Mustek DVB-T202 £89
30th Apr 2005 | 23:00
A cost-effective way into Freeview
Many people seem to have forgotten about the upcoming analogue terrestrial TV switch off,but with several hundred homes in Wales already living our digital-only future, you'd better start thinking of a cost-effective way of getting a Freeview tuner.
We can't think of many better ways of doing this than having one built into a DVD player. If your TV's built-in tuner breaks,what do you do? And if it's a standalone product, then it's just one more box to accommodate.
With Mustek's DVB-T202, all you need to do is connect it up to your TV by a single Scart and you've got both movie playback and digital TV from a single unit,while connecting via its RF output or second Scart can send a signal to any recording devices.
The unit itself is a full-sized DVD player, finished in the standard silver, with a mirrored disc-drawer slap bang in the centre.The major transport and control buttons are all down the bottom right hand lip of the player. They look pretty simple,but you need to make sure that you've switched between the tuner and player sections of the DVB-T202 before trying to access the disc drawer, otherwise you enter the tuner's set up menu! Build quality is passable at this price,but not exceptional.
The selection of connections around the back is achingly average.There's a brace of Scarts, one of which is RGB capable and which also, rather oddly, offers some form of pseudo progressive scan, even though there's no component sockets. There's also an RF input on the back of the player and this can either be connected to your own aerial, or, if you don't have one, Mustek has supplied a small one in the box.While it may not be good enough to get a signal in an area that has a problem with reception, it managed to lock on to all the available channels in our relatively well-served location.
Ease of use
Getting set up is quick and easy, and with a couple of wires connected and a few buttons pressed you find yourself watching a DVD or flicking through the Freeview channels.The menu system is fairly basic,but looks well thought out and labels relatively complex procedures in a simple to understand manner.
Setting up Freeview is simply a matter of selecting the option in the menu and letting the tuner do its job. It all happened very quickly and sorted the channels into good order - although you can also monkey around with the list if you want to get your favourites to the top of it.
The EPG is also reasonably well designed and useful. It includes a small screen view of whatever channel you are currently watching so you don't have to miss anything while preparing your evening's viewing.And, at the end of the day, if you don't like the menu system, there's a whole menu full way it looks.
The system is also very quick to react to channel changes, proving how far Freeview has moved on from the bad old days of early terrestrial digital TV,where you could miss the whole opening sketch from Friends while waiting for the tuner to switch from BBC 2! Well,maybe not,but it took an age, anyway.
We've mainly been talking about the tuner element of this combi product until now,but now we're onto performance so we'll kick off with disc spinning. If we had a gun to our head and were forced to sum up this player's performance with DVD in just one word, then it would have to be competent.
Luckily,we are allowed a few more words with which to say it's competent for the money. What we mean is that this player sits in a very competitive section of the DVD market, and yes,while it has a built-in Freeview tuner in order to differentiate it from the scores of DVD players selling for between £50 and £100,on performance alone it's only just worth the asking price.
Image quality through the RGB-capable Scart is fairly good, with a fair amount of detail on show with the likes of Hero. However, colour reproduction is a bit hit and miss, with the subtle tones of iRobot occasionally coming on too strong. But there was a good depth to the image and very little in the way of the unsightly blocking that affects the products at the very bottom of the DVD food chain.
Changing to the 'progressive scan' mode made little overall difference, although The Incredibles was delivered with perhaps a touch more stability, especially around the edges of the superbright red suits that the main characters wear.
Sonically, it's all pretty standard as well. You have the option of either sending the audio signal out via the single electrical digital output or else a down-mixed stereo stream via the RCA jacks.
The former delivered into a decent receiver obviously sounded better with movies,but the stereo feed didn't embarrass itself with either DVDs or television - CD was another matter,though,and this is no all-round disc spinner.
Freeview performed better than DVD,by which we mean that considering the poor quality of the source material,the Mustek made a good fist of displaying TV on screen without too much in the way of pixelation.On some of the less well produced stations such as QVC,colour again became a problem,but with the BBC's offerings it was fairly neutral.
All this conspires to make this a good, but not great, combination of DVD player and digital terrestrial tuner. It provides a decent one-box solution to both problems,without ever really setting either market on fire. If you really only have room for one box under your TV, or you fancy DVD and Freeview in a second room,then the DVB-T202 could well be the answer; just don't expect too much from it.