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Icecrypt S1500C January 2011

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n www.turbosat.co.uk n 01795 429 666 n £70

Icecrypt S1500C Icecrypt’s SD satellite receiver is keenly priced with a Conax CAM and PVR upgradeability but has a few bugs too Cheap but capable satellite receivers are now increasingly common. The S1500C from Icecrypt may be small and cost only £70, but it offers connection to most antenna setups, a built-in Conax CAM, PVR-ready functionality, and HDMI connectivity.

The Opposition Comag SL30 HDMI USB n Cheaper, with HDMI output and PVR-ready software for USB storage, but no blind search and no CAM

This is a tiny receiver – about the size of a cheap Freesat machine or a caravan system – but the S1500C contains the mains power supply as well. In addition to being small, the S1500C is pretty simple, with no front panel display, no fold-down flaps and minimal socketry on the back. But it is well enough constructed and looks OK. The front panel is sparse, with Power and Channel Up/ Down buttons the only controls. There is also the card reader slot for the CAM and a USB socket, for uploading new software or channel data, and for PVR memory. A second socket at the back would be convenient, but the S1500C cuts corners where it can. At first glance the remote control handset looks quite stylish, but pick it up and you’ll find it’s extremely light and not that comfortable. What’s more, the button layout is none too intuitive to use with, say, the PVR controls mixed in among other buttons for subtitles and teletext.

Setup Setting up the S1500C is easy enough, and a simple wizard is implemented when you first turn on the receiver, which includes channel searching. The receiver is set up for the LNBs connected, selecting the DiSEqC port, LNB type (including SCR/Unicable), power and the local oscillator frequency. For a motorised setup, the different satellite positions are found and stored (DiSEqC 1.2) or the site’s longitude and latitude entered (USALS). The S1500C provides different satellite search modes. ‘Automatic Scan’ uses the stored satellite transponder database to scan each transponder for channels broadcasting, and can search for all channels, or just TV

Interface

Icecrypt S2000C VFD n Very similar receiver with Conax CAM, blind search, but more reliable and with front panel display and better connectivity (but no HDMI)

Build and connectivity

There are just five sockets on the back panel. The single LNB input can support DiSEqC 1.0 and 1.1 so it will connect to up to 16 separate LNBs, and also DiSEqC 1.2 and USALS to drive a motorised antenna. An LNB loopthrough is provided for a second receiver. Although this is a standard-definition receiver – with output from a Scart socket as you would expect – there is also an HDMI (but no upscaling). The only other connection is an RS232 serial data socket, rendered largely redundant by the USB port.

Dish setup is easy enough with support for all types of DiSEqC and USALS. The receiver will also work with SCR and Unicable LNB systems

The programme info banner includes a signal indicator and if another channel is being recorded this is displayed in the top right of the screen

The fast-forward and rewind speeds are slow for recordings, but you can jump to a point using a progress bar and create bookmarks


Test satellite channel, or produces a list of the last nine. You can also search the channel list for a channel name beginning with an entered string. The EPG shows the schedules as a six-channel grid or as a list of shows on the current channel with synopses and supports the MHW multi-day EPG used by some European channels. Channel-change/ record times can be set manually or from the EPG.

PVR and multimedia

channels or radio stations, or free-to-air only. The ‘Automatic Scan’ is not very fast, taking over eight minutes to search Astra 28.2°E. Searching for just FTA channels makes little difference to the speed. The ‘Manual Scan’ does the same thing for a single transponder, selected from the database or the frequency entered with the handset. ‘Advanced Scan’ performs the same function but allows the video, audio and PCR PIDs to be entered as well. The S1500C also offers a ‘Quick Scan’ which searches only the transponders used by the Canal Digitaal package. The S1500C also offers a blind search to scan all frequencies for active transponders independent of its database. It’s very slow but you can speed it up by reducing its search range – either by limiting the frequencies searched or searching one of the two polarisations only. However, you can’t alter the increment used to step through the possible frequencies. A full search of Astra 28.2°E across all frequencies and both polarisations took nearly 20 minutes. Newly found transponders are added to the receiver’s database so subsequent Automatic searches include them. This is just as well, as the database cannot be manually edited.

Basic use Channels can be selected by number by stepping through the channel list, or from the onscreen list, which can be re-arranged according to the satellite, channel name (alphabetically), service provider, transponder or encryption. Unusually, you can configure the channel list to preview (or not) the channel selected in the inset window before it’s selected again to switch the receiver. There are 10 pre-named favourite channels lists and the recall button switches to the previously selected

The S1500C provides simple PVR functions with USB memory. The receiver can be configured to buffer reception so that live broadcasts can be paused and rewound instantly and channels can be recorded. Although the S1500C has just one tuner, a second channel on the same transponder can then be selected for viewing but you cannot start to watch a recorded programme while recording is still going on. Playback offers just two speeds of 2x and 3x for fast-forward and only 2x for rewind, but the progress bar can be ‘slid’ to jump to any point in a recording, and bookmarks positioned. The S1500C will display photos and play MP3 music files from USB storage. Infuriatingly, subtitles are normally switched on and can require turning off every time you change channels.

Performance Although the S1500C can produce excellent quality TV images and sound, it is disappointing in its unreliability. HDMI picture quality is outstanding. Keeping the signal digital improves the quality enormously and good quality broadcasts, such as Sky News and BBC One are displayed in sharp, clear detail with a noticeable absence of noise and edge effects. Sound from the HDMI output is also excellent – it’s a shame that a separate digital output is not provided. However, the S1500C has some performance problems. The receiver occasionally fails to display a picture at all for broadcast channels and previously recorded shows until it is turned off or reset. Similarly, MP3 files sometimes skip and jam, hanging the whole receiver. This is unlikely to be a hardware fault and we hope future software releases will cure this n Geoff Bains

Verdict Seeing past its limited connectivity and (we hope, fixable) blank screen problems, the S1500C offers a pretty versatile machine that delivers a good blind search, simple day-to-day operation, useful Conax CAM, and sparkling picture quality at a price that – even in these straitened times – is easy to swallow.

Tech Data FTA scan, Astra 19.2°E: 6m 22s 0

10 mins

FTA scan, Hot Bird: 8m 12s 0

10 mins

Full scan, Astra 19.2°E: 6m 26s 0

10 mins

Full scan, Hot Bird: 8m 20s 0

10 mins

Blind search, Astra 28.2°E: 19m 50s 0

20 mins

Power consumption: 25W (standby 8W)

Features No LNB inputs: 1 LNB loopthrough: Yes DiSEqC: 1.0/1.1/1.2/USALS No. channels: 10,000 Selectable FEC: No Symbol rate range: 2000-45000 Blind search: Yes Linux: No CAM: Conax Common interface: No Teletext: DVB decoded EPG support: DVB now-and-next, 7-day, MHW Timer: Unlimited time, unlimited events Hard drive: Via USB UHF modulator tuning: 21-69 Software upgrade: USB Data ports: USB, RS232 AV outputs: SD out: HDMI (576i only), Scart (RGB, composite) HD out: None Audio out: None

Ratings PLUS

n Good blind search n Good quality picture through

HDMI

n Good price

Minus

n No recorder Scart or separate

digital or analogue audio output

LNB input and loopthrough

TV Scart

RS232 data port

HDMI

n Poor PVR playback facilities

Build Setup Searching Navigation Performance Features Value

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74%

Icecrypt S1500C  

Icecrypt’s SD satellite receiver is keenly priced with a Conax CAM and PVR upgradeability but has a few bugs too

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