Sagem's ITD66 gets off to a good start by being much cuter aesthetically than its rivals. As well as being smaller, it makes itself easier on your eye courtesy of a neatly curved fascia, complete with bold jutting ridge, while the box's top is carved with Sagem's funky eye-like logo.
Connectivity initially impresses too, as two Scarts (including one with RGB output) are joined by both an electrical digital audio output for future digital multichannel broadcasts, and a 3.5mm hi-fi stereo output.
This audio flexibility makes the Sagem easy to plumb into a home cinema audio system - though don't forget that your TV may have a stereo audio output, too, negating the need for the one on the ITD66.
There's also a slot in the Sagem's front panel - but contrary to expectations, this does not take a Top Up TV card. It's actually for taking memory cards from digital cameras.
Compact Flash cards will go straight into it, but a card adaptor is also provided for numerous other formats. Please note, however, that this card reader can only handle JPEG picture files; it won't record anything, and it won't play MP3 music files.
A quest for other features on the ITD66 quickly has me warming to its operating system, which is exceptionally simple to understand and entertainingly presented. Favourite channel selections are possible, too.
The ITD66 compiles its EPG listings data fast, and manages to keep a small version of the picture running in the left corner while you browse. But unlike on some rival boxes, there's no direct timer setting capability. Furthermore, the Sagem's listings navigation system is not all that intuitive.
When it comes to picture quality, the ITD66 is marginally inferior to some others. While the ITD66's MPEG blocking artefacts are arguably not as overt, this seems to have less to do with better MPEG handling than the fact that the picture looks generally softer, meaning the artefacts are simply hidden rather than removed.
Colours are rich, though, contrast levels pleasingly extreme, and other noise is well contained. Sonically, I'd place the ITD66 on a par with its rivals.