Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Wide range of innovative and useful functions, full 1920 x 1080 resolution high-definition display, very easy and intuitive to operate
- Some features poorly implemented, no DVI
The Sony DSTHD100 is innovative and easy to use, despite a few minor flaws.
Price$ 699.00 (AUD)
Sony's DSTHD100 is an excellent digital set top box, featuring several impressive functions. In addition to the regular range of digital features, the Sony brings picture-in-picture and pause functionality to its array, and to top it off, delivers stunningly clear high-definition images.
This isn't to say that the DSTHD100 is perfect, however, for it does have a few minor flaws. The first is apparent from the moment the device is removed from its box. The back panel is surprisingly sparse, with a bare minimum of connection options. The lack of DVI output on the Sony is one of its largest drawbacks. It has component, composite, S-Video, RF loop-through and S/PDIF digital audio output.
Sony has also implemented a couple of features on the DSTHD100 a little poorly. For instance, the favourites menu is slightly annoying. As soon as it's brought up, it disables flicking through regular channels, cycling through favourites only instead. To rectify this, the entire program list must be brought up again. The program information plates and electronic program guide (EPG) are also a little difficult to navigate and set up, and the EPG is especially annoying, since information can only be brought up on one channel at time, rather than multiple channels simultaneously, for comparison. One final complaint: the Sony lacks the ability to cycle through just TV or just radio stations, which can make channel surfing somewhat tedious.
These foibles aside, the Sony DSTHD100 delivers nothing but the highest-quality digital experience. The menu is incredibly well laid out and rather unobtrusive. Navigating through the various features is quick and easy, especially with the remote, which is well designed and clutter free. The controls on both the remote and the front panel are intuitive and responsive.
What really makes the DSTHD100 stand out, though, are two of its features that don't appear on many other boxes: the picture-in-picture and pause function. Both are well implemented, and easy to use via buttons on the remote. The picture-in-picture feature only works with channels from the same broadcaster, since the Sony doesn't come with twin tuners, but is still a useful and worthwhile feature. The pause function is an interesting addition to the box, especially considering that it doesn't include a hard drive for recording. This means that programs cannot be paused indefinitely, for playback to be resumed normally. Instead, it allows the picture to be frozen (for instance, to jot down a phone number), and once unfrozen, playback speeds up to catch up with the broadcast (minus audio). It isn't quite up to speed with a PVR's pause functionality, but it's definitely a standout feature for a regular set top box.
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