This report on the Satwork ST 3618 is the copyright property of Tempus Fugit Publications and it may not be copied nor stored in retrieval system, nor published without the owners permission.
Taking the receiver out of the box it looks much like any other set top box. The front being a mainly of a clear plastic. This plastic flap drops down to reveal.........
A Standby/On button and two arrow buttons also two slots that should have CAMs behind them, but being this is a free to air receiver they are just but holes.
What is good about the receiver ..........Very little indeed, the addition of an RF connect is welcome, but as yet untried. I Have since been reliably informed that this does not work and one rather expects that if it did work it would be a US version anyway.
On the rear of the receiver are....................
3 RCA Phonos.......Composite video out, Stereo Audio left and Right.
A group of four spring loaded clip type holders. One pair is for the 12 Volt and Earth accessory switch, and the other pair of spring clips to drive those ancient LNBs that still rely on skew, a plus 5 volts and pulse. That will keep the C Band users a little happier.
An RS 232 Port for computer and receiver connection. (There is not any explanation anywhere which explains it's use)
F Socket for loop through IF.
F socket loop through for RF loop through so you can link to your TV without a scart, nice but does not work..
A receiver mains input on / off switch.
Power cord fixed input.
Switching the receiver on after removing the US mains plug and attaching a U.K. 13 Amp three pin plug, a Satworks logo comes up on the screen and no TV program is displayed at the bottom.
By pushing the menu button on the remote control the STB Main Menu appears. This lists six items.......
1. TV Channels.
2. Radio Channels.
4. Channel Setting.
5. System Set Up.
6. Default Value
7. Accessory List.
Parts 1 and 2 of the menu are self explanatory. However at this point I will say the only way to access the various menu items is by using the arrow buttons on the remote control. The various parts of the menu cannot be accessed by just keying the number on the RCU.
Part 3 curiously called "Installation" I feel is wrongly named, I feel this should be referred to as the search facility. Here, by arrowing down to it, you will find the three types of search available. Item one on the sub menu is the "Blind Scan". Item two is "Satellite Search", Item three is "Manual Search".
Part 4 of the main menu is divided up into 4 sub items, Item one is "Favourite Program", Item two "Move Program", Item three "Delete Program", and finally Item four is Edit Program".
Part 5, is entitled System Set Up. This again is divided up into four sub items. The first being "Language", by pressing OK you have the choice of three languages, Chinese being the default, English and finally Indonesia ( Not my mis-spelling). Your language choice is obtained by arrowing down to the relevant tongue and depressing OK on the remote control unit (RCU).
Once you have pressed OK you revert back to the main part of the System Set Up menu.
Next choice is TV System, by depressing OK the screen gives you the choice of either NTSC or PAL or Auto. Being in Europe I chose PAL.. By pressing OK this again reverts you back to System Set Up sub menu.
Next is TV Format, here you can choose between 4 : 3, and 16 : 9.
Sub item four is where you can turn the "Skew" on or off.
My own personal opinion is that this "System Set Up" menu should be the first item on the main menu.
Part 6 of the main menu is entitled "Default Value". Novel piece of writing here......to quote, "Default Value will earse all channels that the user added and resume the default value". What they mean is that this facility carries out a factory re-set of the receiver.
Last but not least is Part 7 the Accessory List. This again is sub divided into three items. Item one "System Update", when OK is depressed another sub list appears. You are offered three types of System Update. IRD to IRD. All, and lastly "Slaver". What the last two mean remains a mystery as believe it or not, they are not covered in the rather sparse and poorly written handbook.
Item two is "Game", as I go through this receiver this portion begins to irk me in no uncertain terms. The only good thing I can say about this item is that you get an insert of the received channel at the same time as well as the audio.
The third item on this sub menu is the "System Info". Here the receivers Hardware and Software versions are listed.
Having explored the menu I am raring to go.
The acid test for time and channel capacity testing here in Europe must be to Blind Scan the Hotbirds at 13 east. Moving the dish using my Echostar AD 300 IP Viaccess, I switch to the Satworks ST 3618.
Having set up my choice of language, TV type and transmission standard I go immediately to Part 3 of the menu, depress OK after moving the cursor over 3 "Installation". Being I want to test the response of this receiver, I depress OK when on "Blind Scan".
A full page sub menu appears. First item is LNB Type, default value is Normal, that Normal being for the USA not the Universal LNB set up. So I side arrow and find "Universal". On the line below the LNB Freq values confirm those Local Oscillator (LO) of the Universal LNB. Arrowing down I come to "Type". Side arrowing I am given the choice of General or Advanced. I choose "Advanced". Advanced has to be chosen so that you can set the frequency search parameters of the particular satellite you are searching, otherwise you are dealing with default pre-sets of 10700 to 11200.
