Price (RRP): $169
Aesthetically, the STB-X5 is just another slim silver box with a clock, on/off switch and channel selector buttons. On the back are connections for the antenna, RCA sockets, a Euro SCART connector a digital S/PDIF coaxial connection for a surround sound processor and an antenna pass-through so that you can continue to watch analog broadcasts or record a different channel on your VCR.
The unit comes with a set of RCA cables, however if you do wish to use the S/PDIF, SCART or analogue pass-through connections, you will need to purchase additional cables. The remote control is essential to the operation of the unit as all of the main functions including tuning, setup and picture modes can only be controlled from here.
Our demonstration unit came pre-tuned for the Melbourne digital TV channels so installation was a simple matter of plugging the unit in, connecting the cables and turning it on. For testing purposes we completely reset the STB to see how easy it would be to set up from scratch. In theory, one simply chooses the menu language, specifies the country and region (capital cities only) and the STB automatically finds and tunes all available digital TV and radio services. Unfortunately, in our case the STB found only channels 7 and 9, although we were able to manually tune channel 10 and SBS. Despite several attempts the STB was unable to find ABC or ABC2.
Picture and sound quality
Once tuned, picture quality is excellent with almost no drop-outs, even in our difficult inner-Melbourne reception area. The unit supports teletext and, more important, captioning for the hearing impaired as well as digital radio (SBS and ABC’s DiG only at this stage). The STB includes a programmable timer to automatically change channels (presumably for use with a VCR) and a built-in blocks game (similar to Tetris) for when there is nothing to watch. Sound quality is excellent, with support for Dolby Digital surround sound when the STB is connected to a suitable surround amplifier (coax S/PDIF only).
The only gripe is that the unit does not automatically switch between widescreen and 4:3 (standard) mode, which is painful if you don?t have a widescreen TV. This means you are either constantly changing display modes or compromising on a smaller 4:3 picture.
Overall the unit represents good value for money if you don’t require high definition or fancy features such as dual tuners or picture-in-picture. As an entry-level unit, the STB-X5 may not be the cheapest, but it is well-supported and good quality.