American manufacturer Hauppauge is well known for its computer products, but it's now making steps into the home entertainment arena. This DEC1100-T Freeview receiver is one of its first pieces of gear designed specifically for the living room - although at first glance it looks like it could be a PC peripheral.
Small and, well, rather unattractive, it isn't the most inspiring piece of design to say the least. Its diminutive size is a plus point (it's probably one of the smallest Freeview boxes you can buy), but Hauppauge would certainly benefit from investing its audiovisual gear with a different, slightly more refined look in future.
Still, with a price of only £55, you probably won't hear many buyers complaining too loudly about the aesthetic qualities - or lack thereof - possessed by this digital receiver. For this low, low price, you get all the features and functionality you might expect from an entry-level Freeview box.
Naturally there's a digital tuner offering access to both TV and internet radio services, and there's also a bog standard now and next electronic programme guide (EPG) detailing the current show and the one following it. A few basic parental controls are included (the ability to lock a channel, for example), as well as helpful automatic tuning and access to digital text.
Aside from this, there are no extras to speak of: no weekly EPG as yet; no built-in games; no rewind TV function like the Digifusion model across the page. However, what's there has been executed very well indeed.
If you use the RGB Scart output option, for example, you get a very vibrant, detailed picture that lacks some of the ugly jaggedness and digital blocking displayed by some other low cost receivers. It also detects whether each channel is showing widescreen or 4:3 content and automatically switches the aspect ratio accordingly - a small touch, perhaps, but one that will doubtless save you a fair bit of bother in the long run.
Hauppauge's attention to sound is also noteworthy, as the DEC1100-T includes a couple of dedicated audio outputs that don't often appear on such an inexpensive model. There's a 3.5mm analogue stereo output (a phono adapter is included in the box) and a digital co-axial output that are both ideal for connecting to an amp and speakers for a bit of added sonic oomph when it's required - watching a movie or listening to the digital radio stations, for instance.
Last but by no means least, the receiver is extremely user friendly. Speedy auto tuning gets you up and running a minute or so after you've plugged the box in, while the remote control's responsiveness and button layout puts more expensive models (like the Digifusion) to shame. Add the aforementioned automatic aspect ratio shifting and you've got a tidy selection of factors that make living with this digital box that little bit easier. It's unfortunate that the box isn't Top Up TV compatible, but unsurprising given the price.
All in all, this is certainly one of the better Freeview receivers at the lower end of the market. For £55, you get all you'd expect and a little bit extra. If Hauppauge had come up with a reasonably attractive design, it'd probably be the perfect cheap digibox.