Kogan HD Digital Set-Top Box with PVR review: Kogan Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box

CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Inexpensive. USB-based storage. Supports ad-skipping. Media files are portable. Tetris!.

The Bad UI is primitive. Poor remote layout. Casing looks terrible. Freeview compatible.

The Bottom Line Kogan's cheap Freeview-compatible set-top box bucks the trend of crippled Freeview PVRs, but it's not an easy product to get along with.

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Design

There's no easy way to get around this. Kogan's Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box is an ugly little beast. It's not expensive to buy, and it really shows, with a simple black casing, a four-character LED front display and a single USB port at the front. You won't be fooling anyone that this is anything but cheap technology if you have it displayed in your AV cabinet. It is small, which has some appeal, but it's a solid return to Kogan products that skimp on design values in the name of delivering cheap products. Even the official product code (KGNFSTBVAA) is pretty ugly.

The remote control continues with the less than aesthetically appealing motif. It's small, the buttons are poorly labelled and oddly laid out and we often found it unresponsive in testing.

Features

Despite the name, the Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box isn't just a digital TV receiver. With the addition of a USB storage drive, it's also a functionally capable PVR. We say functional in that it works, but again you're not getting an absolute bargain here, and shouldn't expect Tivo levels of PVR customisation. All of the channel information relies on whatever the FTA digital channels put out on their EPGs. To say that the FTA EPG is often inaccurate might be something of an understatement.

The set-top box carries a logo indicating that it's Freeview "compatible". Normally that would mean it had a shiny Freeview logo on it but was otherwise functionally crippled with restrictions on moving recorded programming around and no ad-skipping functionality.

We're not sure what strings Kogan's pulled to make it happen, but we've got to say that the Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box is just about the most flexible Freeview box we've ever seen. Recordings made to the USB drive connected to the front are directly accessible, and there's a setting in the menus for a "jump" command. Most of these are set to different minute period durations, but there's also an option for a 30-second jump period that's ideal for the kind of ad-skipping that Freeview boxes are meant to specifically prohibit.

As with Kogan's other products, the Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box doesn't come with an instruction manual. It's offered as a PDF download from Kogan's website instead. Unlike some other Kogan products, we'd strongly recommend downloading it, as some of the unit's functions are hidden under some rather obtuse menu selections.

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Where to Buy

Kogan HD Digital Set-Top Box with PVR

Part Number: CNETKogan HD Digital Set-Top Box with PVR

Typical Price: $99.00

See manufacturer website for availability.