With its receiver matching the £300 price of Sky's HD STB, the experienced box maker Pace is putting itself in the frame as a serious rival. And, of course, this way you avoid that high Sky subscription.

One negative is that it doesn't come with a PVR hard drive, another being that Videoguard CAM stops it getting at not just Sky HD's transmissions, but the majority of its old-school SD digital transmissions as well. What it does do is pick up free-to-air broadcasts aplenty.

This includes the BBC's HD test transmissions and up to 250 standard-def channels that come with the Sky Digital package. Not only that but it can also run the gamut of channels from the continent so long as the right dish is installed with the appropriate CAM and viewing card, if channels are encrypted.

Satellites of hate

You may well enjoy the setting up process if you're the type who enjoys, say, defragging and partitioning your PC's hard drive just because you haven't done it for a while. If you're not, though, you won't. Satellites must be scanned for channels and once you've found them, they appear on a list that can't be changed! Surf's up, TV dude!

On a slightly brighter viewing note, the 7-day-EPG allows some element of control in this endless circus of small screen entertainment. Unless, of course, you mean the Sky and BBC channels, which give you the 'now and next' details only.

Blimey, you'll be buying the Radio Times next! Another brickbat is the absence of an event timer for unattended recordings. Damn poor show, when you consider that everyone else's box has one.

Ultimately though, wherever your channels are and however many there are, it's what they look like that matters, doesn't it? And here our Pacey friend comes out trumps. The standard-def channels that make up the bulk of all that potential entertainment look great and take on an almost hi-def quality when viewed through the HDMI connection. The real thing delivers on all the promises of the format in colour and detail.

Standard-def pictures can be recorded using the DS810XE's Scart while the audio can be delayed up to 300ms to allow lip sync or even avoid it, if that's what amuses you.

It can also be programmed to output from HDMI and component in 1080i or scaled down to 576p or 720p.

If you're after a smooth operator with lots of functionality, you've come to the wrong place. For lots of high quality pics all over the shop, sign here.