TM-5500DAPCI Test Report What Satellite January

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TECHNOMATE
TM-5500DAPCI
A FULLY MOTORISED RECEIVER FOR JUST OVER £200 WITH AUTOPOSITIONING AND AN ANALOGUE TUNER? IT CAN ONLY
TECHNOMATE’S LATEST SATELLITE BARGAIN
This is a hefty dual-axis motor which
Traditional 36V/5A motorised satellite
can follow the older satellites which wansystems have become even more of a
der up and down in their orbits to save
niche than ever, thanks to the success
fuel. They’re not used for ordinary broadof simple and easy-to-use DiSEqC 1.2 motors. For
cast TV, but for news feeds and other
the past few years we’ve only seen new models
programming links. Inclined orbit mounts
from manufacturers like Echostar and
are a rarity that enthusiasts normally put
Manhattan, who want the prestige of a luxury
together as a DIY project, so this could find a
satellite receiver in their ranges, even if it’s not
small but eager market. Indeed, Technomate’s
very profitable.
mount is something so unusual we’ll be dedicatThere are things a DiSEqC motor can’t do,
use than the pre-production model shown here).
ing a special test to it next month.
such as drive a large dish at a respectable speed,
The back panel (detailed below) is crammed
The receiver itself is pleasantly bland with its
and satellite newcomer Technomate is anxious
with connections, although it’s surprising to see
silver lifestyle finish, a central four-digit green
for some of the prestige attached to having a
what Technomate has had to leave out; there’s
motorised receiver in its range, especially when it LED display and six buttons for basic channel,
no digital audio output and no S-video output.
volume and menu control below. A drop-down
has unique features. But the enthusiasts who use
The receiver’s already more than £100 cheaper
flap on the left-hand side conceals the twin comthis kind of motorised receiver are a demanding
than its Echostar and Manhattan equivalents, so
mon interface slots. There’s a blanked-off card
bunch, and even a marque like Echostar has had
it’s difficult to see why these features have been
slot, and Technomate does supply units with an
problems keeping them happy with its most
left out of a top-tier model.
integrated magic CAM for a £20 premium on the
recent receivers and upgrades.
£209 basic price.
Technomate is a relatively new brand, but it’s
The remote control is a slick design, easy to
hungry for the kind of recognition a good
SETTING UP
motorised satellite receiver will draw. We’ve been hold, and it offers several useful extra function
Technomate’s menu system is a simple mix of
buttons. You move around menus with a central
impressed by the entry-level TM-5500D, which
text and icons, broken down into Main,
combines good performance and features with a control pad (the silver version overleaf is easier to Installation and User sections, and there are
keen price. The TM-5500DAPCI is
intended to offer motorised satellite
BACK TO BACK
enthusiasts all the features they expect
Analogue tuner
Analogue decoder
TV Scart supports Composite 36V actuator controls,
Digital
at a price neither Echostar nor
inputs, rated to
for reed switch or
Scart loopthrough,
RGB and
video
tuner
Manhattan can hope to beat.
400mA for DiSEqC
optical sensor
PAL or Mac
composite video output
input,
1.2
motors
baseband
support
rated
to
As the letters suggest, the TM400mA for
5500DAPCI is a combined digital and
DiSEqC 1.2
motors
analogue receiver, with a built-in 36V
positioner and a twin common interface.
It’s built on the basic chassis of the
entry-level model, so it’s also got DiSEqC
Magnetic
polariser
1.2 motor control with USALS auto-locacontrols
tion. However, there’s also
LNB
loopthrough
RS232
serial
port
Mechanical
VCR
Scart
Stereo
UHF
modulator
auto-positioning for traditional motors,
output
for PC link via null 12V switch polariser
supports
audio
loopthrough, tunes
and a unique system to drive a special
modem cable
output
controls
composite video outputs channels 21-69
Technomate inclined orbit mount.
Call up full details of the current
channel and transponder
34
Set up satellite, LNB and switch
details on one page
WHAT SATELLITE & DIGITAL TV January 2004
Signal strength and quality
meters aid manual positioning
Or save the effort with
auto-positioning
Set individual channels with
hex or decimal PIDs
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the far eastern and western ends of your dish’s
movement range, plus a central satellite, and
they do a bit of simple maths. It’s generally accurefreshingly few sub-menus. Instead, the
rate, and you can always fine-tune manually if a
coloured function buttons on the remote are
position is out, but finding a weak signal at the
used to access different options, and the screen
far end of your range can difficult with nothing
is efficiently divided up to display extra choices.
