This is the second AKAI set-top box that we are reviewing. This is a big brother to the earlier model we reviewed here. Please have a quick read of that review as a lot of aspects of the new model are the same.
These are the highlights of the AKAI AD173X:
As a PVR it allows you to record your favourite TV show directly to a USB storage device. It can also act as a media centre playback unit. It’s 5.1 digital compatible via HDMI and coaxial and basically allows you to timeshare, pause and rewind live TV. Yes, and it has a DVD player built in.
These are all good reasons to have a good look and play with this full HD set-top box.
Unpacking the unit gives a good impression as all the cables are included, even an HDMI cable. There is one unpleasant surprise when you try to take off the plasticised strip of paper with all the features on it. They have used glue that leaves a nasty residue! This should be a criminal offence.
The new model is about twice the size as the old one, mainly necessitated by the inclusion of the DVD player.
We hooked up the cables to a Kogan LCD TV and started with the automatic scanning. This takes a long time to the point where the Kogan TV keeps shutting down after some 10 min or so. I check the manual. Normally these units should work right out of the box without too much hassle. If you can do so without referring to a manual so much the better. This manual mentions that it does take about 10 min to scan all available stations. And then it highlights in bold: Do not turn off the AD173X in his time. The problem has really nothing to do with the AKAI but rather with a dodgy antenna connection as I found out once I hooked up the unit to another TV. Scanning went a lot faster and after a couple of minutes I had collected a list of nine TV stations and four radio stations, all of them belonging to SBS and ABC.
I'm very impressed with the new menu system which is a lot easier to read and with a pleasant interface. Channel switching is quite quick just as with the previous model. When you switch channels it briefly tells you the program you're watching and the next program. However, this information just flashes onto the screen for less than one second which is pretty useless. I wish there was a setting somewhere where you can change the length of time the information stays visible. Much handier therefore it is using the EPG, the Electronic Program Guide, which gives you extended information for the current and following programs.
You can view photos, listen to music and watch movies through the media centre playback interface. The AD173X also features time shift capabilities enabling you to pause, rewind and fast forward live TV so that you can replay segments that you may have missed.
A Few Minor Things
A couple of things I noticed the whilst using this unit: the red standby light is very bright, particularly if it is in line of sight of your vision. I might have to put a black marker over it to dim the light…. The other point is that the remote control doesn't work from all corners of the room so you have to be pretty well in front of it.
The main feature of this unit is the addition of the DVD player, of course. This works well, no surprises there, but it would be nice if there had been a separate Eject button on the unit itself rather than just on the remote. What is interesting is that it features a built-in 1080P up-scaling DVD player. So this means that the AD173X enhances the resolution of normal DVD’s to a maximum of 1080P, so now you can be watching movies at the highest quality and resolution that is possible on your existing TV.
The previous model received good press and there is no doubt in my mind that this one also deserves some acclamation for the same reasons. I mentioned a few of the minor points above but none of these are showstoppers. Is it good value for money? We think so. The RRP is $169.95. Getting hold of one of these might be a bit of a problem as it will be only available from selected Officeworks stores at the moment.
• PVR - Record your favourite TV shows
• Media Centre Playback - Play music, movie
& picture files via USB or DVD
• 5.1 Digital compatible via HDMI & Coaxial
• Supports all NTFS & FAT USB drives
• Time shift, pause & rewind live TV
• Seven day EPG
• Parental lock
• Remote control
• HDMI output
• L/R stereo audio output
• Supported connections: HDMI, Component,
Composite & Coaxial
• Supported Disc Formats: DVD, DVD+R, DVD-RW,
DVD-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW
• Supported File Formats: MPEG-1(VCD),
MPEG-2(SVCD, DVD), MPEG-4, DIVX, XVID, H.264
• Supported Display Types: NTSC/PAL, 50Hz/PAL,