With Apple TV on the way, there's a lot going on in the world of the networked media players. The Evesham iPlayer allows you to access your Windows Media Centre PC and play files from USB memory cards, but that's not all.
The iPlayer is also a Freeview PVR with HDMI out. This is good news -- not only does this box upscale Freeview TV, it also allows you to play high-definition content off your network, portable hard drives and USB memory sticks.
The other plus point is that it supports high-definition content over terrestrial, which means if there is ever a terrestrial high-definition service in the UK, this box is well placed to pick it up. Not only does it support MPEG-2 (the system used for Freeview broadcasts), it is also capable of decoding MPEG-4, which is likely to be the coding used for any new hi-def services that are launched.
While it is very well specified, however, it costs far too much. With a list price of some £300, it needs a second tuner to make it worth the money. As it stands, you can't watch one channel and record another -- particularly annoying as PVRs that offer this can be bought for around £100 to £150.
The iPlayer is a stylish-looking machine. It's finished in silver and will happily fit into most living rooms with minimal fuss. When you pick the unit up, it's very light and feels a little cheap, although that's unlikely to be an issue most of the time given that the unit will be firmly lodged under your television.
There are no buttons on the front of the player, only three status LEDs. To the back of the unit there are the usual connections, including Ethernet, two Scart sockets, HDMI, optical digital out, analogue audio out and aerial input and output. To the side there is a slot for a Top Up TV viewing card and a USB socket, to allow you to watch video from a USB memory stick or external hard drive.
The remote control looks quite odd. It's narrow at the bottom end and fat at the top. In practice, this is actually a decent design -- it's very easy to hold, and you can even stand it on its base. On the downside it feels quite cheap, and the directional control in the middle feels pretty flimsy.
The list of things this box can do is staggering. For a start, it's a Freeview receiver, and it also promises to upscale Freeview images to fit your high-definition TV. Sounds good, but it's a bit pointless, as all hi-def tellies upscale anyway. On the upside, the box is capable of decoding 1080i material, should a full-time high-definition service ever be launched on Freeview.