Kogan set top box first look

Kogan releases a well-priced STB that doubles as a digital video recorder.
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01.Kogan STB


Price $99
Contact Kogan set top box KGNFSTBVAA

3 stars out of 5

Set top boxes (STB) are evolving quickly, and Kogan has released one with a USB connection for an external hard drive that converts the STB into a digital video recorder (DVR). This means you can record your TV to the hard disc drive (HDD) and watch it later. We recently completed a test on DVRs but they are relatively expensive with an average price, excluding the PS3 PlayTV attachment, of almost $700. So at $100 the Kogan would be worth purchasing for the price alone if the product was any good. However, you’ll also have to buy an external HDD – an additional cost of around $200 (the average price of our last test on 1TB HDD): still half the price of the DVR we tested.

So how does the Kogan measure up? We grabbed a 1TB external HDD and hooked it up. The setup was very straightforward. The STB goes into the TV, the aerial into the STB and the HDD to the STB. We connected to the TV with a composite cable because the HDMI kept making the screen go blank. After a short setup and channel scan, we are ready to record. Although it’s manual (online only), remote control and on screen display are underwhelming due to some unintuitive and awkward controls, you can still timeshift, a handy feature offered by all other DVR’s. The DVR’s in our last test have two tuners, but the Kogan has only one, so you can only record one program at a time.

With HDMI attached we weren’t impressed with some peculiarities such as blacking out the TV screen when you queue a recording. If you forget to turn the TV off manually, that’s energy you don’t need to use. If you are watching a channel when the queued recording starts, it switches the channel you are watching to the queued channel – it’s easy to change the input back to aerial to go on watching what you wanted, but it’s annoying and a result of having only one tuner. You can’t splice and trim programs you’ve recorded, and the Kogan names all recorded programs with date, time and channel – not awfully intuitive. As mentioned earlier, the HDMI connection made the TV go blank and then restart after some time. It’s not a product that is very energy efficient either, costing just under $15 per year. That’s comparable with some of the most energy inefficient DVRs when taking the external HDD into account as well.

On the upside, despite it being a Freeview branded product, you can still skip forward through advertising in 30 second intervals rather than the 15 minute intervals that other Freeview-branded products employ.

CHOICE verdict

It’s not flawless, but it is almost half the price of one of the earlier tested DVRs. You could go even further and get a USB TV tuner that plugs into your PC, as long as you get a good antenna and already have a PC. If you don’t mind a bit of a rat’s nest of cabling behind the TV from the external HDD and STB, you are willing to puzzle through the rather awkward interface and remote, and are willing to wait for the HDMI issue to be resolved, the Kogan is definitely an option worth considering.



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