Fixed LNB users can pick from a range of LNBs more than a signal strength and quality meter to
help you.
(universal, wideband, single band or C-band), all
Technomate has gone the riskier but potenof which can be customised. LNBs can be
tially more rewarding route of driving the dish
selected through four-way DiSEqC 1.0, a 12V
across the sky, looking for a peak in the signal
switch or a 22kHz switch (if you’re not using a
quality on the transponder you’ve specified, then
universal LNB).
going slowly back and
There’s a database of
forth over the best spot
69 satellites, ranging
LOW-COST DIGITAL AND ANALOGUE
to fine-tune the signal.
from 58°W to 169°E, plus
MOTORISED RECEIVER, EASY TO USE
There are pitfalls: you
12 blank spaces to add
have to choose a unique
new birds, although you
AUTO-POSITIONING COULD BE
MORE RELIABLE
transponder, which isn’t
can only have 69 active
always easy, and the syslocations at any time. It
tem works best when you’ve manually found a
is, however, pre-tuned with 3,500 channels,
few positions already, so the receiver can narrow
although they won’t all be available and up-todown the area to search.
date.
It was most effective with transponders in the
DiSEqC 1.2 users can find the satellites indi12.6GHz region with high symbol rates – so some
vidually with a dumb DiSEqC 1.2 motor by
satellites will have to be tuned manually. You can
searching from east to west, or they select a
delete positions you don’t need, and if your dish
USALS motor which will find any location in its
is pushed slightly off by wind, the Global Shift will
range once it’s been aligned on Hot Bird and told
allow you to re-align the arc easily.
your longitude and latitude. A full range of
The auto-search feature of the TM-500DAPCI
DiSEqC commands is available, including moveis much more effective, fortunately. You can
ment limits, large and small movement steps,
instruct the receiver to search several satellites
goto zero, reset and recalculate.
consecutively, and it will do them in order of
Motorised users also have access to an autoproximity to the start location. It’s a quick search,
positioning system. Most motorised receivers
with auto-positioning calculate satellite positions and you can choose to exclude either free-to-air
or scrambled channels. New transponders can be
by asking you to manually find the positions at
+
-
Pick RGB or composite Scart
output
Just a single event timer at
the present
Adjust colour, contrast and
brightness
added and scanned through the advanced
search option, and you can add individual channels using either decimal or hex PIDs.
There’s memory for 5,000 channels, and the
symbol rate range of 1000-45000 means you’ll
get both single and multiple channel per carrier
transponders. You can make the most of weak
signals with either a mechanical (current controlled) polariser or a ferrite (magnetic) unit,
which attach to spring-clips at the back of the
receiver.
Technomate claims to use a ‘super-sensitive’
tuner, and we certainly found it capable of picking up some weak signals, generally failing when
the signal quality fell to around 20 per cent. This
THE OPPOSITION
Aston Xena 2000
Motorised with DiSEqC 1.2 and USALS, but no 36V positioner, has 4,000-channel memory across 49 channels,
plus Viaccess and Conax CAMs and a twin common interface
Echostar AD-3600IP Viaccess
An old favourite, with DiSEqC 1.2 USALS and a 36V positioner to navigate 5,700 channels on 100 satellites, plus a
Viaccess CAM, but the complex Echonav menus are still
controversial
Manhattan Starlight 6800
Soon to be replaced by the Plaza range, the Starlight has
36V and DiSEqC 1.2 USALS motor control, an Irdeto CAM,
and memory for 5,000 channels on 50 satellites
Movement limits can be set
automatically
You can swap software and
channels with another receiver
WHAT SATELLITE & DIGITAL TV January 2004
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‘TECHNOMATE IS A
RELATIVELY NEW BRAND,
BUT IT’S HUNGRY FOR THE
KIND OF RECOGNITION A
GOOD MOTORISED SATELLITE
RECEIVER WILL DRAW’
isn’t an absolute measurement of carrier-tonoise, but it feels like a sensitive tuner.
