Xenta – DB-18 Freeview PVR & USB Media Player review

All of that lot, for under £20? Surely some mistake...?
Photo of Xenta – DB-18 Freeview PVR & USB Media Player

You’d be forgiven for assuming that the budget end of Xenta’s media player range would be the boggiest of bog-standard devices. But as we discovered when we checked out its cheap and cheerful HDMI Media Player back at the start of 2010, you get just a little bit more than you pay for. Not a lot – but enough to make Xenta more than a dismissable cheap brand. Albeit one that, naturally, can’t write a manual to save its life…

Thus, we were intrigued to take a look at its DB-18, which marries a Freeview box, PVR and USB media device in one. Taking it out the box, we couldn’t help but note that the product had just a bit of style about it, too. A rounded device with a smart matt finish, it isn’t a massive piece of hardware. Measuring in at around the size of a paperback novel, it isn’t unattractive, either.

The supplied remote control, on the other hand, is hideous. It’s not the usual and logical arrangement of buttons that leads us to this conclusion – rather, it’s the idea of splashing bright pink on it to highlight certain buttons. We fully expect Xenta to invest in glow-in-the-dark paint in the future if it continues on this course.

The device is, we should note, a limited one. The three sockets on the back are for antenna in, loop out, and SCART. There’s no support for HD TV, as you might have guessed. Meanwhile, the USB port is quite tidily tucked away on the right-hand edge of the device.

You’ll need that USB port, too, if you want to take advantage of the product’s PVR facilities. The DB-18′s slow EPG allows you to set programmes to record – but you’ll need to connect up some kind of storage device in order for it to have somewhere to put the data. This also needs to be FAT32-formatted, and can be a flash drive or USB external hard drive (albeit one with its own power).

However – and not for the first time – we have to say that you simply can’t quibble with what you get for the money. We found the Xenta unit for sale at eBuyer for under £17, which would be cheap for a Freeview box. But given that you can also play back content from a USB stick, and treat the device as your own video recorder, it’s a steal. Recording quality is sound, too, and while the menu system looks far from glorious (and it isn’t helped, in terms of findign your way around the product, by the clear-as-mud manual), it does do the job.

We reckon Xenta’s unit is best deployed as a backup rather than a main device – but then, once more, we find ourselves concluding that the firm offers quite staggering value for money. There’s nothing particularly special or outstanding to its DB-18, and you can see where the cost-cutting corners have been cut. But in terms of value for money? It really is very, very hard to grumble.

Company: Xenta

Xenta won't win awards for out-and-out quality with a product like this. But in terms of value for money? There are, right now, few hardware companies who can hold a candle to it.