Germany's Technisat is an established brand in the satellite market and has recently set its sights on developing products with the UK in mind. It helps, of course, that free-to-air satellite has been made more attractive to a wider range of UK residents recently, thanks to Freesat.

The HDFS is its first Freesat receiver offering standard and hi-def reception. It will be followed by a potential Humax Foxsat-HDR-competing dual-tuner PVR (in late 2009/early 2010), and Freesat and Freeview IDTVs.

Build and connectivity

The casing is almost identical to Technisat's Digicorder HD S2X. Roughly the size of the average small VCR, it's intersected with a silver band complemented by a stylish circular menu control pad on the left of the fascia.

A classy blue vacuum fluorescent display shows the name of the channel you're tuned to, or which menu you're viewing. A flap reveals a host of data ports for slotting in storage devices for multimedia playback: USB, an MS/SD/MMC card slot and a Compact Flash reader. To their right are two blank spaces where CI slots would otherwise be.

Rear connections are similar to those on the Metronic HD 100 Freesat receiver, though Technisat has stopped short of adding an LNB loopthrough which would enable you to feed a signal to an additional satellite receiver if required.

There's an HDMI output (but no component) twin Scarts with RGB, composite and S-video support on the TV Scart and coaxial and optical digital audio outputs. You'll also find a second USB port and an Ethernet connection for forthcoming Freesat services such as BBC iPlayer, and streaming media from connected PCs (also achievable wirelessly).

The remote control looks more like your average TV zapper than a set-top box controller, but it is still very usable, despite having lots of small similarly sized buttons. A blue 'Nav' button reveals context-sensitive shortcut menus for accessing the most desirable features.

Setup

The HDFS has two operating modes – Freesat and Technisat mode. In Freesat mode the receiver scans for Freesat channels only, prompting you to enter your postcode beforehand to set regional channels. You can only access the Freesat EPG while in this mode.

The Technisat mode is for multi-satellite users and has many features offered by a conventional satellite receiver.

You can specify the type of LNB you have – single, quattro or Multytenne (Technisat's multi-LNB dish). There's DiSEqC 1.2 support and motorised users can specify east and west limits. You can also enter your latitude and longitude to auto-find satellites.

There are several search options – you can do an automatic (e.g. all free or pay-channels in range) scan or search by satellite, by frequency, polarity, symbol rate or PID. For both modes you can have multiple channel lists – a master list (in which channels can be deleted and re-sorted – including by satellite and provider in Technisat mode) and two favourites.

In Freesat mode you get an additional customisable option where you can swap in regional variations.

Basic use

Freesat and non-Freesat channels use the same EPG framework, which works well in both cases.

The Freesat EPG is structured in a similar way to that on competitors' boxes but (as with the software in general) Technisat has eschewed black in favour of a slightly dull, mainly grey Windows-esque colour scheme, (though we do like the help pages).

LNB input VCR Scart (composite, S-video) EPG data is displayed as a grid of eight-day data (where available) for nine channels at once and you can view data for all channels or just those of a certain type (e.g. radio) or genre. This can be skipped day by day using the number keys on the remote) or in two-hour chunks.

You can view a full list of data for one channel, a now-and-next list for all channels, generate a grid of programmes for all by genre, or search for shows using an onscreen keyboard. Non-Freesat channels also get a grid of channels from which you can view data for one channel, view shows by genre or perform a search.

The programme information banner is attractive, displaying plenty of useful data. In Freesat mode you can browse data and synopses for what's on other channels for the rest of the day without needing to switch over.

Three timer options – a VCR timer, a wake-up timer and channel change – can be scheduled from the menu, EPG or information bar with once daily, weekly, or 2/5 day repeat options. Freesat timers are disabled when in Technisat mode.

The HDFS is capable of playing media from inserted storage devices or from a PC via Ethernet or wirelessly. Wireless streaming requires you to buy Technisat's USB-WLAN adapter (£30) which can be front or rear-plugged or set apart from the receiver in the stand provided.

Supported formats are MP3, JPEG or MPEG-2 (MP4 and DivX are expected to be added later) and you can create playlists and slide shows and fast-forward and rewind video at up 64x normal speed.

Performance

Genre searches can be slow but the software is pretty slick on the whole. Standard-def pictures can look a tad soft (even high bitrate channels via HDMI) but are still acceptable. HD looks sharp all round, whether you're watching BBC HD or FTA HD channel Luxe HD.

Audio quality (MP3 playback in particular) is excellent even without resorting to the digital audio outputs. Streaming and general multimedia playback, meanwhile, is smooth and glitch-free.

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