Echostar HDS-600RS Freesat HD recorder
DVR with Sling slung in
Review Freesat, launched three years ago, hasn’t quite caught the imagination in the same way as Freeview HD, but if you don’t have terrestrial coverage, or you want more channels than Freeview provides, without having to go for pay TV, it’s a good option.
Echostar's HDS-600RS includes Slingbox functionality for remote viewing
Echostar’s HDS-600RS is a digital recorder designed for Freesat that offers a unique extra – it has Sling’s software built in – enabling you to access it using the internet when you’re away from home. A few years back, we’d have said that was a unique feature, and it’s still useful to some – though arguably a large proportion of punters will find services such as the BBC iPlayer will suffice.
Sling services aside, the Echostar is a fairly standard twin tuner satellite recorder with a 500GB hard drive; it’s a slightly unusual shape, with sloping sides reminiscent of a slingbox, and the remote is similarly wedge-like, though surprisingly comfortable in the hand. It can be programmed to control the TV too.
There are no physical buttons on the front; everything’s touch controlled using a panel that lights up brightly and, to be frank, distractingly. The worst offender is an animated indicator when the Sling functions are being used, though thankfully it can be turned off.
No front panel buttons but the lights do go out, thankfully
Also worth noting is that the USB ports are for software updates only; the Sling functionality is the only added extra, over and above Freesat’s standard menu of live TV, recording and access to the iPlayer from the red button. You can’t transfer recordings to an external disc, or view photos from a USB key. And even though there is an ‘Apps’ menu, at the moment it’s just home to the Sling remote software.
Next page: Operational options
That's one fugly box
a bit like one of those robot vacuum cleaners
<--- and look, it made me barf
seen my oven tray?
Couldn't they make the device look more horrible?
Freesat isn't Pay TV. So why are most boxes so awkward for non-Freesat?
How many button presses to go to Sky News (or what ever non-Freesat channel) and go back to Freesat mode and get BBC 1 HD?
Why can't you have a favourites list with Freesat and non-Freesat?
Does MHEG5 work on Non-Freesat channels (I know there are none in UK, but there is one in Germany and some in Ireland shortly http://www.saortv.info/satellite-saorsat/saorsat-reception/ )
Has it got Diseqc?
Does 28E have to be on Port one of Multiswitch distribution or 4 way Diseqc switch?
I think there are a couple of likely reasons for this sort of lock-down being desired by platform makers, including Freesat. As for the reverse engineering issue, that's not really a big one - Myth already has a plug-in for the Freesat EPG, so it's possible to get the programme data, and they've not been taken out back and shot.
Freesat's intended to be a self funding system, with an advanced EPG (ie series link, rescheduling, and so forth). And for that to work, it has to charge channels to go on the guide.
There's also a viewpoint (which depends on your exact interpretation of EU law, and applies more to Sky in any case, I think) that satellite receivers must not block the reception of other broadcasts that are in the clear, hence the addition of the 'non freesat' scan mode. (Annex IV, Framework Directive 2002/21/EC, itself a rewording of Art 4, Directive 95/47). But I digress...
Once you've got a function to scan for those other channels, then what do you do with them? On a box like the old Humax HDCI-2000, no problem, because there is no common EPG. They just go in the channel list.
But I suspect the reasoning for not doing that here (and indeed on Sky) is that it potentially harms your sales of EPG slots, if people know that it's pretty simple for users to add an extra channel and then view it. If you could simple scan and store in the same channel list, might not some smaller channels decide, rather than pay the EPG fees, that they'll simply explain on their website how to scan and store themselves?
There's also then the issue of the platform services, which is the enhancements like series links, auto rescheduling, and trailer booking, which are offered over and above the capabilities of the standard programme information.
Some of those thing, to work, will require that at least one of the tuners on the box is monitoring a transponder that has Freesat data streams on it, otherwise you won't get things like the accurate recording flags, or notice of rescheduled events. That, potentially, could mean either things like recording failing, or missing start or ends.
I'm not going to say this sort of issue isn't surmountable, but it requires thought, and it's still going to be confusing to some of the non-techy punters at whom platform-based services like these are aimed. You can end up with situation where end users have recording issues not because of any failing in Freesat itself, but because, for example, they happen to be watching a non--platform channel at the time when a recording was meant to start.
Readers of sites like RegHardware will probably understand why there might be issues; but many people will just see that a box has failed to record a particular thing and their view will be "Freesat is crap, because the box didn't record Doctor Who properly while I was watching XYZ", even if XYZ is on a non-Freesat transponder.
So, from a technical support/reputational point of view, I'm not saying this is the right thing to do, but I can quite see why Freesat and the makers of compatible equipment adopt the approach that they do.