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Reviews placed here are based on our experiences with the units described. Faults & advantages of the various models are listed as we have encountered them.

Thomson DTI352TH

One of the earliest set top boxes to the Australian marketplace, the Thomson DTI352TH, while not without it's early problems, is now one of the standards against which we compare other set top boxes.

The DTI352TH has a number of excellent features, including dual video output via 2 SCART ports, for which 2 SCART to RCA adaptors are supplied. There are an additional pair of RCA ports for audio only, plus the RF in/out ports for connecting your aerial to.

One of the more unusual features of this model is the inbuilt RF modulator, which has a switchable RF output channel that can be changed in the setup menu, enabling owners to have the box output to the TV via the RF aerial cable, therefore allowing owners of older TVs to connect a set top box & receive the benefits that digital TV has to offer. The only problem we see with this feature is that in our local area, there are very few free RF channels to use for that purpose.

As mentioned, there are 2 SCART to RCA adaptors (which also feature S-Video connecotrs), a SCART to SCART cable, plus a pair of RCA audio cables, but no RCA video cable, a real problem if you've just arrived home without any spare cables we'd have thought. Some units we have seen have instead had SCART breakout cables which contain the video & audio cables built into the cable, but these have been few & far between.Finally, apart from the manual, which is reasonably comprehensive, there's the usual remote control, fairly clearly labeled & well spaced for those not so nimble with their fingers.

The one feature we have hated with a passion about this model is the length of time it takes to scnn across the entire band, anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the individual box. That's a problem that's really only going to affect instalers though, but for those who are only going to be tuning in their own, they will probably not be too worried about it.

Navigating through the menus is fairly easy, even for a first timer & the response of the box to the remote is remarkable, almost any angle & a reasonably large distance will see the box respond to the remote commands. Setup is relatively painless, only the time it takes, but if you're doing a complete scan, as mentioned earlier, it takes a fair while. To scan for an individual channel, you need to input the frequency & transport parameters, but if the box has already pulled in all available channels, there's little reason to do another scan. A clock when powered off is good, updated over the air, with no user intervention needed & the front panel display shows which channel you're looking at.

The biggest reason we compare this model against just about all others is it's ability to cope with low signal strength, where other models have tended to drop or pixellate. We've also found that the DTI352TH seems able to to pick up prety much any channel avalable where other models may fail to acknowledge there's even a broadcast out there.

The verdict - while we wouldn't class this as the perfect set top box, it's a very solid performer & in our experience, extremely reliable, holding a weak signal significantly more reliably than some much more expensive models. It's biggest downfall is the exceptionally long scanning time, but as mentioned, not really an issue for anyone other than installers who do a lot of them. Better than average composite video display as against some other models also gives it a boost, though the lack of extra features such as teletext may put some people off. The bonus of dual video output, allowing connection to both a TV & VCR at the same time is also excellent, plus the RF modulator feature mentioned earlier helps earn a pretty good score. While these units now appear to be lacking features when compared to the newest models being released, there is no denying the picture quality & reliability in general. For those looking for a set top box without the need for things such as teletext or captions, the DTI352TH is certainly good buying.

IT & AV Services rating - 85%

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