HD Satellite AB IPBOX 9000 HD Plus

HD Satellite AB IPBOX 9000 HD Plus Recent developments and product launches follow a clear trend PVR are becoming the norm for HD TV Receivers as well and while the pioneers of PVR equipped their products with a single tuner at the beginning, these days two integrated tuners have become standard so that at least two simultaneous recordings are now possible. Most manufacturers have such offerings in their range and ABCom is no exception. However, their new AB IPBOX 9000 HD Plus has a few astonishing extra goodies in store as well, as you will see shortly.

AB IPBOX 9000 HD Plus

AB IPBOX 9000 HD Plus

ABCom offers their latest box in silver or black, which will please customers who prefer electronic gadgets to fit in smoothly with the rest of their existing equipment. So if your flat screen TV and receiver is black, simply go for the black  AB IPBOX as well. The receiver’s front panel comes with the standard standby button, an easy to read alphanumeric VFD display and  stylishly hidden behind a flap  eight buttons to control the box whenever the remote is not at hand or out of battery.

The same flap also hides two CI slots for all standard Conditional Access modules such as Irdeto, Seca, Viaccess, Nagravision,Conax or Cryptoworks. The level of workmanship is high and the box is pleasing to the eye as well.

Turning around the best satellite tv receiver IPBOX 9000 HD Plus reveals a perfectly equipped back panel. What strikes right away is the fact that the two tuners are not permanently integrated but rather only plugged in as modules. So if you would like to not only receive DVB-S and DVB-S2 signals, but rather also DVB-T or DVB-C, all you have to do is open the receiver and exchange one tuner (or both) for a different one.

HD Satellite AB IPBOX 9000 HD Plus

By the way, the only difference between the IPBOX 9000 HD and the IPBOX 9000 HD Plus is that the Plus model comes with two DVB-S2 tuners as standard.

The great thing is you don’t have to be a scientist to be able to exchange tuner modules and even with no technical back-ground at all it should be feasible. Each tuner always comes with a loop-through output so that an additional receiver can be connected or the input signal can be forwarded from tuner 1 to tuner 2.

Right next to the slots for the two tuners two scart euro connectors are available to connect a CRT TV or a conventional VCR.If you’re lucky enough to own a beamer there are three RCA sockets for providing a YUV signal, three more RCA sockets put out composite video and stereo audio. Of course there’s also an optical output for digital audio and HDMI for loss less digital video and audio transmission to an LCD or plasma TV.

In addition, you’ll find an S-video connector, a telephone jack, a USB 2.0 host interface and USB 1.0 client interface, a 10/100 Mbit Ethernet port as well as an RS-232 serial interface. There’s even a mechanical power switch to disconnect the receiver from the mains.

The remote control that comes with the satellite TV Packages sits nicely in your hand, boasts clearly labelled buttons and given the enormous range of features offered by this box  is not filled to the brim with keys and buttons.
If we really have to identify a downside it’s the rather small size of the RC buttons, so you’d better factor in some extra time and training until you get really used to working with the remote.

Initial setup
When turned on for the first time an installation wizard pops up on screen and asks for the preferred on-screen, audio and subtitle language. As it turns out the IPBOX 9000 HD Plus is a genuine globetrotter, with available languages including English, Russian, French, Dutch, Italian, German, Danish, Slovak, Czech, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Greek, Turkish, Korean, Croat, Bosnian and Serbian.

Next, the receiver wants to know the local time difference to GMT and whether the clock should be synced via satellite or set manually by the user.
The third segment of the installation wizard takes care of configuring the reception system that is used with the receivers.

By default the IPBOX 9000 HD Plus comes with a list of 161 currently active satellites which apart from all relevant European positions includes Asian and American birds as well. By and large the transponder lists seem to be up to date, even though we detected some weak spot for a few satellites, such as NILESAT 7° West, for example.

