The Ikusi name might not be one you immediately recognise. Ikusi is a Spanish electronics company, specialising in making various devices used in the reception and distribution of terrestrial TV, cable and satellite TV signals. New in its repertoire of products is the HDTR-200 high-definition digital receiver (set-top box).
Once unpacked, the HDTR-200 resembles many other similar devices, and is fairly conservative in its styling. There’s a main LED readout and direct function buttons for power, menu navigation and selecting channels and volume. The back of the case is a bit more interesting, however, with a wide range of ports for sending audio and video to other devices. Apart from standard definition outputs such as S-Video and composite video, you’ll also find a component video trio for outputting HD signals to your TV, plus DVI and VGA connectors. The only thing missing is HDMI, which really should be included in a product of this price point. There are, however, dedicated composite-out and RCA-out stereo jacks for connecting to a VCR. The beauty of these ports is that they send a constant standard-definition signal to a VCR or conventional TV, irrespective of the HD mode you might be using for your plasma or LCD TV.
On the audio front, there’s a pair of RCA-out jacks for stereo sound, plus optical and co-axial digital audio-out ports for connecting to a surround sound decoder. A menu setting lets you select between Dolby, AC3 and stereo audio signals. A nice touch is the remote-out port, which links to an external infra-red reader should you want to totally conceal the Ikusi unit behind a cabinet door, while still being able to change channels with the remote.
The remote control unit is nicely designed and feels fairly rugged. Buttons are plentiful including HD mode and aspect ratio buttons. You can also access the sleep timer, which will turn the receiver off at intervals up to 120 minutes.
Ikusi’s on-screen menu is colourful and well organised. An automatic programming tool takes the work out of searching for available channels, and you can choose the ones you want and place them in up to three Favourites lists. These can then be accessed from the remote. The EPG is easy to read, and would be wonderful to use if the terrestrial networks finally agreed to letting us know what’s on a week in advance. Until then, the Ikusi tells you what’s on now, the show coming up, plus a bit of info about each show. Teletext is also supported so you can always resort to this for more information.
Reception quality is another strength for the Ikusi. It fared very well when tested against the excellent Topfield TF5000PVRt, which has a 5-volt signal booster built in. The difference between the two boxes’ reception was virtually indistinguishable.
Picture quality is also top-notch, with three HD modes (576p/720p/1080i) supported. This will vary, depending on the type of cable you choose – the Ikusi comes with component and stereo RCA cables to get you started, plus batteries for the remote.
While not inexpensive compared to other HD receivers on the market, the Ikusi is certainly a quality product that will ensure that you get a great picture on your CRT, LCD, digital projector or plasma TV, and it’s easy to use and configure.