Netgem Soundbox HD & Netbox HD Review

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Netgem offer interactive TV services, such as Freeview Play and app integration such as Amazon Prime. They offer this in one of two products, the Netbox HD, which is your traditional set top box, and the Soundbox HD, which is a soundbar with a Netbox HD built into it (in essence). It’s been a while since I’ve had to use such a device, as let’s be honest, a lot of these features are built into your smart TV now. However, there is a lot of competition in this field, and Netgem may have the advantage, especially with the Soundbar. We got both to try out, so let’s do just that!

As we are looking at both products, let’s get the basic’s out the way, with what the set top box, or TV Streamer, as they like to call it, it includes:

– Amazon Alexa integration, allowing you to say what you want, ‘Alexa, watch the Grand Tour’, or pause live tv, control the sound bar etc.
– Freeview channels as standard, plus internet based services such as Amazon Prime Video, Hayu, Hopster, BBC iplayer, ITV hub, All 4, My 5 and UKTV Play. No Netflix, no YouTube.
– Music playback via Deezer, Trace, Box Plus & Radioline, via your TV or the Soundbox. No Spotify.

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Netbox HD

The Netbox HD is like your traditional, TV streamer, set top box. It’s compact, it will sit nicely within your TV unit and comes complete with remote control, HDMI cable, aerial cable, ethernet cable power cable, aerial splitter and instructions. You get everything you need, which is excellent. To the rear of the box, you have the aerial in, HDMI out, ethernet in, power in, USB 2.0 & audio out. It’s quite self-explanatory the installation, so I won’t go into that too much but remember, you need an aerial to receive Freeview channels and an internet connection for the apps. Once powered on, there is a step by step set up required, to get things going, such as connecting to your internet (WiFi is an option), any updates the box requires, parental controls and channel scanning. It was a painless exercise and very easy to set up.

Soundbox HD

The Soundbox HD is a soundbar, with basically a Netbox HD built into it. It’s obviously larger, but coming in at 450mm in length, it’s a very compact soundbar. It’s black in finish, sits on rubber feet and has mesh covering most of it. To the rear of the unit, is an aerial in, HDMI out, aux out, power in and USB 2.0. The contents inside the box, match what’s given with the Netbox. Also, the setup is identical to the Netbox. If at any point you get stuck, Netgem do have video tutorials to help you out. They are very basic, but they do the job.

The performance of the set top box is very good, Freeview Play is excellent and really opens your TV to current and past tv shows & movies. Navigation is easy, there is a Netgem option, which allows access to the internet services such as Amazon Prime Video. Picture quality is good, offering up to full HD 1080p clarity. There are very limited options, but enough and the parental control works well. On both remote controls there are dedicated Freeview Play & Amazon Prime buttons, which is very handy. The remote control is the Alexa interface, so hold the button down and speak into the top of the mic to use Alexa. Overall, a very positive experience.

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The second part is the audio performance from the Soundbox. Not only will this offer sound from the set top box, but it’s also Bluetooth enabled, so you can connect your phone to it. Overall sound quality is not bad, it is lacking in the bass front but the sound produced is precise & clear, and works well with TV. It can also get quite loud, and quality is maintained at the higher volumes. If, however you are keen on movies and want that booming cinema experience, this isn’t for you. Music wise, again, it lacked in the bass front, which really affected the Drake songs I was listening too but it’s very listenable.

With Soundbox, you get one years Amazon Prime Video with all purchases, saving £79! You need to register your device to gain the freebie. It’s unclear whether you get this bonus with the Netbox.

Build quality is average across both items, it doesn’t shout premium, which I hoped it would, considering the retail prices (£249 Soundbox , £129 Netbox). Both products are also lacking in the audio interface department and are pretty much relying on audio via HDMI, which is ok but an issue on the Soundbox. There are no other HDMI ports, so no HDMI passthrough and only an aux in, so if you want to connect any other device, such as a blu ray player or games console, you cannot use the Soundbox for audio (unless is aux in). Unfortunately, both devices lack content from some of the big players in the market, if not the biggest. No support for Netflix, YouTube or Spotify, which I’m sure will put some off.

If you are lacking in smart features on your current TV, then this is a solution for you and I highly recommend Freeview Play, it’s great. For more information, visit the official Netgem website.

EDIT: The Soundbox does have HDMI Arc tech inside, so you can have audio from other devices playing through the Soundbox, aslong as your TV has Arc capabilities. Also, I’ve been informed additional internet services are being released, such as YouTube this year, so expect a firmware update!

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