So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- Multi-screen display, easy interface, well laid out remote
- Lacks advanced features, expensive,
The Mediastar DT-720 was surprisingly easy both setup and use. Although the package includes some useful features, it is almost the double the price of rival standard definition tuners
Price$ 229.00 (AUD)
We're rather wary about lesser known brands that make their way into the GoodGearGuide Test Centre. Even though you pay more for brand names, you can (usually) expect a fairly decent standard of quality and reliability from branded manufacturers, whereas unknown brands can lead to all sorts of headaches.
While we haven't heard of Australian company Mediastar before, we found their standard definition set top box, the DT-720 much to our liking for the simple fact that it promises what it delivers. The DT-720 is a terrestrial receiver, meaning that you can hook it up to your TV to receive digital television content, and this unit reminded us strongly of the ITO STBICT6300
On first impressions, it's clear that Mediastar haven't spent much time on the aesthetics of this model. It's not ugly by any means, but has a rather cheap and plastic look and feel to it. Even the front panel display is just a green LED. Still, it's small and innocuous enough not to stand out.
We hooked up our review unit to the massive 62 inch Toshiba DLP using component cables for video and RCA audio. If you prefer, you can also connect the unit to a VCR/DVD or even a dedicated home theatre system, using the provided optical output. Within a few minutes after turning it on, the TV had detected the box and the main menu was displayed. The menu options were simple and intuitive - Installation, System Settings, User Preferences and Games.
The next step was to scan for channels and we did this by selecting 'Installation' from the menu and then 'Auto Scan' In total, the DT-720 took around a minute and a half to pick up 70 video channels and 6 audio channels. Channels can also be moved, renamed or deleted in the preferences menu. We've reviewed a few units that make setup an unnecessarily complicated experience, but we are happy to report that the software used by the DT-720 made everything remarkably hassle free.
One of the main screens you will be using on digital TV is the channel list, and the DT-720 has a few options to make using this easy. You can, for example, sort channels according to your preferences, use the quick scroll keys or view a multi picture display in either 4, 9, 10, 13 or 16 screens. After you select multi picture, the television screen will be divided into the selected number of boxes, with the current channel displayed and live in the top left hand corner, and still shots of other channels in subsequent boxes. Moving the cursor across will activate that box, allowing you to see easily what is playing on different TV channels.
The DT-720 also allows you to store groups of Favorite channels. You can then use your Favorites list in conjunction with the multi-picture display, thus allowing you quickly see what the frequently watched channels are currently showing. Just be warned that using multi-screen is incredibly slow (even with only 4 screens), and only one box is active at any one time.
When you select a channel, the DT-720 displays relevant channel data in a large blue box at the base of the screen. This includes the channel name, current time, and symbols for Teletext, EPG, Parental Lock information and most importantly - a graph for signal strength. This is a useful function as you can tell at a glance if there is any problems with your signal. The length of time the information box appears onscreen can be set between 1 to 5 seconds in the preferences menu.
There are some units we have seen that functionally perform well, but suffer greatly due to poor controls. The DT-720 is a mixed bag in this regards, as we found the remote excellent, but the controls on the unit itself are poor. All buttons on the remote are clearly marked and many system options such as Subtitles, Zooming, Telextext, EPG or Aspect Ratio can be accessed with one touch. You'd better keep the remote in a safe place though, as there are only 3 unmarked controls on the box itself, to turn the device on, toggle the display or change the channels.
For the security conscious, there are two security mechanisms installed on the DT-720. The first is a PIN, that is required every time you access the system menu. The second, more for concerned parents, is a parental lock that allows you to scramble or block any channels without entering a password.
If you ever get bored with the digital offerings, the DT-720 also ships with on board games. Yes, this is a rather tacky gimmick, but the list of games (there are 5) include both Tetris and the classic Pacman, albeit without sound and this earns brownie points in our books. Our last point is a simple but important one - the manuals on many unknown brands are, quite simply, shocking. In stark contrast to this, the manual for the DT-720 was easy to read, well laid out and while a little sparse on detail at times, provided the basics we needed to get up and running.
Although it has a few nifty features such as 'pausing' live TV (essentially a digital snapshot), the DT-720 is missing more advanced features like PiP and is on the expensive side at for a standard definition tuner.
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