If you install satellite dishes on a regular basis, you'll require a measuring instrument that's a little more sophisticated (and expensive!) than a simple signal strength meter.

Telemann's 650gram 1650 is essentially a complete digital satellite receiver, minus the video/audio decoder. It does have a screen - in this case a backlit 128x64-pixel display - but it's monochrome and solely intended for displaying measurements, operational status and confi guration data.

Power is derived from a rechargeable 2400mAh 7.2V NiMH battery pack; up to 2.5 hours of continuous use can be expected from a full charge.

A joy-pad device is used to set up and use the unit, but it's not particularly intuitive. The professional user will, however, soon master the 1650 and its comprehensive features.

You can also manually enter reception details like frequency, polarisation and band. Signal strength and quality can be displayed in percentage or decibel (dB) terms.

Bit error rate (BER) is shown, too. It's even possible to simultaneously display measurements from two diff erent transponders - which can be on two diff erent satellites. For this, the two satellite feeds in question must be fed to the meter via a DiSEqC switch.

Interestingly, the 1650 is also compatible with DiSEqC 1.2 motorised dishes, which can be moved east or west with its control panel. Note, however, that dish movement will run the battery down at quite an alarming rate.

Blind search mode

Another feature, perhaps unique to the 1650, is a blind search mode of the type fitted to many modern receivers. This will seek transponders on the current satellite, displaying their frequency, symbol-rate and signal-to-noise ratio. Preprogrammed into the unit is a large database of satellites and transponders, which can be upgraded courtesy of a basemounted RS232 serial port.

We would have expected the 1650 to compare the found transponders with this database and identify the satellite they're carried on. Sadly, this seems to be beyond the unit's capabilities; you would need a printed list detailing each satellite for manual comparison. Not much fun if you're up a ladder! This will be upgraded in a more expensive future unit, but hasn't been included here to keep the price down.

As far as installing dishes is concerned, the most useful day-to-day feature is an audible indicator of signal strength. A more expensive 'S' version also includes a spectrum analyser. Martin Pipe