I decided to buy a cheap digital receiver since our television reception has been suffering from unknown interference lately, and I figured this would be one solution. Though it's only partially useful—we have several sets around the house, all connected to good external aerials, so we ought to get good reception, but something's causing problems that I haven't been able to identify—but this box can only connect to one set at a time, unless I went mad wiring up the house to it, and we all watched the same channel at the same time. Or else we'd have to buy several receivers for each set, or replace all the sets with digital models.
On the last few points, I see digital television being a bit of a failure for a long time to come (longer than the predicted cut-off date for analogue transmissions). It's expensive to update, the different aspect ratios aren't well managed by the stations, nor by the set top boxes, and all the connections are convoluted to manage at home: With the current array of gadgets attached to the lounge-room television, you need a set with enough inputs for your set-top-box, pay-television box, video recorder, DVD player, computer game, etc. Multiple outputs on some of those devices so that you can record what you want to without repatching everything, and multiple inputs on your video recorder. And likewise for your stereo system, if you want better sound than your television set has to offer.
I can see why this set top box sells cheaply, while the picture quality is quite okay, it's nothing remarkable and the box has some seriously annoying ways of working (which seems to be par for the course with the modern trend of badly thought-out appliance designs).
If you're wondering why some boxes have the “terrestrial” term in their name, it's because they're designed to receive transmissions made from the land, as opposed to from satellites (which uses different frequencies, amongst other differences).
You've got to manually pick between screen modes (wide, letter box, full screen), it can't automatically pick the right one. If you pick 4:3 letterbox mode to see wide screen movies in full on your standard television set, normal TV programs are displayed in a shrunken box. If you pick full-screen mode so wide screen movies are zoomed to fill the screen, normal 4:3 television shows are also zoomed well past all four edges of the screen. You have to keep changing the mode to watch different shows properly.
The channel numbers don't match what the broadcasters are supposedly broadcasting on, and the channel numbers aren't normally displayed anyway (other details are displayed—though thankfully the stations identify themselves by name, and the box does show them on the screen as you change channels). There's a bewildering array of unexplained technical information in the channel information display—the unit's instructions give no clues, and the broadcasters don't tell you this information, either (i.e. it means nothing to you).
If you want to make sense of the thing, so that you can go directly to the channel you want without hunting all over the place, you need to manually adjust all the channels (rearranging them into a logical order, removing the high-definition channels that it can't display, etc.). If you don't do that, you have to flick through all the channels one by one to find the channel that you're after.
Configuring it is worse than Windows. You have to go through a maze of menus to do things, with unintuitive icons for various things, and it has next to useless (or even misleading) on-screen extra information/help prompts, etc.
Adelaide (where I am) isn't available as a timezone.
The RF pass-through connector (so the television can watch other broadcasts) only passes the signal through while the box is powered up (it can be in standby mode), attenuates the signal, and adds interference to it.
I'd strongly recommend using an external splitter, as they do a better job of letting more than one thing connect to an antenna, and provides some degree of separation between all the connections.
It handles poor reception problems worse than analogue television (e.g. picture freezes or complete lockups, where you could have carried on watching an analogue broadcast, albeit with some distortions). This is par for the course with digital reception, it doesn't degrade in stages with poorer and poorer reception—it works well with good reception; but it doesn't work, at all, with bad reception. You've got Buckley's chance at getting any reception with indoor antennas on the top of a portable television set.
Even in standby mode it's very warm to the touch (i.e. it's wasting a lot of power—despite the manual claiming that in standby it has a low power consumption of 8 Watts, that's really not what I call low power consumption).
Bright green display lights on the front of the box that are lit up all of the time—either the current program or the clock—so you wouldn't want this in a bedroom.
The front panel display shows the program delegation that you've selected to view, but it's useless information since this bears no relation to the channel that you're watching (e.g. you're watching television channel nine, yet the box might be displaying program 12, because it's the twelfth station stored in the settings).
It makes an annoying, albeit quiet, high-pitched chirping noise on the sound when you've got it muted.
The picture quality isn't too bad, probably better than the average reception people have with their current analogue television signals (you shouldn't see any ghosting, herringbone pattern, or badly equalised video). But I wouldn't really call it superior to good analogue signal reception. Simply put, standard definition digital television is a replacement for ordinary analogue television.
It has two sets of output connectors for stereo audio and composite video (e.g. one for your recorder, and another for your television), though it only has one S-Video connector and one SPDIF digital audio connector.
You can operate it without the remote control, though I can't see any way that you can adjust things without using the controller.
It should accept aspect ratio preferences like most DVD players do: You select your preferred mode, and it modifies the pictures that need modifying to fit into that space, but leaves those that don't alone.
Tuning-in, and set up, should be easy to understand; and the results should be configured in a sensible way. i.e. If you want to watch channel nine, then you should be able to simply press nine on the remote control; and the display should show nine, as well.
It should use far less power in standby mode than it does, and it should be possible to turn it completely off without losing settings.
Front panel displays and controls should be practical and intuitive.
It should be completely functional without the remote control.