Provides a hassle-free way of getting subscription-free TV, but the more sophisticated Humax offering pips Goodmans to the post
Ease of use
HDMI picture quality
Manual tuning mode
Basic user interface
No RGB output
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Hot on the heels of Humax's ﬁrst Freesat receiver comes this identically-priced Goodmans model.
For the cost of the box and installation (around £80) you can enjoy a wide selection of subscription-free standard-deﬁnition TV and radio stations, plus hi-def material from the BBC and ITV.
The Goodmans GFSAT200HD is slightly more attractive than the Humax, with the fascia featureless except for a small panel of controls on one side that glow blue when activated, but there's no display to tell you which is selected. It's also very compact, making it easy to install.
On the rear is a slightly more generous selection of sockets than expected, with the most surprising addition being an LNB output as well as an input, enabling you to loop a satellite signal through to another receiver.
It's joined by an HDMI output, which serves up those delicious hi-def pictures, plus an optical digital audio output that pipes Dolby Digital sound (offered by most HD broadcasts) to an AV receiver in bitstream form. Meanwhile, the Ethernet port hints at a future ﬁlled with IPTV downloading possibilities.
The GFSAT200HD also sports two Scart outputs, one of which is intended for connection to a recorder and the other one to your TV, if your set lacks an HDMI input. However, neither output offers RGB, which means you can only record or watch in ugly old composite video.
The unit boasts all the features we'd expect, such as a seven-day EPG, digital text and interactive services, as well as Audio Description and subtitle support. You can also set programme reminders and create lists of your favourite channels.
The idea of Freesat is to make digital TV as accessible as possible, and Goodmans has certainly taken this on board. If you already own a dish, it's simple to install and once you've powered it up, the unit launches into an initial setup screen that asks for your TV aspect ratio and guides you through tuning.
To do this, you have to enter your postcode so that the relevant regional variations of BBC and ITV are listed in the correct locations. However, the box did choose ITV Central when we supplied an address with an Exeter postcode.
If you don't want to limit yourself to the Freesat channels, you can also pick up the full gamut of non-Freesat channels not listed in the EPG (including the Luxe HD channel) using a manual tuning mode found in the setup menu.
Although the menu system is nowhere near as sophisticated or user-friendly as the Humax, its design is attractive and helpfully straightforward. Key settings are easy to ﬁnd, while the onscreen banners provide useful, if not comprehensive, information about what you are watching.
The EPG is presented in a logical timeline formation, with the coloured keys enabling you to move up and down the pages or jump forward or back 24 hours. And when you ﬁrst press the EPG button the unit gives you a choice of genres, making it easier to select the programme you're after.
The remote poses no problems, thanks to the logically arranged and clearly labelled buttons.
Naturally our hunger for all things hi-def led us straight to the BBC HD channel and we were blown away by the picture quality. Watching Wimbledon in glorious hi-def resolution felt as if we were sat in the royal box, such was the clarity and vibrancy.
ITV HD's coverage of Euro 2008 was equally impressive. The razor-sharp reproduction of the players and crowd, combined with the deep, vibrant colours of the national colours on display, made the poor quality of ITV's standard-deﬁnition broadcasts even more of a disgrace.
The quality of standard-deﬁnition channels through the HDMI output, with upscaling set to 1080i, is comparable to that of the Sky HD box. As ever, the quality varies from channel to channel depending on
the source broadcast, with some channels suffering from greater levels of block noise than others, but more often than not the picture is eminently watchable.
If you haven't yet entered the brave new world of HDMI, it's bad news we're afraid. The composite pictures served up by the Scarts look terrible, with unstable, tizzing edges and washed-out colour reproduction. This is one for HDMI-equipped TVs only.
Fun with Freesat
Dolby Digital broadcasts sound superb, with an extra dimension lent to football broadcasts by localising sections of the crowd to individual surround speakers. Regular stereo sound is also clean and dynamic.
Aside from built-in hard-disk recording, the GFSAT200HD offers everything you could expect from a Freesat receiver, making the £150 price tag seem reasonable. It's a smart, user-friendly box that provides access to the full range of free channels (including non-Freesat ones) and delivers excellent picture quality – provided you use the HDMI output and not Scart
However, when compared with the Humax FOXSAT-HD, which offers a far superior user interface and an RGB Scart for the same amount of money, the Goodmans starts to look like second best.