Archos TV+ 250GB streaming media player
Very, very disappointing
Even the process of setting up the TV+ to work with your digital receiver is long-winded and convoluted. First, you have to search through a list of manufacturers to find your box. Even though the remote control has a Qwerty keyboard on it, you can't, for example, press S to skip to Sony. Instead, you have to use the left and right arrows to scroll through all the entries one by one. Then you have to conduct a series of tests to find the correct code for your box. If a code doesn't work, you're never sure if it's the code that's a problem or the position of the boxes.
Once you've got that all working, you're stil not done. You can't just fire up the electronic programme guide (EPG) and get watching - that would be too simple. Instead, you have to hook the TV+ up to your PC - which no doubt means disconnecting it from the telly, unplugging the power and then moving it to another room where you computer is - and then register on the Archos website, download an application and then run that while the TV+ is connected to the computer.
This is hardly a consumer-friendly process. Subsequent updates can, thankfully, be acquired over the Wi-Fi or wired network connections the box features.
HDMI (and other) portage, no HD compatibility
When you've got the EPG installed, you still have to go in and manually change some settings - for example, to deselect all but one of the 16 ITV regions that for some reason were displayed by default. There doesn't appear to be a way to record all the episodes of a series, other than by scheduling a recording to repeat at the same time every day or week, which isn't exactly a sophisticated approach given that the programme data is there.
Even with everything finally set up and your digibox and TV+ awkwardly pointing at each other, the Archos still had problems making recordings reliably. In one instance, the Freeview box was off, and the TV+ failed to switch it on, resulting in a black screen. Another time, it didn’t change channels successfully so it recorded the wrong show.
The TV+ can also stream video content from PCs connected to the network, though out of the box it's limited to just MPEG 4 and WMV formats - and both only at standard definition. It can also handle H.264 and MPEG 2 content, but you'll need to splash out a further 15 quid each for these two plug-ins. As a result, it's pretty limited in what it can play compared, for example, to the Netgear EVA8000 - reviewed here. With both plug-ins installed, it only managed to successfully play the SD Divx, Xvid and DVD MPEG 2 files from our standard set of tests.