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KISS SKYVISION, PC DIGITAL SATELLITE RECEIVER, 250, ***

 

Whys it here: You can do just about anything with a PC these days, from defending the planet against alien attack to making a newsletter for your local jam-making society, so why not use one to watch digital satellite TV as well? Of course you could buy a complete digital sat systems for a couple of hundred quid, rather than tying up a grand's worth of PC doing what is after all a pretty menial job, but where's the fun in that? Incidentally, in addition to a suitable PC you will also need a dish and LNB and be aware that this version can only pick up the free-to-air channels.  

 

Any unique features: Actually yes, the package includes two plug-in PC cards one of which is an MPEG 2 decoder. That means if your PC has a DVD drive you can play DVD Video discs as well and the current board can play discs from all regions. Although it doesn't have a Conditional Access module, Common Interface or Smart Card reader (upgrades and updates are planned) it can still receive quite a few digital channels which include BBC's 1,2, News 24 & Choice, The Parliament Channel, C4 & C5, QVC, Shop, CNN, Sky News and Sky Travel. It can also pick up digital transmissions from several other satellites as well, provided you are able to realign your dish.  

 

How does it perform: hang on, it's worth saying a few words about installation first. It helps to know your way around the insides of your PC, and be warned you will need two free slots (ISA and PCI), moreover there are a couple of internal cables to sort out. The instructions supplied with our system were actually incorrect on a couple of points, so watch out! Fortunately software installation -- from a CD-ROM -- is quite straightforward and the initial station search takes only a few minutes. The 'controls' are a bit convoluted, for example most PCs won't allow you to have the main panel and the TV window on screen at the same time, and some functions -- like scrolling through the EPG -- are painfully slow, compared with a dedicated Digibox. Ultimately video and audio quality will depend on the capabilities of your PC's monitor and soundcard but on the systems we tried it on the picture was at least as good as a similarly sized TV screen. Picture noise levels are very low and colours are well saturated. PC sound systems are notoriously poor but the sound coming from the card -- heard through headphones -- is as good as anything coming out of a set-top box. Although SkyVision can only pick up 'clear'   or unencrypted channels there's quiet a lot to see and it's worth experimenting with the set-up controls as not all subscription channels are necessarily scrambled all of the time and you might come across the odd freebie or unscheduled test transmission.  

 

Our Verdict: By no stretch of the imagination is SkyVision an alternative to a set-top box. Apart form anything else it costs around three or four times as much, when you take into account the cost of a computer, and that's if you buy a digital satellite system at full price without the subscription subsidy.  Nevertheless, it is an interesting product and it does a few things dedicated receivers can't do, like allowing access to settings and signal parameters that are otherwise out of bounds. The facility to replay DVD Video discs -- without regional coding constraints -- is another plus point, but unless you enjoy making life more complicated -- and you don't mind a PC whirring away in the corner of your living room -- stick with the traditional black boxes if you want digital satellite TV.

 

Satcom Europe, telephone (01932) 267423, www.satcom-europe.com

 

UP CLOSE

Features            DVB & DVD compliant, receiver coverage 0.92 - 2.15 GHz, EPG support

System req.            100MHz Pentium/Pentium class, Windows 9x, 20Mb hard disc space, free ISA and PCI slots                    

Sockets             LNB input (F-connector), AV out (flying phono & mini DIN, via D-Sub)    

Dimensions            n/a      

 

Picture Quality            ****   

Sound Quality            ***

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ***

Ease of use                 ***

Overall value              ***

 

Rival Buys

None yet but Sky Digiboxes cost circa 200 (conditional on subscription)

 

---end---

R. Maybury 1999 1401

 

 

 

 

HEAD

VERDICT

 

Whys it here:

 

Any unique features:

 

How does it perform:

 

Our Verdict:

 

 

XX, telephone 01

 

UP CLOSE

 

Features                    

Sockets                      

Dimensions                

 

Picture Quality           

Sound Quality

Build Quality             

Features                    

Ease of use                

Overall value             

 

Rival Buys

 

HEAD

VERDICT

 

Whys it here:

 

Any unique features:

 

How does it perform:

 

Our Verdict:

 

 

XX, telephone 01

 

UP CLOSE

 

Features                    

Sockets                      

Dimensions                

 

Picture Quality           

Sound Quality

Build Quality             

Features                    

Ease of use                

Overall value             

 

Rival Buys

 

HEAD

VERDICT

 

Whys it here:

 

Any unique features:

 

How does it perform:

 

Our Verdict:

 

 

XX, telephone 01

 

UP CLOSE

 

Features                    

Sockets                      

Dimensions                

 

Picture Quality           

Sound Quality

Build Quality             

Features                    

Ease of use                

Overall value             

 

Rival Buys

 

HEAD

VERDICT

 

Whys it here:

 

Any unique features:

 

How does it perform:

 

Our Verdict:

 

 

XX, telephone 01

 

UP CLOSE

 

Features                    

Sockets                      

Dimensions                

 

Picture Quality           

Sound Quality

Build Quality             

Features                    

Ease of use                

Overall value             

 

Rival Buys

 

HEAD

VERDICT

 

Whys it here:

 

Any unique features:

 

How does it perform:

 

Our Verdict:

 

 

XX, telephone 01

 

UP CLOSE

 

Features                    

Sockets                      

Dimensions                

 

Picture Quality           

Sound Quality

Build Quality             

Features                    

Ease of use                

Overall value             

 

Rival Buys

 

 

 

 

 

---end---

R. Maybury 1999, XXXX

 

 

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