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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.

Pioneer SH-DT500

It's taken quite some time for Pioneer to come to market with this box & at first glance, the specs are excellent, the appearance is slightly different to a lot of things which are on the market as well. This is a high definition model & the price-point in comparison with other available models is on the high side currently, so expect it to come down once it's been out for a reasonable period.

The unit is relatively well appointed with connections at the back too, with composite, S-Video & component all provided, however, it's surprising that Pioneer chose not to go with adding a DVI connector to the unit, given it's prevalence amongst many of the new models around. Digital audio is provided with coaxial RCA, but no optical. Video is provided up to 1080i & all in between.

The display is fairly good on the front, nice & clear & certainly big enough to get & certainly the buttons have been laid out as well as can be expected.

We were surprised however, when turning the unit on, the SH-DT500 appears to be basically a rebadged version of a Dgtec 5000i variant. Scanning in on auto takes an exceptionally long period of time on initial startup, so we choose to instead do a manual scan for available services off the local transmitter. All stations lock in without issue in the majority of cases. After operation, the overall experience is fairly conclusive that Dgtec or the original manufacturer of that brand have had a hand in the creation of this model, though we have not opened any of the units up to confirm this.

While signal hold is about on par with other models & brands, the channel switching & response from the unit is quite tardy & on a number of occasions, the units simply don't respond, or will skip channels over. When viewing a desired channel though, the image on screen is certainly excellent & the units don't suffer from breakup unless signal is poor.

The Verdict - Overall, we're somewhat disappointed with Pioneer's first entry into the set top box market & feel they could have done a lot better than the end result of this model. The slow response of the unit, particular when using channel up or down & it's tendency to skip over channels is quite annoying & something which any manufacturer should have picked up during testing. Additionally, the slow auto-scan is surprising, given the high speed of some brands & models these days to scan. The price that Pioneer have arrived to market with is also somewhat on the high side given what else is available, though they are not alone in this area.

The positives for Pioneer are that their quality control is by & large one of the best around & given the reliability of their other equipment such as home theatre amplifiers, plasmas & DVD players, they should not suffer unexpected breakdowns. Signal hold, always a major factor for us, appears to be on average with other units around. Overall, we're fairly neutral about this model, but we think there are better choices currently around.

IT & AV Services rating - 78%

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