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WISDOM OF THE GODS

 

HEAD

MINERVA SAT 5000

 

INTRO

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...

 

COPY

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 warranty claims.

 

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 command?

 

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

STEREO SENSE

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

SPECIFICATIONS

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 bypass

 

PLUS: itís cheap

MINUS: single SCART, small channel memory

 

Sound                          7

Picture                        8

Ease of use                 8

Features                     6

Value for money         8

 

---end---

” R. Maybury 1995 3108

 


 

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