Now here is a blast from the past. What has happened? I am now 40, and found myself at a loose end, so I thought I would pick up my opinionating pen again. Will pop in from time to time and write stuff.
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High-quality reception? Humax. What , the Foxsat?
Easy to use, easy to install, good performance
Can we have some more Freeview channels on Freesat, please?
Ease of Use
Ease of Installation
Range of Features
Value for Money
Remote ControlGood Quality
InstructionsHelpful / Easy to Follow
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In the back of beyond, which is the technical term for the area in which I live, television reception is a thorny issue. Well, it doesn't actually scratch my hands, but it is problematic. I moved into Nolly Towers in November 2006, and immediately saw that the existing TV aerial was not fit for purpose. Luckily the previous occupants had had satellite TV installed and I plumped for this, subscribing at first and then just picking up the free-to-view (FTV) channels.
In November 2008 I had a lucky break. I had started a new teaching job, and got my normal month's salary, but I also got paid for the last bit of supply teaching I did. I resolved to replace the humungous widescreen television that dominated the corner of my living room and so, with a bulging debit card in my wallet (well, that's what I told police that it was), I set off to buy a 32" LCD television.
As I now had a television that was HD compatible, I decided to work out what my options were. I could have re-subscribed to Uncle Rupert's television empire, paid an as yet undetermined amount per month for a selection of programmes, sports events or films that I either had no inclination to watch or had seen already, or to investigate this (then) new-fangled Freesat system.
Freesat is a digital satellite broadcaster from the same stable as Freeview. Channels broadcast by Freesat can be picked up by just replacing an existing Sky set-top box with a Freesat one. Whereas Sky viewers needs to subscribe to pick up High Definition (HD) Channels such as BBC HD and ITV1 HD (ITV 1 launches as a standalone channel on all platforms in April 2010), Freesat viewers can receive them without a subscription.
I trundled off to my local branch of Comet (other electrical emporia are available) and spoke to a pleasant salesperson, who showed me the Humax Foxsat-HD. He told me that it cost £149 (it is a little cheaper now) and tried to sell me an HDMI lead to connect it to my Toshiba tv. The Foxsat came with an HDMI lead in the box, so I declined his kind offer to spend more money. I paid my £149, and carried home the box to see how easy it was to install.
Basically, all you have to do is disconnect your Sky box, plug in the Foxsat, and follow the menus. On initial startup the receiver asks for your postcode, so it can see what channels are available in your area. It offered me around 130 television and 40 radio channels. Some of these I will never watch and, since the platform installed a couple of 'adult' channels, I used the menu to remove them from my Electronic Programme Guide (EPG). Basically that was it and I could start viewing.
I am a very happy bunny. There is very seldom any interference or signal drop-out as I occasionally got with Sky, particularly in bad weather. I mainly watch the BBC channels (1, 2, 3, 4, News, Parliament and HD), ITV (1, 2, 3, 4 and HD), Channel 4, More 4, E4 and Film 4. There are shopping channels and the like, but they are not to my taste.
Picture quality is very good indeed, and the quality of pictures in HD is limited only by the 786p definition of my TV set.
The EPG i also easy to use, and I can 'reserve' programmes with just the press of a single button on the remote control.
Red button services are also available and easy to use although, for some reason, some of the interactivity of quizzes on BBC1 is not available.
The Foxsat HD was the first box to be given the option of using the BBC iPlayer, and installation was easy as well. The box regularly updates firmware and channels automatically in the early hours and, by connecting an ethernet cable to my wireless router, I can now catch up on programmes I have missed quickly and easily, although to watch them in high quality video I need a faster broadband connection than is available here.
As a confirmed non-fan of Sky, this box does the job for me very well. It is clear, there are a wide range of channels available and it is easy to use. HD performance is impressive as well.
If I were to have one little niggle, it would be that some channels available on Freeview are not available on Freesat, but that may change in the future.
If you want to find out more about Freesat, try http://www.freesat.co.uk
For information on upcoming changes and additions to the platform, go to http://www.joinfreesat.co.uk