Kogan Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box

Kogan's cheap Freeview-compatible set-top box bucks the trend of crippled Freeview PVRs, but it's not an easy product to get along with.


7.0
CNET Rating
5.9
User Rating

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Design

There's no easy way to get around this. Kogan's Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box is an ugly little beast. It's not expensive to buy, and it really shows, with a simple black casing, a four-character LED front display and a single USB port at the front. You won't be fooling anyone that this is anything but cheap technology if you have it displayed in your AV cabinet. It is small, which has some appeal, but it's a solid return to Kogan products that skimp on design values in the name of delivering cheap products. Even the official product code (KGNFSTBVAA) is pretty ugly.

The remote control continues with the less than aesthetically appealing motif. It's small, the buttons are poorly labelled and oddly laid out and we often found it unresponsive in testing.

Features

Despite the name, the Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box isn't just a digital TV receiver. With the addition of a USB storage drive, it's also a functionally capable PVR. We say functional in that it works, but again you're not getting an absolute bargain here, and shouldn't expect Tivo levels of PVR customisation. All of the channel information relies on whatever the FTA digital channels put out on their EPGs. To say that the FTA EPG is often inaccurate might be something of an understatement.

The set-top box carries a logo indicating that it's Freeview "compatible". Normally that would mean it had a shiny Freeview logo on it but was otherwise functionally crippled with restrictions on moving recorded programming around and no ad-skipping functionality.

We're not sure what strings Kogan's pulled to make it happen, but we've got to say that the Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box is just about the most flexible Freeview box we've ever seen. Recordings made to the USB drive connected to the front are directly accessible, and there's a setting in the menus for a "jump" command. Most of these are set to different minute period durations, but there's also an option for a 30-second jump period that's ideal for the kind of ad-skipping that Freeview boxes are meant to specifically prohibit.

As with Kogan's other products, the Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box doesn't come with an instruction manual. It's offered as a PDF download from Kogan's website instead. Unlike some other Kogan products, we'd strongly recommend downloading it, as some of the unit's functions are hidden under some rather obtuse menu selections.

We're beginning to suspect that no-name Chinese manufacturers mandate putting in generic video games into AV products, as the Kogan Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box features not one or two but three different game options. If they float your boat, Tetris, Othello and Sudoku are all available for your amusement.

Performance

Setting up the Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box involved the usual job of scanning for channels and waiting a while, and on that score the box works well enough. Certainly, if you didn't care that much about USB recording, this is a functional enough high-definition set-top box option at roughly the market price for such items at the time of writing.

Kogan's set-top box will take a standard USB flash drive and use it both for time-shifting and pausing live TV, as well as recording from either a timer or the EPG.

You'll need a lot of patience for either option, however. Timer recordings can be set to work once or daily, but not weekly, and the user UI is very rough around the edges. The EPG is very slow to update and uses the same timer restrictions. It also makes no visual representation for any programs you've chosen to record, so it's possible to try to set multiple timers for the same program, although you will hit an error message trying to confirm them.

Conclusion

Is it fair to criticise a product that costs less than AU$100, and less than a quarter of many of the leading PVR solutions? On one level, as long as you know what you're getting, there's value in the Kogan Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box. It's the most flexible "Freeview compatible" PVR we've ever seen. It's small. It comes with Tetris. The ability to add USB storage means you technically never need run out of recording space, and the ability to easily shift files to your PC via sneakernet is a nice addition.

At the same time, the UI is poorly laid out, the remote is equally strangely configured and often doesn't respond well. As a TV watching option it's not all that relaxing, as you fight the limitations inherent in the device, the sluggish remote control and the often confusing menus.



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StephenS Facebook
1
Rating
 

"hopeless software and hardware"

StephenS posted a review   

The Good:twin tuner

The Bad:twin tuner unusable,can't get full refund

This unit is of very poor quality ,will not record consecutive shows and will only allow recording time of about two hours .All attempts to find a solution with kogan failed. would not ever buy from this company again,cheap crap

AG365
2
Rating
 

"Poor quality and no effort made its usability."

AG365 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:It's cheap, so returning it doesn't cost too much.

The Bad:I waited two months for delivery and it has terrible programming that I completely hated.

