The LST-4100P is a relatively small set top box, measuring in at 370mm x 60mm x 262mm. As such, it should slot into most entertainment setups with little fuss. Visually it's not the most stunning bit of design we've ever seen, but it does benefit from being quite immediately obvious in terms of ease of use, with only the major unit functions controlled from the front panel of the box; all the rest of the functionality of the unit is controlled from the rather flat remote.
The remote itself will take a little getting used to, as it also can act as a universal TV remote, via the usual setup of entering specific codes for your individual TV model. Lights at the top flash to indicated whether a selected command is being sent to the set top box or the television, but if you're not paying attention it may take you a few seconds to work out why it's not responding properly.
Setting up the LST-4100P was an interesting experience for us, because the very first time we switched the unit on, it refused to recognise any button inputs whatsoever. Cycling the power quickly fixed this issue, which didn't resurface during our testing period. After that, the unit quickly settled in to finding all available digital channels. In our testing in the Sydney suburban area, it found all the major commercial channels, ABC and SBS (including ABC2), Danoz Direct, The Christian Channel, Macquarie Channel and even the NSW Government's pilot digital channel, Channel NSW.
The LST-4100P supports TV output in all of the major digital definition modes -- 1080i, 720p, 576p and 576i -- depending on the capabilities of your TV, naturally enough. On the output side, it supports composite, component and S-Video, along with one of the LST-4100p's major selling points, in that it supports DVI out connections for crystal clear video images.
On the software side, the LST-4100P supports closed captioning (where available) and for that real retro 80's feel, Teletext transmissions. It's quite an experience looking at a roughly pixellated Teletext page on a high definition panel. From the remote you can quickly control aspect ratio and check the signal strength of any incoming transmission. The LST-4100P's manual suggests that this is most useful to allow you to change the position of your aerial if needed; we wonder how many people (excluding those using rabbit ears style antennae) are likely to get up on the roof and make adjustments in this manner.
We tested the LST-4100P with both a high definition widescreen LCD panel and a standard 4:3 ratio television. While the takeup of high definition TVs is definitely becoming more widespread, there's also an argument to be made for picking up a high definition box for existing standard definition sets, especially if you're likely to upgrade your television in the near future.
Both high definition images and standard definition ones came through with clarity on a variety of connections; obviously your visual quality will depend on the capabilities of the TV you plug it into. As you'd expect, there was also a marked improvement in TV reception over a standard antenna setup. In our test environment, it was normal on a standard antenna to get interference from low flying aircraft, something that the LST-4100P completely eliminated.
Aside from its initial quirkiness, the remote for the LST-4100p worked well, and we found the aspect ratio switching particularly useful for correcting images within dud frames. Those who detest letterboxing (or those who like stretchy-looking people) will probably find themselves running the LST-4100p almost exclusively in zoomed mode.
Australian audiences as a whole aren't embracing set top boxes with anything like the fervour that the TV industry and the government had hoped, and it appears at this stage that the planned 2008 removal of analogue services is likely to be delayed. That makes it a hard proposition for any vendor to effectively sell set top boxes right now, especially when you combine that with some quite thin offerings in the digital space, especially from the commercial networks. Having said that, if you've got a high definition TV display, especially one with DVI inputs, and want the best possible displayed free to air TV, the LST-4100p comes recommended.