ADB i-CAN Easy HD 2851T £129
26th May 2010 | 14:36
The first Freeview HD box to offer BBC iPlayer access
i-CAN Easy HD 2851T: Overview and Features
Most new brands dip a foot in the UK consumer market, but Advanced Digital Broadcast's (ADB) debut product is full-throttle Freeview HD – and with BBC iPlayer to boot, the i-CAN Easy HD 2851T is a mighty tempting piece of kit on paper.
Smaller and lighter than other Freeview HD boxes we've tested, the i-CAN also sports an unusual look; the typical black box is replaced by a rounded white fascia that's interrupted only by a smoked black plastic swatch that curves around the entire product, hiding a small display and a Common Interface slot.
The latter could be especially useful given Top-Up TV's ambitions to offer Sky Sports channels in the near future.
As well as being Pay TV-ready, the i-CAN pushes its 'hybrid box' claims by offering direct delivery of the BBC iPlayer. Come the end of 2010, most Freeview HD boxes will be able to offer iPlayer after a software upgrade (all of them have an Ethernet LAN port as standard), but ADB has developed its own swish and simple interface to put the i-CAN ahead of the curve.
i-CAN Easy HD 2851T: BBC iPlayer interface
Scanning though iPlayer's highlights is a gradual process, but otherwise the interface is relatively quick. It's all very familiar – you'll find the 'Home', 'TV', 'Radio' and 'Search' tabs up top – but what's impressive is the layout.
Large fonts and the pink, white and black graphics make for a breezy and classy interface that any idiot could use.
The best news, however, is that the i-CAN supports not just iPlayer, but iPlayer HD: choose BBC HD from its channel icons and you're presented with a list of all the high-definition programmes that have graced the BBC HD channel in the past week, as well as the usual 'most popular' tag.
The picture quality is decent, but not a patch on the live HD TV channels from the Freeview HD tuner; we know that on-demand HD material via the iPlayer is downscaled somewhat, and it shows – motion can cause the picture to stutter while there's a jot less detail than we'd like.
The iPlayer icon is, at present, all alone on the receiver's native 'interactive TV' menu, so expect more services in future – we're thinking ITV Player, 4OD and Sky Player.
i-CAN Easy HD 2851T: Freeview HD
While operating the iPlayer interface is a generally silky, if occasionally slow, experience, switching back into Freeview HD mode is troublesome; we found that the quickest way was to switch off the box and begin again, though its boots up with haste.
That said, the interface for Freeview HD – which maker ADB calls 'Carbo' – is yet again class leading. We're talking smooth, rounded and nuanced graphics and plenty of easy-to-use menus.
A simple, transparent channel list can be brought up to change channels (or to choose radio stations and interactive services), and by scanning downwards using the remote's central arrow buttons while watching live TV, it displays that evening's TV schedules.
The information you want is never far away, but kudos in particular goes to the i-CAN's eight-day EPG. Studded with the Freeview logo (though strangely not the Freeview HD logo), it presents nine channels and three hours of schedules simultaneously, with a programme synopsis box popping up over the channel you hover over.
It does lack a preview box; instead its transparent black/blue/red/white graphics float over whatever channel you're watching.
Freeview HD channels are sumptuously detailed, with plenty of subtle details in close-ups and a majestic depth to images, though the regular standard-def channels do disappoint – the i-CAN seems bereft of upscaling tech, which leaves the likes of BBC 1 and ITV sprinkled with blocking, digital noise and a low-resolution that causes jagged edges a-plenty.
It's the one lowlight on an otherwise comprehensive picture performance.
i-CAN Easy HD 2851T: Value and ease of use
Oddly, the i-CAN at first refused to tune-in Freeview HD's hi-def channels, and even though it succeeded at the second time of asking, other normal Freeview channels suddenly lost their stability.
It does suggest that the i-CAN's DVB-T2 tuner isn't as sensitive as it could be (we had no problems with a variety of other Freeview HD boxes in the same testing location).
We also had problems with the BBC interactive service – pressing the red button brought up the menus only in the corner of the screen, and over-large and obscured, at that.
i-CAN Easy HD 2851T: Verdict
If it looks like a terrific product to you, the i-CAN is just that – but there are cracks. At this price, they're bound to be and for the money we think the i-CAN is something quite special.
The separate interfaces for both the i-CAN's Freeview HD tuner and the BBC iPlayer are terrific – brilliantly designed and colourful, easy to use and impossible to dislike.
The option to play on-demand material from BBC HD via the iPlayer is hard to argue with at this price, while hi-def channels on Freeview HD have never looked better.
A Common Interface slot boost the i-CAN's versatility still further.
Intuitive though they are, the menus for iPlayer can be stodgy and the rudimentary remote, with its small buttons, doesn't help.
There are also question marks over the Freeview HD tuner's sensitivity, while standard definition channels on Freeview often look very average – the i-CAN could do with some decent upscaling circuitry.
Marred by Freeview picture quality, the i-CAN nevertheless makes a strong candidate for anyone wanting to upgrade their living room ahead of the World Cup. Sparkling HD channels are impressive, while the ability to watch iPlayer content at the touch of just a few buttons could prove irresistible to some.
OK, so it's got a few glitches, but with HD quality, interactive services and the promise of future upgrades, we think the unique i-CAN is on sale at a very competitive price.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview