Martin Pipe tries out the HD set-top box that dares to be different
You may want to purchase an i-CAN if you are one of those people who bought your HDTV just before manufacturers started building in Freeview HD tuners. Or you might be in the market for decent sports coverage without an unsightly dish, or because you lack cable connections in your area – the i-CAN is the only current Freeview box with the necessary front-mounted card-reader for subscription services like Sky Sports and ESPN.
If you don’t yet have an HD Ready TV, a Scart socket will tide you over until that new set arrives. It will also facilitate recording of channels via a VCR or DVD recorder. And that’s just as well, as the i-CAN is sadly more of an i-CAN’T when it comes to more advanced recording possibilities. Other entry-level Freeview HD boxes, such as the well-received models from Technisat and Humax, can be turned into basic PVRs through the simple expedient of plugging in a USB storage device. Alas not the i-CAN – at least, not at present.
One of the unique benefits of this slimline box though is its funky, carousel-based Carbo user interface, which covers all aspects of the receiver from installation and internet-delivered firmware updates, to general use.
The EPG, which delivers 8-day schedules at the touch of a button, looks good and is reasonably responsive in operation. Also very readable is the onscreen ‘channel banner’ information popup. The unit is compatible with all of the other usual services; digital teletext is supported, as are audio-described soundtracks and subtitles.
Channel locks could prevent Junior from peeping at those rather sad chat-line services. Also on offer are user-definable, favourite channels lists. These are accessed via a dedicated button on the handset, which can be programmed to operate various brands of TV.
After a bit of a wait, the BBC’s iPlayer works well, but what a pity that its commercial competitors aren’t also available. Manufacturer, ADB, hasn’t built in a network/USB multimedia player, either, although products it supplies to other markets apparently do. Both the Technisat and Humax boxes offer this feature.
However, the AV performance from this device is first-rate. Freeview HD channels are presented with plenty of visual snap and vibrancy, and you’ll seldom see standard Freeview channels looking better, either.
Subjectively, I would say that the i-CAN gives results on a par with the integrated digital tuners of many TVs I’ve seen. It thus follows that the upscaling employed here is of a high standard. iPlayer video is also crisp, although even in the highest quality setting it’s quite clear that what we have here is standard def.
So, while it’s light on features, the i-CAN is still worth considering.
I-Can Easy HD 2851T
Price: £130 Approx
Highs: Superb results from SD and HD Freeview channels; ready for pay-TV
Lows: iPlayer support not HD; no multimedia playback or USB recording
Tuner: yes Freeview HD
Scart: yes 1 (RGB)
Component video out: no
USB: yes rear, but currently for firmware upgrades only
HDMI output: yes standard-def channels upscaled to 720p/1080i/1080p
Stereo phono output: no
Digital audio output: yes optical
Ethernet: yes currently for iPlayer and firmware upgrades
CI slot: no but Nagravision CAM and card reader built in for pay-TV
Dimensions: 230(w) x 36(h) x 167(d)mm
Also features: Lip sync adjustment; iPlayer (three quality settings); favourite channels list; ; onscreen help; 8-day EPG; digital teletext; subtitles/audio descriptions
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