Icecrypt T2400 £329.95
18th Nov 2010 | 11:35
The UK's first 1TB Freeview+ HD recorder/PVR
Icecrypt T2400: Overview
The appeal of free-to-view TV platforms is obvious, but 2010's addition of hi-def channels in the shape of Freeview+ HD is starting to convince Sky and Virgin subscribers that there is another way.
The Freeview+ HD recorder has been blossoming of late with tempting boxes from the likes of Humax and Philips, but Icecrypt's imminent follow-up to the T2200 receiver has gone one-up on its rivals by including a 1TB hard drive on the T2400 as standard – and a Western Digital Green Drive, at that.
As well as storing recordings (a stunning 250 hours of HD or 500 hours of SD), that HDD can pause live TV and store other digital files. Both 500GB (£309.95) and even 2TB (£TBC) versions will also be available, the latter in 2011.
The back of the T2400 presents more evidence that this is a serious candidate.
Two Scarts are joined by outputs for HDMI and composite video, while audio-only feeds can travel via its analogue stereo audio outputs or an optical digital audio cable.
Makers Turbosat has confirmed to us that the T2400 is not able to transcode HE-AAC (the compressed audio stream that Freeview HD uses) to Dolby Digital – though this may be rectified by a firmare update in the future.
This transcoding will become a mandatory for all Freeview HD equipment as from April next year, but for now the only option now for those with a home cinema is to engage the Dolby Digital Pro-logic II mode on their AV amplifiers, which will create something akin to surround sound.
Back there we also spotted an Ethernet LAN port and a USB slot, both of which can play the likes of DivX and MP3 files from an external USB drive, respectively.
Home networking will be introduced to the T2400 experience, though not in time for the initial sale date; the early review sample we're looking at here is still being tweaked before going on sale very soon.
Icecrypt T2400: Picture quality
We've no complaints about the picture quality from the T2400's DVB-T2 tuners, with high definition channels in particular producing spotless images.
A transmission of The One Show on BBC One HD presents some detailed close-ups while a broadcast of Planet Earth on BBC HD demonstrates some smooth and detailed panoramas of Western Australia that teem with colour and life.
Standard definition programmes are a notch below expectations; there's an over-arching softness that suggests a less than impressive upscaler inside the T2400, though Icecrypt assures us that the drivers will be updated in a software upgrade due next week.
Insert a USB stick and the T2400 adds an extra dimension you might not have expected to find on a Freeview HD recorder – digital media playback. Press the media button and there's a choice of MP3, Photo or Media – the latter applying only to video files.
AVI files encoded with XviD or DivX work fine, and we even managed to get a bevy of DivX HD files – saved as MKV files – to play without hitches. Here the picture quality is highly watchable, though hardly benchmark – we spotted a touch of grain amid a slight jerkiness to playback. This, say Icecrypt, will also be addressed imminently by new drivers.
Icecrypt T2400: Value & ease of use
After tuning-in digital channels over a couple of minutes, the T2400 presents a good-looking eight-day electronic programme guide.
A mere one hour's worth of schedules over just five channels are shown on a single page, though colourful and hi-res graphics are used to devastating effect. Well-defined lettering and easy to read fonts meet a colour scheme of yellow and white text on a black and grey background; the end result is an EPG as attractive as any in the recorder market.
While the EPG is being inspected, and schedules searched (by keyword or genre), a window in the top-left-hand corner plays a thumbnail of the current TV channel, while the audio plays interrupted beneath.
Recording is a cinch; click on a programme from the schedules and a choice of single record/series record/reminder is presented. Choose record and it's added to a list of scheduled recordings that's accessible via a 'fastext' shortcut option.
If you pick three programmes to record simultaneously, a 'conflict' banner appears that offers you a choice of 'alternate instance' (another broadcast time or date is found) or 'manual method' (do it yourself).
Our only complaint is some slight colour banding in parts of the guide page, and that the schedule grid flickers while it's being toggled through.
We also noticed that some options seem to have been named by a non-English speaker, with 'reservation' used instead of 'record', and 'resolve OK' where something more descriptive such as 'alternative broadcast found: recording scheduled' would have been better. Although only days from going on sale, Icecrypt is overhauling the Englishness as we write.
Another oddity is that the remote lacks a 'recordings' button, and finding a simple list of what's been recorded is actually quite difficult. Eventually we found a button sporting a graphic of a page, which we guess is a logical icon for a library; it leads to a simple list with the title, date and transmission time recorded.
This same translucent page gives details of the space left on the HDD, options to create and name folders of recordings, and move files either within, or to a USB drive.
A 30-minute episode took just over a minute to move a USB stick, with the resulting MPEG4 files saved as a TRP formatted file. It's not rocket science to find a media player or some file converter software that handles TRP files, but nor is it particularly easy – Windows Media Player nor Quicktime natively support TRP.
Recordings can be skipped through very easily using the remote's arrow keys, with the percentage of the programme gone shown on a progress along the bottom of the screen. Half or quarter speed slo-mo is also possible, while the 'jump' button can be set to between one and 10 minutes.
Aside from those minor issues, the T2400's interface comes across as quick, good-looking and easy to use – helped by a remote control that's large, well weighted and comprehensively labelled – but it's not the slickest set of controls imaginable.
Icecrypt T2400: Verdict
It's the Freeview+ features that make this new generation of free-to-air hi-def recorders so enticing, but it's the sheer size of the HDD and user-friendly interface that makes the T2400 an attractive option. Others will love the chance to playback digital files.
An attractive and quick EPG coupled with decent functionality and an easy to use remote control meets a huge hard disk and playback, streaming – and even export – of a bevy of digital files. What's not to like?
The chance to export recordings to a USB stick is excellent, though considering the size of the HDD we'd only want to do that to watch a programme on-the-the-move – so the TRP format of exported files is slightly awkward. There's also no streaming, or a Common Interface slot, which rules out Top-Up TV viewing cards.
It's not without its faults and the T2400 doesn't always produce cutting-edge image quality, but this versatile and fully featured deck has some nice extras nevertheless. Taken together the T2400 makes for a fine Freeview+ HD recorder with recording capacity that just can't be beaten.