If anything will get the masses adequately prepared for switchover it's a £20 Freeview box you can pick up in your local supermarket. The STB8 is designed to be as plug-and-play as possible, hence Alba's accompanying 'Quick 2 View' branding.

It's the size of a paperback, with a fascia that offers little excitement other than a single LED behind a window that glows green when in operation and red in standby.
The rear panel is basic; it's clearly designed with second-room setups in mind. A UHF loopthrough allows you to watch analogue (but not digital) TV by connecting the UHF output to your TV.

The presence of a single Scart connector rules out recording digital channels to a VCR or DVD recorder but it does boast RGB and composite support. There are no separate audio connectors either, which may disappoint radio listeners lumbered with tinny-sounding portable TVs.

There's an RS232 port for engineer's use (software updates are downloaded over the air) and a reset button should the box freeze up in any way (we had no such problems).
The slim remote control is an intuitive off-the-shelf number with numerous similarly sized buttons and the box is sensitive to its commands.

After prompting you to select the aspect ratio (4:3 or 16:9) the initial tuning takes about two minutes.

Teen temptation

The menus are easy to navigate and the default blue-and-grey colour scheme can be toggled to one of seven variations including Rainforest and Goth, which will no doubt delight bedroom-dwelling teenagers.

A favourites list can be created and you set the receiver to only 'see' those channels when channel-zapping. You can also choose if you want to be presented with now-and-next or the full seven days of data in advance when bringing up the EPG.

The now-and-next guide includes the selected channel in three-quarter screen, alongside a programme summary with a list of channels on the left-hand side and now-and-next data for the selected channel displayed on the right.

The seven-day guide is full-screen with a summary at the top, a channel grid beneath on the left, and what's on in the selected hour displayed on the right. You can also skip through day by day. You can bring up an info bar for what you're watching, which includes now-and-next details and a signal meter but it can't be expanded to show programme synopses.

The tuner generated a stable, largely block-free picture from all channels available in Wotsat's Central London test area, although colours can be a little unnatural-looking - which wasn't necessarily the fault of our 19in LCD test TV. It's acceptable, however, as is the crisp audio performance via the Scart output.

If a spare TV in your house needs an upgrade, the STB8 will fit the bill.