Cheap but capable satellite receivers are now increasingly common. The S1500C from Icecrypt may be small and cost only £70, but it offers connection to most antenna setups, a built-in Conax CAM, PVR-ready functionality, and HDMI connectivity.
This is a tiny receiver – about the size of a cheap Freesat machine or a caravan system – but the S1500C contains the mains power supply as well. In addition to being small, the S1500C is pretty simple, with no front panel display, no fold-down fl aps and minimal socketry on the back. But it is well enough constructed and looks OK.
The front panel is sparse, with Power and Channel Up/ Down buttons the only controls. There is also the card reader slot for the CAM and a USB socket, for uploading new software or channel data, and for PVR memory. A second socket at the back would be convenient, but the S1500C cuts corners where it can.
At first glance the remote control handset looks quite stylish, but pick it up and you’ll find it’s extremely light and not that comfortable. What’s more, the button layout is none too intuitive to use with, say, the PVR controls mixed in among other buttons for subtitles and teletext. There are just five sockets on the back panel. The single LNB input can support DiSEqC 1.0 and 1.1 so it will connect to up to 16 separate LNBs, and also DiSEqC 1.2 and USALS to drive a motorised antenna. An LNB loopthrough is provided for a second receiver.
Although this is a standard-definition receiver – with output from a Scart socket as you would expect – there is also an HDMI (but no upscaling).
The only other connection is an RS232 serial data socket, rendered largely redundant by the USB port.
Setting up the S1500C is easy enough, and a simple wizard is implemented when you first turn on the receiver, which includes channel searching. The receiver is set up for the LNBs connected, selecting the DiSEqC port, LNB type (including SCR/Unicable), power and the local oscillator frequency. For a motorised setup, the different satellite positions are found and stored (DiSEqC 1.2) or the site’s longitude and latitude entered (USALS). The S1500C provides diff erent satellite search modes. ‘Automatic Scan’ uses the stored satellite transponder database to scan each transponder for channels broadcasting, and can search for all channels, or just TV channels or radio stations, or free-to-air only.
The ‘Automatic Scan’ is not very fast, taking over eight minutes to search Astra 28.2°E. Searching for just FTA channels makes little difference to the speed.
The ‘Manual Scan’ does the same thing for a single transponder, selected from the database or the frequency entered with the handset. ‘Advanced Scan’ performs the same function but allows the video, audio and PCR PIDs to be entered as well. The S1500C also offers a ‘Quick Scan’ which searches only the transponders used by the Canal Digitaal package.
The S1500C also offers a blind search to scan all frequencies for active transponders independent of its database. It’s very slow but you can speed it up by reducing its search range – either by limiting the frequencies searched or searching one of the two polarisations only. However, you can’t alter the increment used to step through the possible frequencies. A full search of Astra 28.2°E across all frequencies and both polarisations took nearly 20 minutes. Newly found transponders are added to the receiver’s database so subsequent Automatic searches include them. This is just as well, as the database cannot be manually edited.
Channels can be selected by number by stepping through the channel list, or from the onscreen list, which can be re-arranged according to the satellite, channel name (alphabetically), service provider, transponder or encryption. Unusually, you can confi gure the channel list to preview (or not) the channel selected in the inset window before it’s selected again to switch the receiver.
There are 10 pre-named favourite channels lists and the recall button switches to the previously selected channel, or produces a list of the last nine. You can also search the channel list for a channel name beginning with an entered string. The EPG shows the schedules as a six-channel grid or as a list of shows on the current channel with synopses and supports the MHW multi-day EPG used by some European channels. Channel-change/ record times can be set manually or from the EPG.
The S1500C provides simple PVR functions with USB memory. The receiver can be configured to buffer reception so that live broadcasts can be paused and rewound instantly and channels can be recorded. Although the S1500C has just one tuner, a second channel on the same transponder can then be selected for viewing but you cannot start to watch a recorded programme while recording is still going on.
Playback offers just two speeds of 2x and 3x for fast-forward and only 2x for rewind, but the progress bar can be ‘slid’ to jump to any point in a recording, and bookmarks positioned.
The S1500C will display photos and play MP3 music files from USB storage. Infuriatingly, subtitles are normally switched on and can require turning off every time you change channels.
Although the S1500C can produce excellent quality TV images and sound, it is disappointing in its unreliability. HDMI picture quality is outstanding. Keeping the signal digital improves the quality enormously and good quality broadcasts, such as Sky News and BBC One are displayed in sharp, clear detail with a noticeable absence of noise and edge effects.
Sound from the HDMI output is also excellent – it’s a shame that a separate digital output is not provided. However, the S1500C has some performance problems. The receiver occasionally fails to display a picture at all for broadcast channels and previously recorded shows until it is turned off or reset. Similarly, MP3 files sometimes skip and jam, hanging the whole receiver. This is unlikely to be a hardware fault and we hope future software releases will cure this Geoff Bains
Seeing past its limited connectivity and (we hope, fixable) blank screen problems, the S1500C off ers a pretty versatile machine that delivers a good blind search, simple day-to-day operation, useful Conax CAM, and sparkling picture quality at a price that – even in these straitened times – is easy to swallow.
■ Good blind search
■ Good quality picture through HDMI
■ Good price
■ No recorder Scart or separate digital or analogue audio output
■ Poor PVR playback facilities
No LNB inputs: 1
LNB loopthrough: Yes
No. channels: 10,000
Selectable FEC: No
Symbol rate range: 2000-45000
Blind search: Yes
Common interface: No
Teletext: DVB decoded
EPG support: DVB now-and-next,
Timer: Unlimited time, unlimited
Hard drive: Via USB
UHF modulator tuning: 21-69
Software upgrade: USB
Data ports: USB, RS232
SD out: HDMI (576i only), Scart (RGB,
HD out: None
Audio out: None
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ON SALE: 6th June 2013
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