This was one of the set-top-box's that came in handy before getting a television with built in freeview. Plus, if it has a HDD fitted, or you fit one yourself, it acts as a recording device too.
On the front there's the small screen that shows you what the machine is doing. Then, on the sides of the screen that are a few buttons, the channel changer, and the button.
Along the other side of the screen are a few slots, compact flash card, smart card reader and a CI slot.
On the rear that are the many port for all the wiring. 2 scart, audio out, video out, serial port. Plus as ethernet port and a modem port. Which is not something that other machines of this kind .
The one I had had a HDD already installed into it, but some may not, so check first. Although it is easy to slot a hew HDD in it if you want to either upgrade the one that's in or fits one in it because it did not come with one.
Mine had a 60GB HDD which was plenty of room for recording many many hours of television recordings which can be accessed using the remote control and the menus options. Which means that you can record lots of your favourite shows and watch them when you want to, not just when they are on.
The remote control that come with this does everything it needs to, being the same as other controls. There are the channel and volume buttons, the number themselves, the menu button, cursor keys and more, all labelled so that they are easy to see what does what.
It was so simple to initially set up, following the on screen instructions which help guide you through. Then, once set up, you don't have to do it again, unless you have to retune the digital system when they swat the channel numbers. Although this should automatically update itself over the air.
The one I bought was just short of £80 which is good money considering it already had the HDD pre-installed.
The Dreambox is essentially as its name implies. I got this box without doing the research and it resulted in a huge headache for me. I wasn't aware that I had to setup various plugins in order to view channels. Luckily I was able to draw on information online. These boxes come with its own operating systems and the one it came with to begin with was out dated and rather hard to work with.
Once I had done enough reading I decided to flash (which is legal) the operating system with a newer one from their official website. After that I had to spend a good few hours to figure out how to install the plugin to view channels.
As I learned how to get the basic functionality figured out, I wanted to try my Sky viewing card to view subscribed channels. Unfortunately, it just didn't work like that, I had to also install additional plugins in order for the box to read the Sky viewing card.
Great, so now I wanted to record and use the box like I would a Sky+ box. That too required more tinkering around and using additional tools in order get this feature working. Considering that there was no hard drive that came inside this box, I had to use an external USB device - which proved even more of a pain to configure. It had to be formatted and mounted onto the box before it could be used. However it did pretty much behave like a Sky+ box in the recording, playback, pause and rewind functions.
The other major headache was getting the electronic programming guide; I could never get that to work even though I had read, read and read some more about it. I just lost my patience and decided to use guides from the net instead of the box.
Once you do manage to get the box working to your liking, you can essentially use it as a media center as you can stream video to and from this box - for example if you want to watch a movie in another room on your iPad or if you have a movie on the computer you want to watch on the TV. There are also some amazing plugins for youtube and suchlike that allows you to search and watch youtube videos. There is also additional things like user interface skins that alters the look and feel of channel navigation.
Video playback is a lot sharper and brighter than a Sky+ box and I think for those who are familiar with these sort of boxes, it probably is entry level, but to me it was a whole lot of work and sometimes frustration.