Sagem was originally tipped to be one of the first manufacturers of Freesat receivers, but we've had to wait more than a year for its first effort - the DSI86 HD - an HD zapper box with PVRs set to follow before Christmas.

In that time we've seen an assortment of HD and SD boxes appear, ranging from budget efforts from Bush, Grundig and Goodmans to a few blessed with notable multimedia enhancements from Metronic and Technisat. So where does the DSI86 stand in comparison?

Closer to the former, as it happens. Sagem has teasingly included a front-mounted USB port for attaching storage devices and even buttons for accessing media files on the remote control but, sadly, the functionality is not actually supported on this model and it's not certain if it will be added in future via a software update.

The case design mirrors Sagem's current Freeview PVRs, being a squat, rather plasticky, black construction. Channel-changing and power buttons are set alongside an amber LED readout that tells you the number of the channel to which you're currently tuned.

Sagem dsi86 hd

A 12V external power supply will be a boon to caravanners who like to take their entertainment on the road with them and it also ensures that the receiver doesn't run hot after prolonged use.

The accompanying remote is again familiar – light grey but still eminently functional. Those multimedia buttons may be redundant but most key functions get a button, although a greater variation in their size wouldn't have gone amiss.

Forever amber

The rear has a single LNB input and AV connectors comprise an HDMI, twin Scarts (with RGB on the TV Scart) and both coaxial and phono audio outputs. Ethernet connectivity should make it compatible with on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer (not available at the time of writing).

Setup is pretty standard for a Freesat box. You enter your postcode, pick a desired PIN-lock code and the receiver then scans for Freesat channels.

Channels can be accessed from a single list where they can be hidden and sorted into up to four favourites, labelled A to D.

If you want non-Freesat channels there's a separate menu where you can enter frequency, symbol rate and polarity for your desired channel – but not select satellites to scan.

Located channels are added to the main list and can also be added to favourites lists. The EPG looks much like those on other Freesat boxes, giving you the option of viewing a guide for all channels or certain types such as news or radio.

You can view a grid of data for eight channels at a time and skip back and forth in two-hour or daily chunks. Selecting a show brings up a synopsis in the top-left corner of the screen. The guide can also be used to schedule timer events with once, daily, weekly and weekday repeat options.

Unfortunately, the decision to use the colour amber throughout the software – including the EPG – proves somewhat garish and occasionally hard to read (on the programme information banner in particular).

In its favour, the receiver makes quick work of loading text and red-button interactive services.

The HDMI effect

Although we suspect that anyone buying an HD box will probably be relying exclusively on the HDMI output, standard-definition Freesat pictures are rather soft looking viewed via TV Scart, even with RGB enabled.

The HDMI output gives better results with standard definition sources and effective upscaling to 720p and 1080i makes good-quality SD broadcasts look appreciably sharper as a result.

True high-definition broadcasts from BBC HD are also crisply presented. Audio performance is decent and on a par with Sagem's Freeview boxes, with added sharpness audible when using the S/PDIF output.

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