ANALOGUE TUNING
All the analogue channels you’re likely to want
are pre-programmed, but you may want to retune or delete channels as they gradually disappear (although Astra expects to be running analogue channels at 19.2°E for 10 years or more).
New analogue channels can be added on a
menu which shows them in the background if
tuned correctly. You can choose between video
bandwidth of 18MHz or 27MHz, four levels of
video gain, and 30 low threshold levels which go
some way to clearing up the weaker signals.
Analogue signals can come in from a second
dish or LNB using the second input, and you can
DETAILS
plug a D2-Mac decoder
Receiver: Technomate
into the third Scart socket,
TM-5500DAPCI
which can supply either a
Price: £209
baseband PAL or encoded
No LNB inputs: 1
Mac output, should you
digital, 2 analogue
LNB loopthrough: yes want those few channels
still broadcasting on 1W.
DiSEqC: 1.2 USALS
No channels: 5,000
No satellites: 130
CAM:
none
Common interface:
2
Selectable FEC: yes
Symbol rate range:
1000-45000
Teletext: integrated
& VBI inserted
EPG support: DVB
Polariser drive:
Pulse, voltage, current
Analogue audio
de-emphasis:
Analogue audio
subcarrier range:
5.00-9.00MHz
Timer: 1 event, 1 day
UHF modulator
tuning: channel 21-69
Expansion bus: serial
Software upgrade:
NAVIGATION
& FEATURES
Channel navigation is a
strength of the TM-5500
series in general. The
channel list for each satellite can be fully edited,
moving channels around,
renaming them, and deleting them. There are eight
favourites lists (movie,
news, sports, music, children, drama, family and
miscellaneous).
You can choose to view
channels by satellite, in
alphabetical order, or
sorted by free-to-air and
scrambled, or into analogue and digital. You can
also choose to list just free-to-air channels or only
the scrambled signals.
Digital and analogue channels are treated
identically in the channel lists, with only the letter
D or A to show the difference. The onscreen
channel list shows the currently selected channel
in a thumbnail view, except for analogue channels, which are shown full-screen in the
background.
There’s support for a full sevenday EPG, with a now-and-next
onscreen banner, so it’s surprising
that there are no event timers to
take advantage of the channels
which do have an EPG. There’s a single sleep/wake up timer.
Technomate plans to add multievent timers in a future software
update.
Channels can be individually
locked with a PIN, and you can set
the menus and banners to either
fade out over a few seconds or
come and go instantly. The menus
can be set in a variety of colours, or
even to cycle through the range of
colours, which is pretty tacky and
very distracting.
PERFORMANCE
Digital channels are clear and sharp
through the TM-5500DAPCI, particularly in RGB, although some people will be disappointed that there’s
no S-video, even through the Scart.
As ever, it’s the quality of the chan-
nel that determines your picture – some look
fantastic, others look like an internet video feed.
You can fine-tune the contrast, brightness and
colour levels, but you won’t make gold from lead.
Sound quality is much the same, and there
are even music channels around which low
bandwidth broadcasts render almost unlistenable. Still, a digital audio output is expected at
this level, especially since there’s one on the
entry-level receiver.
Analogue pictures are pretty
good, and the low threshold is fairly
good at reducing sparklies. Highquality pictures like the German
channels on Astra 1 are sharp but
slightly fizzy, and contrast is generally
good.
Technomate has tried to capture a
premium market with a budget product. A few unnecessary corners have
been shaved off, and the auto-positioning isn’t up to scratch. But the
general performance and ease of use
mean that if you want to find out
what the fuss is about motorised
satellite, but you don’t want the
expense of an Echostar, the TM5500DAPCI has a lot going for it.
Hopefully, the inclined orbit mount
will make it a unique proposition for
enthusiasts Technomate’s new silver remote is
much easier to use and packed
with useful feature buttons
PC
Modem: none
AV outputs: 3 Scarts,
stereo audio, composite
video
Supplier: Technomate,
328 Hoe Street, London
E17 9PX.
Tel: 020 8509 2440.
Website:
www.technomate.com
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Tune in analogue channels
in a full-screen view
WHAT SATELLITE & DIGITAL TV January 2004
With threshold control to
remove sparklies
Channels lists can be edited
for easy navigation
The EPG supports seven-day
programme listings