If, like me, you love technology (and raw fish) it’s impossible not to like Japan, so the addition of the excellent NHK World channel to Freesat’s meagre portfolio of HD channels is a welcome boost to the platform on its third birthday.

Another boost is the arrival of Samsung’s 500GB SMT-S7800, which is very much a direct competitor to the acclaimed Humax Foxsat-HDR, bearing very similar specs. The main differences are that the Foxsat-HDR comes in 320GB and 500GB variants, while the 500GB Samsung has YouTube and Windows Media Centre networking built-in.

The SMT-S7800 is a neat and well-built bit of kit. Despite a 12-figure LED window, USB socket, several logos and 11 touch-operation controls on the fascia, somehow it doesn’t look ugly, but the bright blue LED on the front can’t be disabled.

The box has all the right ports for most AV requirements, including twin LNB inputs and a USB for use with an optional wi-fi adaptor. The remote control is no beauty, but it is well designed and combines well with the menu system.

Put t’kettle on, mother

You can almost make a brew waiting for the box to power up, but once on, it’s a joy to use as the GUI is attractive, intuitive and responsive.

Installation is handled adeptly by the built-in wizard, taking under two minutes to scan the Freesat satellite. A non-Freesat mode lets you scour inner space’s cluster of satellites for extra channels. The Freesat EPG and channel list are both well implemented, making it easy to find the shows you want to watch or record. A pity there’s no manual recording option or chance to pad recordings, which leaves you relying on the broadcasters for accurate programme delivery.

Thin HD gruel

With Samsung shouting louder than most about the joys of Smart TV it’s baffling to find such an incredibly low-calorie internet TV diet here.

And it doesn’t help that the YouTube serving is really tasty, leaving you yearning for even greater things. Online commentators will post a big FAIL against the BBC iPlayer, which impressively appears in the EPG, but then doesn’t offer shows in HD. ITV Player is in the works.

As a media player the box is too fussy, with very limited file compatibility and an insistence on connecting to FAT 16/32-formatted Flash memory drives. With Dolby Digital audio and top-notch HD images, plus a 1080p upscaler, the SMT-S7800 is more than capable of delivering excellent recordings and top-quality live broadcasts, too.

As a recorder it has some nice touches. For example, when a hidden recording ends, a brief message pops up. And when you finish watching a recorded show you’re given an instant delete option. A shame its ‘bonus’ features don’t really deliver, but overall the SMT-S7800 is a very good PVR and a worthy adversary for the Humax Foxsat-HDR.


HCC VERDICT

Samsung SMT-S7800
Price:
£220 Approx

Highs: Attractive design and well-executed menu system; good AV quality
Lows: No manual padding of recordings; limited multimedia file compatibility; dearth of ‘net TV
Performance: 4/5
Design: 4/5
Features: 3/5
Overall: 4/5


Specifications

HDD: yes 500GB
Tuners: yes Freesat (DVB-S/S2)
Upscaling: yes 1080p
HDMI: yes 1 x v1.3
Component: no
Digital audio: yes Optical
Dimensions: 360(w) x 50(h) x 270(d)mm
Weight: 2.5kg
Features: 2 x Scart; composite video; stereo audio phonos; 2 x USB; 2 x LNB inputs; Ethernet; optional wi-fi adaptor; MP3, JPEG, AVI (XviD); FAT 16/32 flash memory compatible; Dolby Digital, DD+, DTS and PCM audio