FOR A section of the satellite viewing population, the main factors to consider when choosing a receiver are not the likes of image quality and channel navigation, but how suited the box is to receive encrypted foreign pay-TV channels – especially those supposedly out of reach.
Such a quest may find gratification in the Icecrypt S3000HDCCI+. This PVR-ready, single-tuner set-top box can receive both SD and HD satellite channels and is equipped with a common interface slot and embedded Conax CAM. Although this receiver is perhaps a little underwhelming for some satellite enthusiasts, the availability of third-party software for card-sharing is all that some folk need to know.
The S3000HDCCI+ is pretty small but very solid-looking. It has a plain, square front panel with a multi- segment, eight-digit fluorescent display, basic control buttons on the left-hand side and a fold-down flap on the right with the Conax card reader slot, common interface and USB socket.
The display shows the time, channel name (scrolling, if necessary) or menu selected. It’s a nice touch on a cheap machine, but it’s very dim and recessed far into the receiver so it’s quite hard to actually read in living-room conditions.
The USB socket is the only one on the machine, so if you are using the S3000HDCCI+ is also a bit of a mixture. There is only one LNB input (a dual-tuner machine is almost de rigueur these days) with a loopthrough but it’s heartening to see both HDMI and component video outputs. There are also optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, as well as stereo analogue audio connections. TV and VCR Scart connections cater for SD output (although there is some conflict between HD and SD outputs) but there’s no SD composite video output (rarely actually needed, anyway).
The S3000HDCCI+ also sports both RS232 and Ethernet sockets but these are largely redundant – the USB socket handles software upgrades and Icecrypt has not made use of the internet or LAN potential for the machine. You can substitute third-party software for Icecrypt’s to make use of the Ethernet connection, but this is mostly to instigate illegal card-sharing systems and not to, say, play back media held on another device on your home network.
The S3000HDCCI+ is simple to set up and follows the usual practice of selecting the satellites to be received, defining the signal path from each satellite and then scanning the satellites. The receiver is DiSEqC 1.0-compatible for connection of up to four LNBs for different satellite positions, and also DiSEqC 1.1-compatible so you can extend that number (up to 16 LNBs) with a cascade of suitable DiSEqC switches.
DiSEqC 1.2 and USALS are also provided for connection of a motorised dish. The latitude and longitude co-ordinates are entered (for USALS) or the required satellites located and saved (for DiSEqC 1.2). Unusually, software dish limits can be set for both DiSEqC 1.2 and USALS motors, and the usual move to reference position and recalculate positions are there for DiSEqC 1.2.
The satellites are scanned either individually or automatically one after another. You can scan a satellite using the built-in database of transponders or with a blind search, finding free-to-air or all channels and TV, radio or both.
The database of transponder parameters can be edited easily, changing, adding or deleting individual transponders, or adding a complete new satellite to the list.
You can also scan an individual transponder but this is done from within the database-editing menu (which is a bit confusing). Unlike most other receivers, you can’t set the PIDs for a single transponder search. The database scan is not particularly fast, taking over four minutes to find all the channels on Astra 19.2°E. However, the blind scan is very effective and takes not a great deal longer to find the same channels and any on transponders that are not in the database.
What’s more, the blind scan adds any active transponders found to the database so they can be used in the database scan next time.
The S3000HDCCI+ can store up to 5,000 channels, which are displayed, either all together or by satellite, in an onscreen channel list of a single column with 10 channels to a view. The left and right buttons select between the different lists and you browse the list with Up and Down and the Page Up and Down buttons.
The encrypted channels have a $ sign next to them, but this is placed after channel name, rather than at the extreme left or right of the column, so it is quite hard to see at a glance which channels are encrypted.
In fact, it is quite hard to see any of the S3000HDCCI+’s menus and lists because of the colour scheme chosen. Many items are presented in black on a dark-blue background. This is exacerbated by certain combinations of RGB/YPbPr and HD/ SD output that fringe the graphics with white, rendering them almost illegible.
The channel list can be sorted from its default order (the sequence the channels were found) toalphabetic, reverse alphabetic, by encryption or (bizarrely) by parental lock. However, when sorted alphabetically, there is no way to move through the list directly to a particular initial letter, so moving from, say, BBC World News to Sky News on Astra 19.2°E is not a speedy process, however the list is ordered.
Far more useful (and somewhat unexpected) is the very nice channel finder, with its own dedicated remote control button. This displays a list of the channels with names starting with the string of letters that you enter, narrowing the list as you enter more letters of the string. It’s quick and simple.
