Technomate TM-800 HD review

This budget HD-capable Linux box has some interesting features

Technomate TM-800 HD
It may not be the fastest Linux receiver around, but the 800 HD represents good value

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Basic use

Technomate tm-800 hd

The channel list – accessed with the 'OK' button in the middle of the joypad – arranges the database into four categories, which are selected with the coloured buttons. You can sort the list by 'all' (everything, sorted alphabetically), satellite, provider or 25 categorised 'favourites'. It's easy to add channels to, or delete them from, these lists as taste dictates. Adding or removing lists can be conducted with similar ease.

Pressing the 'info' button brings up now-and-next data. Running time and icons depicting audio and aspect ratio are also displayed. Press it again and more detailed information is available – the red, green and yellow buttons list service information, PIDs and transponder details respectively.

With the 800 HD, you're spoilt for choice when it comes to EPGs. The standard one has two modes. One focuses on one channel's schedule, and has a search facility. However, the virtual keyboard into which you enter your search terms is slow to respond, and as a consequence it's easy to overshoot the desired character.

The other one allows you to see what multiple channels are broadcasting within a given timeslot, complete with elapsed-time bar graphs – 'now', 'next' and 'more' tabs allow you to work through the schedules.

From either mode, you can zap to the highlighted channel or set the timer. Seven-day data is supported where available.

Courtesy of an EPG Import plug-in, the 800 HD automatically downloads schedules in XML format – these can be manually updated if need be. Two more types of EPG are available as input expansions (press the yellow button in normal TV mode). 'Cool Multi Guide' tables the offerings of up to six channels of the current list on a three-hour time frame, and a 'graphical multi-EPG' does the same for a particular favourites list. Here, the timeline is two hours and seven channels can be accommodated.

PVR and multimedia

Technomate tm-800 hd

With a hard drive – internal or external – present, the 800 HD becomes a single-tuner PVR. However, it's currently very limited compared with what's offered by other PVRs.

Most obviously, there's no timeshift functionality. If the phone starts ringing you'll have to start recording the programme that was hitherto absorbing your attention. But you cannot, alas, start playing the recording until it has completed. Nor can you access an existing recording (or anything else) while another one is in progress.

More positively, you can watch another channel carried via the same transponder as another that's recording. Available channels are highlighted in the channel list – others are 'greyed out'. You can't record two such channels simultaneously.

The remote dedicates a button to the recordings list. Icons inform you what's been watched, and what hasn't. From here recordings can be selected for viewing, deleted or moved to an alternative storage device.

Uniquely, recordings can be filtered by 'tags' contained within the EPG-derived recording name. The ability to enter your own search term hasn't been included, though.

Trick playback is available, but this isn't perfect. The display is not refreshed at higher than 2x speed (you can go all the way to 128x) and so you're effectively working blind.

There's no such problem, mercifully, with SD channels. Time-seek is also available. Pressing 'bookmark' only brings up transport controls.

You're given the impression that the coloured buttons are used for playback functions – this isn't so. Instead, a set of dedicated transport buttons is provided.

An annoying bug we encountered with our sample was that recording wouldn't start on occasions. Under these circumstances it randomly flashed 'a record has been started' messages onscreen, and although a corresponding entry was present in the recording database there was nothing that could be played. Tellingly, the animated recording icon on the fluorescent display was inactive. A restart was the only cure.

The 800 HD will play multimedia content from USB but not (yet) networked devices. A wide range of codecs and formats are supported, including MKV and MP3.

The media player has two sections – a media list, and a playlist to which one or more items are added. A menu function switches between the two. Annoyingly, 'wrap-around' access to list of media isn't allowed; there are other bugs too. Deleting playlists doesn't always do so, and you can't just select files for playback. A 'picture player' plug-in is needed for still images. It's very clumsy and needs work.

Networking features are excellent, as you'd expect from a Linux box. Among other things, a web interface allows you to change channels from a browser running on a computer connected to your network. Streaming TV from the receiver to a computer is supported, as is FTP; use this, and recordings (in the .ts format) can be transferred.


Technomate tm-800 hd

Although sensitivity was good, searches were slower than we've come to expect from newer receivers. Even switching between channels on the same transponder can take three seconds.

Overall, the TM-800 HD was very stable – our experience compared favourably with that of early adopters. During the review period, it crashed signifi cantly only once. A 'Digital Worldz' message flashed onscreen ad infinitum, and a hard reset was required.

Picture and sound quality are excellent, especially via HDMI and the analogue outputs, including RGB Scart, were much better than expected too.

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