Good build and attractive design are enough to lift this basic Freeview adapter from obscurity, despite its shortcomings
Design and compact size
Ease of use
Electronic programme guide interface
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It's not often that a British company pops a review product onto our test benches and it's apparent right from the off that TVonics' new Freeview set-top box is made to a high quality.
Having said that, the company does have a manufacturing tie-in with Sony so maybe the build quality was never in doubt on this basic, but great value, little receiver that's a good first step into the world of digital TV.
Put it next to your 42in plasma and the Prism looks like a box of chocolates, an impression that's not helped by the fact that it comes in pine, pink, blue and denim. While the colour schemes are slightly disturbing (the more conservative can opt for black), the Prism's small size does give it some versatility and those with a smaller TV will find it the perfect size.
Which is just how we would recommend using the Prism, rather than teaming it with a huge flatscreen TV. No question, this is a well-made but limited set-top box. That's obvious from its connectivity, because although it does offer a Scart output (through an S-video-style connection, with cable included) that can output RGB colour, there are no separate audio connections so it's not possible to connect the Prism to a home cinema amplifier.
It's also bereft of connectivity to attach other equipment with only an RF aerial input provided. But what really lets down the Prism is the interface for its electronic programme guide. It's a nicely designed transparent affair that floats over whichever of the 40 channels you're watching, but toggling through the following eight days TV schedules involves an unacceptable lag.
That's a shame because the colourful remote control is excellent: despite having tiny buttons, it is well laid-out. The EPG might be sluggish, but switching to DAB radio channels from Freeview works quickly, but, again, scrolling and loading stations can take time.
Tuning into Freeview channels proves no problem, although the signal did drop out intermittently for several channels during our test. Coupled with MPEG-2 artefacting - all too obvious when viewed on a large LCD TV - we're not sure the Prism is suited to a home cinema, although colours are rich and stable channels produce a relatively clean picture.
Sound via the Scart produces decent stereo through a TV's speakers, but we're not sure this will be enough for movies and the lack of audio options is a shame.
Aside from an easily operated screen saver that will please owners of plasma TVs looking to avoid screenburn, the Prism will suffice only for those looking for an easy way into digital TV.
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