From a purely superficial point of view, first impressions of the Goodmans are promising.
It doesn't look as dated as some that are available and the remote appears refreshingly simple. Connectivity is thorough enough for the money and includes HDMI and optical outputs together with USB, ethernet and a couple of Scart sockets thrown in for good measure.
The USB and ethernet inputs have little real functionality at the moment but Goodmans assures us that iPlayer access is scheduled for an August 2010 launch.
The menus and eight-day EPG look great too, fading in and out of view when you press the relevant button. Unlike some rival units, this box allows you to skip two hours at a time or in 24 hours blocks at the press of a button – very handy.
In fact, all would be fine and dandy if the user didn't have to contend with that remote control. It's simple, yes, but it's also sluggish in operation. It doesn't feel particularly comfortable in the hand, either: the hard, raised edges tend to dig in.
More after the break
Auto-bypass for scaler, pleaseThe GDB300HD is also the first box we've seen to fall foul of our scaler grumbles: there's no ‘auto-bypass' mode, so if you set it to 1080i to watch native 1080i HD content, you're forced to use Goodmans' upscaling for standard definition programmes too.
It would be much better if the box were able to switch automatically back to 576i for normal broadcasts, especially if your TV or amp uses a superior scaler.
But, despite our frustrations, its difficult not to be drawn in by the Goodmans' picture. Watch the slightly disturbing children's programme In The Night Garden and you're presented with a bright, bold and colourful image.
Detail levels are good and only a slight smattering of noise and lack of subtlety separate it from the very best.
Sound quality isn't quite as impressive. Compared with its main rivals there's a lack of sparkle. Show theme tunes sound dull and lacking in dynamics. Switch to one of the digital radio stations and music boasts a passable level of detail but still lacks any real punch or potency.
No Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundOne thing to note: like quite a few of the current Freeview HD boxes, it won't transcode the multichannel AAC sound on BBC Freeview HD broadcasts to Dolby Digital 5.1, so you'll only get stereo sound if you hook it up via the optical digital connection to your home cinema amp (more details here).
For the money, the GDB300HD isn't a bad option, and we admire many of its character traits. It just needs to be slicker to use and sound better to stand any chance of getting five stars.