Vu+ Solo £249

26th Sep 2011 | 08:30

Vu+ Solo

Budget receiver with good performance, plug-in support and media playback

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

Excellent picture/sound quality; Nice design; Firmware is versatile in most respects

Dislike:

OSD issues (resolvable); External HDD only; Inflexible searches

The Vu+ Solo is a single-tuner DVB-S2-compatible digital TV receiever and so HDTV-ready. Like many Linux-based receivers, this one runs a variant of the Enigma firmware – we used the recommended VIX image.

Its basic design is understated, with an uncluttered front panel finished in matt black. There's no front-panel display, which makes the relevant setup menu in VIX fairly redundant. Instead, a couple of LEDs indicate basic receiver status.

Sadly, there's no loopthrough output, nor can you fit an internal HDD; for PVR use, an external storage device is essential.

Onscreen displays extended beyond what is defined as the 'safe area', obscuring text and making the receiver a bit awkward to drive. Happily, a compensatory menu item fixed this anomaly after a reboot.

Enigma-issue installation wizards cover language, display calibration and networking. The tuner is configured to the outdoor kit you're using – different types of LNB and DiSEqC satellite-selection hardware can be accommodated at this stage.

Searching can then proceed on a satellite or transponder basis. As is the case with all receivers running Enigma2, there's no blind search, and PID selection is not incorporated. Searches can accommodate all channels, or just the free ones.

An embedded Broadcom 333MHz processor, aided by 384MB of RAM and 128MB of non-volatile flash memory, beats at the heart of this receiver. Searches are, alas, rather slow. Fortunately, the receiver is far more responsive in regular use.

Channels can be sorted by satellite, provider or (user-definable) favourites lists. A multi-channel 'timeline' EPG spans 11 consecutive channels at once; the alternative is a more descriptive single-channel mode. DVB and XML-downloaded now-and-next and seven-day schedules fall within the EPG's remit, as do text searches and timer setting.

Timeshifting and recording are both supported, as is the ability to record and view two different channels on the same transponder.

Multimedia playback – from USB or networked storage devices – is possible with a good range of formats, but a separate picture viewer application is deemed necessary. A wide range of plug-ins is available.

Verdict

The picture/sound quality and responsiveness of the Solo can't be faulted. The handset, which looks good and handles well, is also noteworthy for its handy shortcut buttons.

If you're after a no-nonsense budget Linux receiver with some cool features, the Solo is worth considering.

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