What really thrilled us were the countless detailed options for satellite configuration. First and foremost all DiSEqC protocols (1.0, 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3/USALS) are implemented in an exemplary way and various other settings make sure the IPBOX 9000 HD Plus will fit perfectly into any existing reception equipment, no matter how out of the ordinary. The LOF can of course also be set manually so that all varieties of LNBs are supported. Control signals such as 22 kHz can be manually activated or you can let the receiver arrange all settings automatically.

This brilliant overall impression is further enhanced by the intelligent way in which signals are distributed to both tuners. Either both tuners are provided with signals or one of them becomes master while the second becomes slave and is hooked to the first with a short connecting cable so that it can receive its signal from the first tuner.

Finally, the installation wizard prompts the user to initiate a signal scan. You can choose whether this should be done for tuner 1 only or for both tuners, and you can select whether all set satellites should be scanned or whether you’d like to limit the search to individual positions. Convenient features like TV Network scan or  FTA only are available and in case you’re looking for signals on a particular transponder only the IPBOX 9000 HD Plus even lets you even finish the installation wizard with a ab ipbox 9000 hd manual search by defining a valid frequency with correct polarization and FEC values.

Either way, the installation will not finish before one search mode is selected and completed and this is actually a good thing because what’s the point of HD satellite receiver with no channels on its list? By the way, here’s an important message to all DXers out there: Of course the IPBOX 9000 HD Plus allows manual input of PID values instead of performing a search, so it’s the perfect gadget for feed hunting as well.

Thanks to the automatic signal scan the channel memory fills up quickly. Its capacity for 10,000 channels is impressive and means that the IPBOX 9000 HD Plus can be the perfect companion for rotary antennas and will easily accommodate all the channels that become available.

Where there’s so much light, there has to be some shadow as well, as we were not really happy about the time it took to scan a 110-transponder satellite. More than seven minutes definitely is too long for a receiver that is supposed to be state of the art.

Once the scan is completed you’re all set to actually use the box for watching and listening. Before that, however, it’s a good idea to flick through the main menu and familiar yourself with all the features that are available. One of them is the extremely convenient transponder editor that allows adding new transponders to the satellite list in a breeze. Alter natively, you can also edit or delete existing entries.

As we’re talking about a DVB-S2 receiver here both QPSK and 8PSK modulation is supported with FEC values of 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 , 3/5, 4/5, 5/6, 6/7, 7/8, 8/9 and 9/10. The same menu even includes DVB-T channels for EU countries and Australia, which can also be edited and extended.
Video is provided to the Television either as YUV, S-video, CVBS or RGB in analog format, or digitally via HDMI in 520p for PAL and NTSC or 720p and 1080i at 50 or 60 Hz. Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is available as PCM or bit stream via a fibre optical cable or can be deactivated in case it is not needed.

Once you open extended settings menu you realise what the receiver has on offer. Its Ethernet port cries out for connecting it to a DHCP compatible router so that the receivers is automatically assigned an IP address and all required parameters such as standard gateway address and DNS server can be obtained from the router. If you prefer to set all parameters manually you’re welcome to do it that way as well and the AB IPBOX can even automatically establish a DSL network connection using either the PPoE or PPP protocols.

In case you’re still waiting for more out of the ordinary features have a look at the hard disk manager for the built-in 500 GB hard disk. Rarely before have we tested a PVR with so many individual settings options, which include extending the time shift buffer to up to eight hours and the option to save the complete buffer content with a single click on the RECORD button.

You can also automatically add a pre-defined amount of time before and after each timer recording or you can activate a temperature sensitive fan control system. If you encounter problems with your hard disk it can be formatted or checked the next time the satellite tv systems starts up. Similar to a PC the receiver then detects and repairs any problems in the file structure so that you can rest assured that all your recordings are stored reliably.

As the AB IPBOX 9000 HD Plus is based on the Linux operating system it can access all available and enabled drives and directories in a local network security thanks to its Ethernet port. To that end mount points for NFS and CIFS are available. This way individual directories or complete hard disks for example with MP3 audio  files or image files can been a bled and accessed with the receiver.

We particularly liked the option to make a software update via the local network. The AB IPBOX 9000 HD Plus is pre configured to access the correct FTP server and this way can download current software from the Internet at any time and in next to no time.

