickly assigned the three HD channels, including the recently added Channel 4 HD, to our own ‘HD’ list. Picture quality here was everything we’ve come to expect, though we did see a few dropped frames initially from our pre-production box, a problem that was easily fixed by upgrading the firmware – which you can do via Ethernet or using a USB storage device (there are no other uses for the USB port at present). The Easy HD has a card slot for subscription TV services, so it may well be possible to add Sky Sports in the near future.

The EPG comes up as a translucent full-screen overlay, so you still have an idea of what’s going on in your programme. It displays nine channels of programme information at once, over a time period of one and-a-half hours. The currently selected channel listing is expanded, giving you a programme summary without the need for an additional pop-up window.

You can access the BBC’s iPlayer from Interactive Services in the menu – and manufacturer ADB is keen to stress that further services could be added in future. It takes around 30 seconds to load up, but once done the iPlayer interface is probably the best we’ve seen – better certainly than the one on Sony’s PlayStation 3.

There are separate tabs for TV, radio and search. In TV you can choose from the usual range of channels, including BBC HD. You then get a list of the most popular shows, or you can browse by date. It takes a few seconds to load each page. Once playing a programme, you can wind forwards or back at up to 64x speed and picture quality was as good as we’d expect from iPlayer.

We did have a few connection errors, when fast-forwarding at full speed or leaving programmes paused for long periods, and we hope these will be ironed out before release. Generally, though, it’s the best iPlayer experience we’ve had away from a PC, and it goes a long way to making up for the lack of any recording capability.

The i-CAN Easy HD is a great little device. We still reckon most people will want a fully-fledged PVR in their living rooms, but for £129 it’s around half the price of the first wave of Freeview HD PVRs, making this an enticing alternative. Better still, it would be ideally suited for use with a second TV, say in your bedroom or the kitchen. Manufacturer ADB makes numerous PVRs for sale on the continent, so we’re optimistic and excited about seeing an i-CAN branded Freeview HD PVR soon.


Rating *****

Buying Information

Price £129
Warranty one-year RTB

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