The Kogan PVR is very cheap quality and does not compare well at all with my first PVR which is now over five years old. Over five years ago, Topfield had a programing in place that allowed its unit to be very user friendly and diverse in its functionality. Kogan attempt at supplying a PVR is amateurish at best - and a complete waste of money if you're realistic about what you expect from current technology.
It has no streamlined logic in how it interacts with its menu options and seems to have no flexibility in its operation.
It actually hold, the Kogan PVR is very cheap and feels as though it wouldn't last more than two years. It's lightweight and not assembled with much care. The remote also has a cheap feel to it and can be unresponsive. Completely lacking the tactile comfort that many quality products not only aim for, but achieve.
The PVR's design is flawed and if set up how it's designed, looks ugly beside your TV. Very dumb indeed.
At the very least, the menu options need to be rewritten to allow a logic and flow that should be intuitive for the user.
I would like to return mine for a full refund, but it isn%u2019t worth the postage fee. I would recommend avoiding this PVR like the G grade movies that it won%u2019t let me watch.

1soldier
6
Rating
 

"Discontinued line. Replaced with 2 products."

1soldier posted a review   
Australia

I forgot to mention in my last post, I have purchased 3 Kogan PVRs on behalf of my children, one about 6mths ago (Freeview High Definition Set Top Box, model KGNFSTBVAA ) and 2 recently (High Definition Set Top Box, model KGNFSTBVAA6988). The recent products were slightly different versions (appearance packaging and model number). I contacted Kogan and they advised me that the functionality was the same and that the online manual applied to both. The later version didn't have the digital face panel. I had paid $65 for the earlier version, $59 for the second and $49 for the third. Possibly a new model is on it's way or increased sales has allowed for reduced consumer price. Not often that a customer would have this passed on.
Now, I've just checked the Kogan website and I couldn't believe it. Kogan is obviously listening to the customer and market. They now have two versions available. One product is the same as the last two PVRs that I purchased, still at $49. But now they have a twin tuner PVR for $59 (Twin Tuner HD Digital Set-top Box with PVR - KASTBXXTWTAA). That is a ridiculously cheap price for this product. The remote looks the same, but the appearance is sleek, and it now gives the ability to record 2 channels simultaneously. The specifications are a bit lacking, as they don't mention all the output connectors., including HDMI which I know it has. If it has a RF OUT connector then it has the capability to record 2 channels whilst watching a third channel by switching the TV input signal, as mentioned in my previous post. If it doesn't have a RF OUT connector, simply purchase a TV RF Splitter to achieve this capability. Splitters are cheap. I assume that this new PVR wouldn't be able to allow 2 recordings and view a third through the PVR like the Topfield (also from previous post). I must admit, I'm disappointed that I purchased the single tuner PVRs so recently. But, who was to know, besides Kogan. This is a great deal, even if the software, UI and remote are lacking. USB is still 2.0, (version 3.0 is super quick but limited to processor speed of user equipment/USB cables). HDMI is version 1.4. Make sure you use a 1.4 version HDMI cable for use with digital TVs (audio and internet return capable, don't need separate audio cable). The link to the new products are here: http://www.kogan.com.au/shop/category/pvr-digital-set-top-box/
The link to the handy FAQs is http://www.kogan.com.au/faq/category/personal-video-recorders/.

I paid about $22 for 3x HDMI (V1.4) cables online to connect Topfield Masterpiece and Samsung HTS/Blue-ray system. I paid $60 (cash pickup) for the Samsung Story 1TB ext HD from U-Mart at http://www.umart.com.au/newindex2.phtml?bid=2. The 1 TB Seagate Expansion was purchased by a friend for $65 at MSY. Both products work with Kogan PVRs. A bit of research and self education is always worth the time before any new purchase. Good Luck.

1soldier
6
Rating
 

"Value for money. You get what you pay for. In this case, you get a bit more."

