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    Review of the Kbox Prodigy with KHub

    In keeping with Modemhelp's testing of not only Modems and Routers, we are going to test a satelite receiver this month. Usually Satelite Receivers wouldn't be reviewed, but this one connects to your network/the internet to receive updates... So since it's has an ethernet connection, and has an IP address.. It's fair game!

    The KBox Prodigy is a fairly new satelite receiver, and commands only a small market share compared to the heaveyweights in Viewsat, Coolsat and Sonicview. But this new receiver has people talking, new design, internet connected, and fairly inexpensive.. All the makings of something potentially ground breaking.. or will it just be a flash in the pan?

    I looked forward to this review since I have a minimal amount of satelite receiver knowledge, and wanted to apply the same methodology and grading system as I do to routers, modems and switches to a satelite receiver. Satelite receivers have had some bad publicity over the years of being overly complex to configure, poorly written instructions, and spotty support.. I'm hoping in this new internet world, all that has changed.

    First thing, I received a nice new Kbox Prodigy package, pulled the receiver out of the plastic, checked it out, and plugged it in.. Nice looking unit. Nice big display, not to many buttons (although later on I'd wish they included a menu button on the front panel for those remote times I use the front panel versus the remote). Hook-up to the TV went great, and plugged into an existing paid satelite easy, well labelled.. Happy so far. 'Booted' up the Kbox and went to check out the menu system. Well laid out, KBox did their homework on taking the best from the GUI's of internet routers, and applied it to the KBox. I was able to find everything I needed quickly, satelite settings were easy to find, and straight forward, setting up and scanning a satelite was a snap.

    So the Kbox receiver wasa breeze to setup, next up the KHub which connects the serial port (this is KBox's only throwback to the old techology era.. ditch the serial port for ethernet and/or USB). The KHub is a serial to ethernet convertor, and having configured hudnreds of ethernet to serial convertors before, this should be a breeze.. First off, plug it in, easy, instructions say the KHub gets an IP via DHCP, perfect! This is where the KHub falls off the rails in a hurry. This device could not pick up a DHCP IP no matter what, followed the instructions, again and again.. How hard can it be... Checked out some online forums, and foudn others with the same things.. and the same responce.. a snooty, "check yoru router config, check your router config, check your router config" over and over again.. Hmm odd.. all the other devices on my network get dhcp ok, why not the Khub.. No troubleshooting tools built in to help either.. Now in my case, this is my bread and butter, IP networking! Checked out the Switch (Cisco) and low and behold, port connected at 100mbps auto negotiate (negotiated to 100 meg half duplex, which is fine) NO mac address visible.. first good reason dhcp failed.. Rebooted the KBox a number of times following the directions.. and sometimes I see the mac address on the port, sometimes not.. Odd.. So tried to set a static IP in the KBox.. set it, save, check the arp table on the router, noting.. ok, go back to the KBox config.. back at DHCP.. repeated this over and over.. Found the trick.. Instead of hitting the 'red' save button, click exit, and when prompted "do you want ot save' then you save.. poer off the KBox at the back, wait more then 30 seconds, power the unit back up, and cross your fingers.. This usually worked BUT sometimes you'd check the network configu and boom, back at dhcp, or the static IP was different.. I've never seen an IP device that would lose a part of the IP config (DNS, IP, gateway, etc.) like this KBox.. Everytime it was different.. Yes it eventually connected, was pingable, BUT to this day, I still cannot get this receiver to save the second DNS server setting... Frustrating.. Before the first person responds with "check your router", the amount of debug both my cisco router and cisco switch displayed pointed squarely back at the squirrely KHub not wanting to play nicely.. But is it a software or hardware fault of the KHub.. Hard to say, no tools available to troubleshoot. There is an older version of the KHub that requires users to connect a null modem cable to the khub to configure/upload new firmware.. but the new version which came with my test unit was the new smart khub...

    Ok, after a great start, then a very long frustrating time fighting this KHub inconsistancy, I was so hoping to watch some TV.. Low and behold, it works! The picture quality was great, as good as any other receiver I have seen (this was a NON-HD TV). The online channel menu (EPG) was good, I liked it.. but it only had 1.5 hours of channel descriptions.. Assuming this will be fixed in further factory software upgrades.. The remote was good, buttons and functions easy to find and use. I'd like to see another USB port on the back of the KBox for an external PVR. I did notice when channel surfing (flicking between channels) had a slight lag compared to my my rented satelite receiver (wife complained about it being sluggish, and being impatient, hit the buttom a number of times, opps bad idea).. But picture quality was good. Everybody was pleased.

    This satelite receiver in the end did it job (although for no good reason, it still loses it static IP at various times!), picture quality is good. Now those questions at the beginning.. Are satelite receivers up to the same standards we apply to those residential internet routers in terms of ease of setup, support and quality? At this time, no, satelite receivers have come a long way, but they still need to learn a few more lessons.. Just like the days of the early broadband routers and modems, configuration and setup should be easy enough for your grandmother to complete without having to call for support. Also, you cannot sell devices that are this quirky. Any manufacturer who can't get a handle on IP basics (first 2 levels of the OSI model) really has a problem.. KBox does look promising, but they need to sit back, take a look at their KHub and make it idiot-proof, no quirks, no reverting to default settings, and no losing of portions of the config.. If they can conquer the bugs, add a USB port for an external PVR, yes this KBox could challenge the market leaders with its new IP based updates.. If in the next 6 to 12 months KBox cannot overcome these bugs, then expect the other satelite receivers to build IP connectivity into their receivers and KBox will become a flash in the pan.

    Mark Breakdown:

    Category: Comments:

    Performance: Picture quality was great, EPG (channel menu) needs a bit more work.

    Supportability: Not as much support as I would like.. On the forums, mostly snooty responces making you feel like it's your problem.. Also the manuals were well done.. 7/15
    Ease of Use/Configuration: KBox Prodigy was a breeze to configure! I loved it.. KHub was a nightmare..

    Compatibility: If you can't work on an ethernet based IP network, then you have compatibility problems. Compatibility with satelites was great though..

    Features: On paper, this receiver has a lot of useful features, newer IP based design, easy to nagivate menu's, all features users look for!

    Personal: I want to love this receiver, I love the idea of an IP converged world. The KBox has potential but it is to quirky for even me to continually fight with. I cannot imagine an average person trying to get a KBox stable...

    Overall: Tons of potential.. next 6 months will determine if KBox is a flash in the pan or can they fix their bugs and enter the ring with the market leader satelite receiver manufacturers... 64/100