This creates an added value for users as they can be certain to always run the latest software version without having to rely on Broadband updates via satellite which take much longer and are less reliable. In our test the operating system was updated flawlessly and ABCom even lets the user know beforehand which bugs will be fixed and which new features will be added with the updated software.

Everyday use
Once the initial setup is completed you can leave the main menu and let the receiver tune into the first channel on the list. Pressing the OK button prompts the clearly laid out channel list to appear on screen, with a small preview window in the right section of the screen showing the currently selected channel.

It’s quite common that more than 2,000 channels are stored in the channel list after a scan of one or two popular satellites, so the first job always is to neatly re arrange that list so that it becomes user friendly rather than overwhelming. Luckily, the IPBOX 9000 HD Plus offers a range of sorting option according to CAS/FTA, FTA/CAS, alphabet, provider and satellite.

Channels you watch on a regular basis can conveniently be moved into one of the favourites lists which are extremely powerful and versatile, so that each family member can create their personal list and never has to mess around with the end-less overall list. Thanks to a dedicated button on the remote control the favourites lists can be called up with the touch of a button.

Every time you switch to a new channel or press the INFO button on the remote control the HDTV receiver inserts a cleverly arranged info bar with icons indicating features like Dolby Digital audio, teletext, subtitles, broadcasting standard etc. In addition the bar informs viewers which tuner is in use and which satellite transmits the currently watched channel. Two coloured meters let you know the level of signal strength and quality.

To access the entire program details provided by the individual channels all you have to do is press the EPG button. With another touch of the same button you can numbers up extended information about the selected event and with the digital Video Recorder button you can set a timer entry for recording that event.

Video and audio are of very good quality in everyday use and zapping between channels is reasonably fast. Even when switching from standard definition to high definition channels your patience is not put to test. Time shift is a feature you will never again want to do without as it allows freezing an event at any given time and then continuing from that very moment, in case the telephone rings or any disturbance happens while you’re watching TV.

AB IPBOX 9000 HD Satellite Receiver Plus Software

In our test recording and playing back SD and HD contents took place flawlessly, and we also liked that playback always continued from where it was last stopped. The overall remarkable ease of use of this receiver is complemented by useful add-ons such as picture-in-picture, integrated teletext decoder and automatic detection of sub channels. Thanks to two built in tuners it is possible to simultaneously record two events without interference or interruption, no matter whether SDTV or HDTV.

One of the few negative aspects we noted is that it sometimes seems to take forever until the box reacts to commands sent by the remote control, and that in some cases we had to reboot the receiver by turning the main power switch off and on again to bring it back to life. However, we assume that the manufacturer will address these issues with one of the next software updates.

As mentioned above the  HD Satellite AB IPBOX 9000 HD Plus comes with a range of multimedia features, all of which are implemented with user friendliness in mind. Both the MP player and the picture viewer can be activated with dedicated buttons on the remote control, so that a single touch of a button is all that’s needed. However, we were only able to play back content that was stored on the internal hard disk as we did not manage to gain access to a digital camera connected to the USB host interface, a USB memory stick or an external hard disk.

No test is complete without pushing the receiver to the edge with weak signals, and the IPBOX 9000 HD Plus had to share the same destiny as any other box we evaluate. To that end we fed it with very weak signals from ASTRA2D at 28.2° East, BADR 26° East and the horizontal polarisation of NILE-SAT 7° West. All results were fairly average and we obtained flawless reception with a C/N value of approximately 5 dB and higher.

We did notice, however, that the signal quality bar of the IPBOX 9000 HD Plus seems to have a mind of its own as it showed 96% signal quality for a transponder that merely reached the threshold level. SCPC reception of the IPBOX 9000 HD Plus was OK with glitch-free reception of signals from TURKSAZ2A 42° East with 2 Ms/s.

The manufacturer is constantly working on improving the Linux-based software of this Satellite TV Receiver and as a next step they are planning to implement iptv providers. A simple software update via the local network will add that feature to a box that is right up there with the best even right now.

Software Update

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