WISDOM OF THE GODS
MINERVA SAT 5000
The name on the front panel may be unfamiliar, but behind
the badge on this latest sub £100 system, thereís the reassuring hand of
Grundig, and a Roman God...
In case you were wondering, Minerva was the Roman goddess of
wisdom, she was big on arts and crafts, a patron of warriors, and the embodiment
of reason and purity, it says here, in our office copy of the Boyís Big Book of
Knowledge... Quite what that has got to do with budget satellite receivers escapes
us for the moment, so weíd better press on and take a look at what the Minerva
SAT 5000 can do for you.
You wouldnít know it to look at it, but the Minerva is built
by Grundig, in their UK factory. Itís just come on to the market and is being
sold through independent satellite dealers for £99.99. Itís a response to the recent
influx of sub-£100 systems now being sold through high-street multiples and
superstores, which has left a lot of high-street retailers looking rather
uncompetitive. That price includes a 60cm dish, but not installation, which will
set you back a further £40. The deal is
conditional on purchasers signing up for a full subscription to the BSKYB channels,
and having the installation carried out by a company called Tele Aerial Satellite
(TAS), who are also contracted to process the subscription paperwork and handle
So, what do you get for your £140 (plus subscription)? We
have to say not a lot, in fact the box felt so light we thought it was empty...
The headline features are a 100-channel receiver with stereo sound, itís Astra
1D compatible, thereís a 20 favourite channel mode, it has on-screen displays
and channel naming, a 2-event/28-day timer and PIN-operated parental locks, and
thatís about it.
The biggest disappointment is the paucity of AV socketry. Just
a solitary, rather sad-looking SCART AV -- surrounded by blanked-off panels --
a pair of stereo line-audio output sockets, plus, of course, the LNB and aerial
bypass sockets. One SCART socket really isnít enough these days, and it could
cause problems when hooking the receiver up to a VCR and TV, picture and sound
quality might have to be compromised somewhere down the line.
Thereís no front panel display as such, just a couple of LED
indicators, for power on and standby, and it has a single smart-card slot,
concealed in the shut-line that runs the width of the fascia. Itís a fairly plain-looking
design with just four front-panel
buttons. These are for power on/standby, channel up/down and pay-to-view authorise.
The remote handset is a minor disaster area. Button layout appears almost
random, the channel stepper, menu and cursor controls are haphazard and what on
earth is the on/standby button doing in the middle, doubling up as a menu
Powered up and ready to go things improve a little. The
menus are fairly easy to navigate, though the strange layout of the remote buttons
make life unnecessarily difficult. The first job is to set the clock, this
takes just a few moments, everything else is (or should be running on factory
defaults). The most frequently used function will undoubtedly be the favourite
channel option, this is relatively easy to change
using the channel set-up menu; itís not quite granny-proof
but you have to be quite determined to make a mess of it. Thatís probably as
far as most users will want or need to go, but the Minerva is fairly flexible; itís
possible to delve into the tuner programming and alter frequency, polarity, LNB
characteristics and audio modes (13 preset, 10 user-defined). The LNB menu
includes a tone-switch option, though itís difficult to see what real use this
receiver can make of such a facility, with such a small channel memory. Channel
idents can be changed as well (up to 6 characters), and access to individual
channels may be restricted, using the parental lock.
On screen performance is really quite good, with fewer than
average sparklies on weaker Astra channels; noise levels are generally low and
channel change is glitch-free. As for the audio, the lack of proprietary noise reduction
is evident with a noticeable background hiss; otherwise the soundtracks are relatively
smooth and uncoloured.
Minerva has clearly been built to compete in the sub-£100 price
bracket but weíre sorry to say rather too much has been sacrificed in the cause
of economy. 100 channels are insufficient to cover all the current Astra TV and
radio channels, let alone any new ones that are in the pipeline; a single SCART
socket is not really enough, even for a modest AV set-up, and the remote
control has been badly designed. Good points? Well, there has to be one or two.
The price is fair, and build-quality is good, though the styling remains uninspired.
However, in the end weíd suggest that unless youíre after a very basic Astra to
watch BSKYB channels, and not especially interested in recording satellite
programmes in stereo, then you should look at what the other bargain deals have
to offer at the moment. Alternatively,
think about spending a little more, and get a system that doesnít tie
you down to any installation or subscription contracts, and will be able to at
least cope with current demands, let alone any future developments.
BOX COPY 1
BREAKING THE £100 BARRIER
Thereís around half a dozen sub £100 satellite system deals
on offer at the moment, but donít be fooled by the headline prices, you will
not get away with paying just £100 on any of them. The usual trick is to insist
the system is installed by a nominated firm, and that can cost an additional
£30 to £50, moreover all of them will require you to sign up for a yearís
subscription to all BSKYB channels, whether you want to or not. The current
cost of the all-channel package works out at £22.99 a month or £278.88 a year, (we
hear itís due to rise soon), so that original £100 has now risen to an outlay
of between £408 and £428, in the first year.
BOX COPY 2
Pretty well all satellite channels have stereo soundtracks
nowadays, thereís also over 100 audio-only stereo radio channels broadcast from
the Astra satellites, so it makes sense to make the most of a satellite
receiverís audio capabilities. In order to hear the stereo sound obviously you
need a stereo receiver, though youíd be hard pressed to find a mono one these
days. The receiver has to be connected to a stereo TV, or hi-fi system. The TV hook-up
requires a SCART-to-SCART lead; connection to a hi-fi involves linking the
receiverís line-audio output to the hi-fi ampís auxiliary input, using a
phono-to-phono lead. Itís a good idea to have at least two and preferably three
SCART sockets on a satellite receiver. One goes to the TV, for optimum picture
and sound quality, the other connects to a stereo VCR, so you can record
satellite programmes, in stereo. Clearly thatís going to be a problem on
satellite receivers with only one SCART socket! Some recent stereo VCRs have
twin SCART sockets, in which case you may be able to get away with just one AV
output socket on the sat receiver.
BOX COPY 3
Minerva SAT 5000
£99.99 (ex installation & mandatory BSKYB subscription)
Receiver: Minerva SAT 500. Price: £99 with 60cm dish but
excluding installation and mandatory BSKYB subscription. Features: 100
channels, 20 favourite channel memory, , on-screen menu, channel naming,
2-event/28-day timer, PIN coded parental control and reset. Audio: stereo
audio, 13 pre-set audio sub-carriers, 10-user programmable presets.
Sockets: single extended LNB input, 1 x SCART AV out, RF
PLUS: itís cheap
MINUS: single SCART, small channel memory
Ease of use 8
Value for money 8
R. Maybury 1995 3108