1soldier posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Price

The Bad:Manual

The manual is virtually useless. However, some research, common knowledge and playing with it will reveal most of the workings. It is capable of 2 hr time shift. Be aware that like any PVR, time shift keeps wiping over itself constantly to maintain this period from live time. Once you change channel, the time shift memory is erased or reset and start again. This is common with the expensive brands. TO enable recording on one channel and watching another requires a coax cable from the PVR RF OUT connector to the TV RF (Signal) IN connector (male to female). This enables the RF signal to be split (just like a TV splitter). Therefore, the PVR video cables will enter the TV into AV1 or AV2 (typically, press TV/Video on remote) or for digital TVs, into selected source options via the Source or equivalent remote button. The PVR RF out coax cable supplies a standard antenna signal to the TV, the same as you previously did prior to adding a PVR. Therefore, you simply select the standard TV viewing setup. TO watch your recording, you simply change the source of your TV input signal to the PVR, eg AV1. This is no different than when you select DVD, video camera, game consoles etc. Some brand external Hard Drives (HD) are not compatible with this PVR. This is detailed in small print on there product website. I own the top of the range Topfield Masterpiece PVR, twin tuner , internal 1 TB HD, limited internet wifi capable. It can record 2 prime channels (ABC, SBS, 7, 9 & 10) channels whilst watching a third, which must be an affiliated channel of one of the two recording primes. It is a brilliant unit. However, it was approx $800, I can't remember exactly, but it was expensive. I bought a Kogan PVR and a Samsung Story 1 TB ext HD for each of my older children. They work fine. The Seagate also works fine. Photos can also be viewed through it as well. It won't play movies though. It is not a medi player. You can achieve this through the use of a separate media player. Hope this all helps.

Stu
8
Rating
 

Stu posted a review   

The Good:Why complain of the looks, notice how asctically pleasing the FoxtelBoxes are; yuck

The Bad:Nothing really What I expected for the money

One dollar buys a certain amount of design, therfore if you spend cheap, you get cheap. However this little box is a box of surprises. It is purfect for converting thos analogue TVs into digitalat minimal cost.

 

Mr.garcia posted a comment   

The Good:DONT KNOW YET

The Bad:DONT KNOW YET

You think you can record the ps3 with this?

AvgTechie
6
Rating
 

AvgTechie posted a review   

The Good:Cheap as Chips | Easy-peasy setup & use

The Bad:8 Recording Slots | Max 1TB HDD (Seagate)

Max 1TB HDD. Pardon bleu.. 1TB is going to be a major pain in the a$$...
Max 32GB USB Flash stick.. is an even bigger pain in the a$$.. erg...
8 Recording Slots is just too few >

Aaron
3
Rating
 

Aaron posted a review   

The Good:Set top box works

The Bad:PVR doesn't work

Summary: Disappointed the recorder didn't work with a standard external hard drive despite many emails with support

I purchased the PVR last week - primarily for the recording capabilities. My wife is about to have a baby so I thought having some decent TV recorded would be nice to have as an option. Sadly, while the set top box worked fine, the PVR wouldn't read/recognise two hard drives. One was a 2.5" Seagate hard drive (own case, etc) so I was not surprised it didn't work but even when I tried it with my iOmega 500GB Amazon Prestige Desktop external drive that I bought from Amazon, it didn't work. Despite 15 email exchanges with customer support, they have not been able to get it to work.
The drive was originally Mac formatted (HFS+) but I was told this was incompatible. After reformatting to PC (FAT32) format, and various other attempts, it still didn't work.

I have been rather disappointing in their "service" when I pointed out that these conditions (FAT32) are not on the website specs. I was told it was somewhere in the manual though. I don't think anyone RTM before they buy a product!

I'll be returning the unit for a refund.

 

BobbyFowler posted a comment   

The Good:Cheap As Chips

The Bad:Recording Facility

Pretty ugly but does the job. My overwhelming gripe is the fact that because it's a single tuner PVR, once you start recording, you will be locked to that single channel. They've only got a 7 day return policy. I took a few days to set it up so when I'd noticed this problem it was too late to send back.


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User Reviews / Comments  Kogan Freeview HD Digital Set-Top Box

  • StephenS

    StephenS

    Rating1

    "This unit is of very poor quality ,will not record consecutive shows and will only allow recording time of about two hours .All attempts to find a solution with kogan failed. would not ever buy fro..."

  • AG365

    AG365

    Rating2

    "The Kogan PVR is very cheap quality and does not compare well at all with my first PVR which is now over five years old. Over five years ago, Topfield had a programing in place that allowed its uni..."

  • 1soldier

    1soldier

    Rating6

    "I forgot to mention in my last post, I have purchased 3 Kogan PVRs on behalf of my children, one about 6mths ago (Freeview High Definition Set Top Box, model KGNFSTBVAA ) and 2 recently (High Defin..."

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