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Goodmans GDB300HD High Definition Digital Set Top Box review

Seth Barton
12 Jun 2010
Goodmans GDB300HD High Definition Digital Set Top Box
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
129
inc VAT

A capable Freeview HD set top box, but there’s no recording capability and no fancy features like iPlayer compatibility.

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Freeview claims that 50 per cent of UK households should be able to receive its HD service by the start of the World Cup. With the tournament now upon us, it's certainly worth browsing to www.freeview.co.uk/HD to check if you're covered. If so, then a new Freeview HD-capable TV may be the way to go, however if you’re happy with your current telly then a set top box, such as this one from Goodmans, is the way to go.

It's worth pointing out that this is just a receiver, with no recording capabilities. If you're used to the flexibility of a hard-disk equipped PVR, then this certainly isn't a worthy replacement – personally we'd rather be able to pause and record programmes than watch them in HD. However, given that no HD PVRs are on sale yet, then a relatively inexpensive box like this could be just the thing to sharpen up your enjoyment of live World Cup games – all of which are being shown in HD on either BBC HD or ITV HD. If the football extravaganza leaves you cold, then you should certainly wait for HD PVRs, which we expect to be launched later this year.

Caveats aside, the box itself is a neat little piece of kit. It's compact and the all-black finish should blend in well with your other home cinema kit. It has an external power supply, but this is integrated into the plug, so there's no messy extra box.

On the rear of the box are numerous inputs and outputs. A HDMI output is the only way to get HD from the box, and it'll output 720p, 1080i and 1080p, plus Dolby Digital Plus audio at up to 6Mbit/s, though no one is broadcasting at anything near that quality. There's also an optical S/PDIF for connecting to older AV receivers.

We can't see anyone making use of the two SCART sockets, as they can't output HD. There are two RF connectors too, one input and one passthrough. Finally, USB and Ethernet ports are present; neither of these has any purpose at present, though they could allow for IPTV services (such as BBC iPlayer) or media file playback in future. RF and HDMI leads are provided in the box.

There's only a single button, for power, on the front - and power consumption is minimal at 8W on and less than 1W standby. All the other controls are on the stylish and clearly labelled remote. The EPG is well designed, you can see eight channel details at once, with two hours of programming shown for each. While browsing the schedules, a small window in the top-right hand corner shows your current programme. It's easy to read from a distance and tastefully finished in black and red. Although without the ability to record programmes, you're unlikely to spend too long here in any case.

The menus react quickly to the remote, though channel changes aren’t the quickest we've seen at around three seconds. Video quality of both HD and non-HD channels was indistinguishable from other set top boxes and HD TVs we've seen recently.

We're football fans at Expert Reviews, and even we feel that a playback-only box like this one is a rather short-sighted purchase. Even if you are determined to watch the World Cup on Freeview HD (rather than through a subscription service from Sky or Virgin, or via Freesat) then we'd hold out till kick off to see what other HD boxes are released. One alternative is the i-CAN Easy HD with its iPlayer HD capability.

Details

Rating***

Features

Digital tuners1

Buying Information

Price£129
Warrantyone-year RTB
Supplierhttp://www.viking-direct.co.uk
Detailswww.goodmans.co.uk

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