There’s also a useful retune-to-last- channel-selected button and channels can also be put into any of eight programmable favourite channels groups, which are then selected from the channel list in the same way as different satellites, or the favourite button on the remote used to switch the receiver to use just the favourites list.
The EPG displays a five-channel, two-hour table of programme titles with the times and title of the highlighted programme above it and the current channel in an inset window. Pressing OK displays the synopsis details of the programme.
You can scroll through the table with the menu buttons or use the pop-up controls to jump ahead or backtwoor24hoursatatime–but these are very clumsy in operation.
The S3000HDCCI+ also has the usual subtitle, teletext, and TV/radio selection functions, as well as a useful image zoom.
With storage connected to the USB socket, the S3000HDCCI+ can pause or record live broadcasts. You really need a USB hard drive for this as small capacity USB memory sticks (below 3GB) are not recognised by the receiver.
The live pause can be turned on and off (when off, the Pause button just freezes the picture) and the S3000HDCCI+ buffers all reception so pause is available immediately and you can rewind to the last channel change.
The S3000HDCCI+ has only one tuner, so you cannot freely record and watch different channels or use the live pause while recording. However, when recording a channel you can watch or record another on the same transponder, and the channel list accordingly displays only the channels available.
You can start to watch a recording while it is still being recorded and you can change a paused recording to a permanent recording simply by pressing Record.
Playback, like several other aspects of this receiver, is a bit odd. The file list is displayed with the all-purpose PVR function button (which also acts like a PVR info button to display the playback progress). The normal Play, Stop and Pause are available and fast-forward and rewind operate up to 24x normal speed. A slow forward and back play mode slows down to 1/8x normal speed.
There is no way to move to a specific playback point, but you can step through the recording by one tenth of its total length, which is handy for getting quickly to roughly where you want to be. There are no bookmarks or editing.
The S3000HDCCI+ has three games and will play videos, MP3 audio files and photos from the storage connected to the USB socket (but you have to unplug the PVR storage, of course) using pretty nice multi-media jukebox/slideshow software. However, several of our test files would not play (or only the video or only the audio would play).
It is quite hard to get a really good picture from the S3000HDCCI+. SD signals from the Scart gave very good (for SD) images when the receiver was set to RGB (and not YUV output) but the HDMI output seemed to perform best when set to YUV (the RGB setting seemed to confuse the aspect ratio setting too).
Even at its best the HDMI output is rather ‘soft’, with a look a little like an over-compressed JPEG picture. The colour and contrast have to be turned down (it’s good that you can adjust the picture in this way) to get a decent skin tone from the machine, and it certainly doesn’t bring out the best in an HD broadcast such as BBC HD, or even an SD one like Sky News.
In comparison, the audio is much better. The digital output is well worth using for the crisp, clear and lively sound ■ Geoff Bains
That the Icecrypt S3000HDCCI+ has Conax built in will be its main attraction to many users, but for those not interested in illicit reception, it falls a bit short of expectations.
There are certainly strong points. The full DiSEqC compatibility, speedy blind search and the quite decent PVR facilities are all in its favour. However, the picture quality, quirky navigation, hard-to-read menus and lack of use for the Ethernet connection are more disappointing.
Nevertheless, the S3000HDCCI+ is a budget machine and it will satisfy many users, especially those wanting to watch channels they shouldn’t. There’s nothing desperately wrong with this receiver – it’s just lacklustre and no aspect screams ‘best of class’.
■ Simple to use
■ Fast blind search
■ Decent PVR facilities
■ Not the best image quality
■ Poor EPG and navigation
■ Graphics are hard to read
■ Single-tuner only
What Satellite & Digital TV rating
X No LNB inputs: 1
LNB loopthrough: Yes
DiSEqC: 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, USALS
No. channels: 5,000
Selectable FEC: No
Symbol rate range: 1000-45000
Yes Linux: No
Common interface: 1
Teletext: DVB decoded and VBI inserted
EPG support: DVB now-and-next, 7-day
Timer: 8 events, unlimited time
Hard drive: via USB
UHF modulator tuning: N/A
Software upgrade: USB download
Data ports: USB, Ethernet
AV outputs: SD out: TV Scart (composite, RGB), VCR Scart (composite video
HD out: HDMI, component
Audio out: Stereo analogue audio, optical and co-ax digital audio
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