Dr.HD D15 - review for the DX satellite receiver

Sounded like what I'd been waiting for: The manufacturers claim to have ears for the needs of the DX community. A receiver with a blindscan, spectrum analyzer, HD capability and a media player. My 10 year old DM7000 dreambox from the pre-DVB-S2 age was ready for a replacement lacking all these features. The D15 seemed to be no risk: I got mine for 129 Euro - that's real value After a few days I can say: It's OK but there are some issues. The media player definitely needs improvement

Dr HD model alternatives

(as in Jan 2014) The D15 is following previous models F15 and F16. F16 has terrestrial DVB-T included, F15 and D15 do not. Unfortunately there is no D16. If you decide for the newer models with improved reception and functionality (as reported by forums and Dr.HD, haven't checked it), the only alternative is the more expensive "Grand" series where you can add a terrestrial or cable tuner (DVB-T2/T or DVB-C). Current price is about 400 Euro including th second tuner.

Reception

For standard use it is a convenient receiver. The menus are self explaining. Standard scanning is fast. You have EPG, timer options, PVR (video recording) with a hard disc on the USB

Handling different stallites with a rotor

You can choose between USALS (automatic positioning) and DiseqC up to 1.2 (manaual stepping). USALS generally works fine if the rotator is perfectly aligned. But that is theory. All the rotors I have tested do have some play. They tend to lose their precise alignment from time to time by a few 1/10 degrees. So it would be convenient to save the new position. When receiving weak satellites, sometimes it is just often necessary to do some fine tuning. Unfortunately in USALS you can't save a corrected position. And why can the rotor only do big steps of about 0.5° in USALS mode? There is no finetuning option with 0.1° steps like in DiseqC 1.2. Of course I could also switch over from USALS to DiseqC 1.2 mode. But when I do that the rotor starts to turn to a completely different position. My current workaround is to change the numeric satellite position in degrees or - if I want to adjust all satellites at once - to change my own coordinates. I could think of a better solution where you just press some SAVE button in USALS mode and then the position is being stored as a DiseqC 1.2 position.

Blindscan

The most important feature for me. A few years ago even the best receivers could only scan a satellite when they had a list of transponders with defined symbol rates. You could also download these lists (satellite.xml) but often enough they were incomplete or only covering very few satellites. No need for that anymore. A blindscan automatically detects frequencies and symbol rates. This works fine with the D15. By default the whole range 10700-12750 MHz is scanned but you can choose limit frequency, pol and select between all/only free stations. The bigger the range, the longer it takes till it starts, up to 3 minutes - that is irritating. But the receiver does not hang, something is being prepared in the background. The whole scan takes a few minutes. The blindscan also improves the reception of weak signals because it corrects deviations of the LNB: In my case all the frequencies found were 3 MHz above the lists from lyngsat.com. Symbol rate deviations can also occur. The lowest symbol rate i got was 1090. 8PSK detection is possible but requires stronger signals. DVB-S2 Signals with multiple streams do not even lock. After all the D15 seems to be a bit more sensitive than my DM7000 dreambox.

Spectrum analyzer

There are two modes: AGC (checking all frequencies) and CNC (only the transponders). In my case the AGC showed strange results. Even on strong satellites only the upper third showed detectable signals. In CNC mode everything is fine. I'm still struggeling with the motor functions: When you press the buttons for moving, it won't stop anymore.

Program lists and zapping

You can compose program lists which appear when you press the GROUP button. You can sort the stations within the lists alphabetically or choose the first letter. If you scan a new satellite a new group is automatically added containing only the stations from that position. All settings can be exported and imported to a file. Editors are available. Zapping is fast. The status bar always shows AGC (signal level) and SNR (signal-noise ratio) in dB. If you press the info button it shows frequency, symbolrate, FEC; PIDs and satellite name.

Audio

More than a bug: There is some annoying fizzling in the background. I wonder if other users can confirm this. Apart from this there is a nice 5 channel equalizer in the audio button menu, where you can also toggle between the audio channels of course.

Video

In some cases it seems like there is something wrong with the picture frequency- when the camera is panning or zooming it does not always seem flawless. With the video format button you can toggle between various modes (1080i etc). The auto option does not always seem to be the best. There is another button to toogle between pan-scan and letter-box without the need to go through the menus. This is convenient.

EPG and recording

programming guide works fine but the content overview I was used from Enigma/Dreambos is missing. Timer recordings can be triggered with one click on the recording button from the EPG. Repeated events are possible. The options are every day and Mo-Fr, not individual days.

Other features

It's possible to watch multiple channels of one transponder at once. You can freeze pictures. It's possible to go through basic settings using the buttons on the receiver without the remote control. The 4-digits on the receiver only show the program number, time or signal level but not the program name. A small display would be an improvement.

Media Player

I've tested it with XVID-AVI, MP4 and TS(MPEG2) files. Generally they play. The system can cope with a 1 TB hard disc (my DVD player and very many so called Smart TV do not). But much improvement needed.

no support for special characters and unclear file extensions

Ä,Ö etc in the file name will result in a 0 Byte indication. These files will not play. There is no auto file recognition: If the extension is wrong it won't play either (the dreambox split files into parts like movie.ts.001 etc). There is a rename option but if the file name exceeds 32 characters or contains these special charaters renaming often fails. Directories and files appear unsorted - no A-Z option in the file manager. There is also a preview mode with thumbnails. Fast forward and backward is buggy: With the TS files audio and video were out of sync afterwards using 2x. Other factors made the playback freeze. With MP4 it is possile but not so flawless.

DVR recording

is plug and play. But unfortunately you cannot record a movie and watch a recording at the same time. The DM7000 could do that. You can ony watch a programme from a transponder and record it or watch in timeshift.

Web features

Compared to the DM7000 Dreambox web access is much more basic. Nevertheless you can browse Youtube and check the weather report. Nevertheless YouTube seems to be full of bugs just like the media player. Searches with special characters are not possible. Even if the search is succesful it's impossible to play some of the offered clips resulting in an obscure network error. You can access internet radio based on the shoutcast platform, obviously only MP3, no AAC. But there is no web interface where you can send commands from the PC. There are no plugins to download like a bitrate viewer. As I understand you cannot stream from the D15 to other devices in the network. No card sharing either. And there is only one USB port. A second one would be helpful if you want to connect via a WLAN stick. My USB port is already blocked by the hard disc. The YouTu

Overall

It's a nice toy DXers will like, it's OK for normal users but it's far from being a high end receiver. But for the low price that's already a lot.

Peer-Axel Kroeske


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