26 Dec 2007

Kathrein UFS910

Submitted by drhans

Are you really HD-Ready?

So you're thinking about getting into the HD game, is that right? Let me share my experience first.
First of all, try to answer the following questions.

1. Do you own at leat a 37-inch HD-Ready display?
2. Do you have access to any premium (encrypted) HD channels?
3. Can you imagine an HD receiver without getting any HD porn?

If you answered NO to any of these questions, maybe HD is not for you. You should realize that although the quality might seem great at first even on smaller displays, only a larger screen will give you the real HD experience and will guarantee you won't get bored soon. You see, the problem with HD today is very limited content and many repeats on all HD channels, leading to the impression that most of the time HD is just about the amazement upon the perfect picture quality, which you can't really experience with a 32-inch TV screen. That is exactly what happened to me. First I bought a Humax HDCI 2000, about a year ago, when I had a 32-inch TV and could access only Premiere HD and CanalSat HD using various CAMs and season interface and lincard emu running on a virtual PC. After less than a month I got bored and sold that piece of shit receiver.

HDTV with Kathrein UFS910

A few days ago, already equipped with a 42-inch plasma, I took the plunge and bought the Kathrein UFS910. What a great machine! OK, it still can't do diseqc 1.2 but don't let that discourage you. You can still connect up to 4 LNBs which should pretty much cover all your HD needs. Moreover, Kathrein UFS910 is best used as a second receiver and thanks to the LNB loopthrough on most receivers it's not a big problem to control your diseqc 1.2 motor with a second receiver if really needed. What really pissed me off though is that UFS910 comes with probably the worst remote control in the world. All the buttons feel the same which means it's absolutely useless in the dark and you'll most likely end up buying an universal remote control because of this.

Firmware upgrade is very easy. All it takes is an USB memory stick (not all of them actually work, though) or an MP3 player or even a digital camera with all the needed upgrade files, connected to the front USB port. Everything else is done automatically. Today, there are about three different images based on the official 1.04 Kathrein software, but all of them are pretty much the same when it comes to functionality with just minor differences.

Most of the HD channels were found without a problem but to my unpleasant surprise, UFS910 did not find any Digiturk HD nor the Polish N channels which is a real letdown. And speaking of Polish TV... guess what... even in HD you'll still find channels without original audio track. But to be fair, this goes for Germany and France as well. Getting access to Premiere HD, Cyfra HD and CanalSat HD is not so difficult, but the problem is that only the movie channels come with original audio track (and that's not even 5.1 sound!). So if you're mostly interested in channels like Discovery HD in English, you will need to have access to Sky or Canal Digital as other pay-tv platforms don't offer English audio track on these channels. I have also noticed that most of the National Geoghraphic HD shows look like upscaled SD, unlike Discovery HD (the German one), which is simply perfect... but sadly in German. By the way, SD channels upscaled to 1080i by UFS910 look like crap.

Let's bring on the cardsharing already!

What makes UFS910 so special is the unique software support, not available for any other HD receiver on the market. Mgcamd, Camd3 and Evocamd are already fully functional. Add HDD recording (to an external USB2.0 HDD) and you've got one excellent HD receiver. While other HD receivers might offer better functionality, like UPnP support for example, fully working cardsharing is simply something you REALLY CAN'T live without. Why you ask? Well even if you've got an HD subscription, your channel lineup is still pretty miserable and the only way to enjoy HD to the fullest is to get as many HD channels as possible.

I was a little affraid of that... and my concerns were justified. It is very important to realize that HD channels don't usually form part of the full subscription package but have to be paid for extra. That is why I haven't succeeded in opening as many HD channels as I would like. For example most of the Canal Digital HD channels are not opening as only Canal+ HD and SVT HD are available without paying extra. Take this as a warning and bear in mind that accessing HD channels on most common cardsharing networks will be unsuccessful. This, of course, will probably lead to the creation of HD-specialized cardsharing networks in the future.

Let's sum it up.


+ is currently the only HD DVB-S2/H.264 receiver with FULLY WORKING Mgcamd and Camd3
+ supports recording to external USB HDD
+ has software support which includes various non-official images and channel settings editor

- didn't find many MPEG4 channels (Kabel Deutschland, N, Digiturk), some transponders, however are scanned twice 
- has no diseqc 1.2
- doesn't support NTSC signals
- unpolished GUI makes channel zapping difficult
- PIDs are not updated automatically when needed 
- lists channels from only 4 satellites at a time
- has just 8 favorite groups and no sorting by provider name
- comes with annoying remote
- does very bad job at SD upscaling
- switches on at 3AM without asking and starts updating EPG... what the fuck? 
- its LNB loopthrough didn't seem to work correctly, I had to use the one on Dreambox instead
- won't give you any HD porn, but that's not Kathrein's fault :)

Now let's see some pictures!

Thanks to everyone who made it possible to take these!