I set up a start point of 10700MHz and the end point of 12750MHz.
Moving down the sub menu I annotate that I wish to search both the Horizontal and the Vertical polarisations of Hotbird.
The 22K remains light grey and says "Auto" as this is the default for the universal LNB mode.
Next choice is the 12 Volt accessory switch, on or off. This is useful for the C Band dish or a two situation.
Next choice is DiSEqC, here you are given the choice of four LNB's. This highlights another and somewhat glaring omission, NO WHERE NOT ANY WHERE IS THE LEVEL OF DiSEqC mentioned. Not on the box or in the Handbook, nor on the receiver !!!!!!
Time to press the OK button an get the clock running. It is 1713Hrs........ Go.
The screen changes to "Scan Search". A pretty satellite dish is shown receiving a signal and a a red line shows the scan progress. Here the difference between the excellent Coship 3188C really comes to light. This receiver you do not get a choice of satellite to search where as with the Coship you can Blind Search any of those available including six unnamed satellites, also this receiver does not show you the frequency being searched nor the polarity being searched. The only indication that things are going to plan is when it hits a transponder and registers the TP into the receiver memory. Also with Coship you can rush the search on through those bits of a satellite that are not in use, you cannot with this receiver. This is a huge retrograde step, whereas this receiver should be full of advances!!!!
It's 1716 and 47 TPs have been found so far. Very fast indeed.
1721Hrs and the receiver reports to me that it has found 92 Transponders operating on the Hotbirds.
The screen changes, and each transponder found, in turn, now re-appears and channels are being added.
1726Hrs, 601 Video channels and 399 radio channels have been added, but at the 74 TP the receiver drops back to choice of search menu telling me the "Blind Scan Channels lists is full", but I still have 18 TPs to have their channels added. Ugh!!!!!!!!
What this means is that I cannot blind search another satellite until I have completed a factory re-set to make channel space available in the Blind Scan area of the receiver. This is just not good enough in the third year of the 21st Century.
A major irritation factor is that when you are searching a satellite that does transmit through all the KU band spectrum, such as W 1 at 10 east, so I divided the search up into 10950 to 11200MHz and completed a search, again nothing under 3700 bits. When I went to put in the next set of search parameters I found I had to re-set the LNB up once again. You have to do this every darned time. Why can't this be in with the System Set Up. This will save this grind each time and one suspects a few more bits of memory.
Ok so I clear the receiver and re-set its values. But his time something different is tried. 16 : 9 instead of 4 : 3 and as Pete Sivyer has so rightly pointed out to me what really happens here is that the receiver tries to remove the letter box effect of 16 : 9 by stretching the picture to fit the screen. The conclusion being, leave it on 4 : 3 as the 16 : 9 does not work properly.
Anyway, upwards and onwards as they say.
After going to Turksat 1C and down loading everything on both satellites situated at 42 East. I discover that the receiver has not downloaded during a Blind Search any of the transponders with an SR below 3700 Bits. I checked this against the trusty Echostar to see if these TPs were illuminating, and yes they were. Not much good for feed hunting then? I rechecked this against W 2 at 16 east and same problem shows up there as well. The receiver missed the Albanian offering with the 2620 Symbol Rate. According to what literature there is with the receiver, this SR is well within the receivers range of 2 to 45Mbits.
Oh well must move on. So I go to satellite search. I leave very disappointed indeed. I know this is basically a US receiver, of the satellites listed only 8 of them can be seen from my part of the U.K. But of those that are viewable to me are preloaded with US only TPs. PAS 3R however does have one U.K viewable TP. One TP in some 74 Satellites !!!!!!
The big difference here is that with the Coship I could blind scan any of the satellites listed, but with the way the software is on this Satworks ST 3618 you can do absolutely nothing to the presets within the receiver memory. This is bad even for the U.S. Market as we all know how fast things change in the world of satellite TV transmissions and also amongst the satellites themselves. This facility has got to be improved so that it can be modified to fit the European theatre and allow us to blind scan the various satellite data in. The facility is within the receiver, why use more memory listing TPs when the receiver has the capability to download any that can be received. Such a gross error infuriates me. Blind Scan has so many advantages over pre-entered channelling, especially when there are not any edit facilities available.
Another important difference between the Satwork ST 3618 and the Coship 3188C is; when downloading a satellite, channels are added to the channel list as per normal. With the Coship, if you re-downloaded the same satellite again later on, it would recognise previously found working TPs but not add them to the channel list unless there was some small change in the received Data. The Satworks add all of them again. This takes up valuable memory space once more, also time spent in editing, and is also yet another retrograde step.
At this point I am contemplating boxing this thing up and counting my losses.
But don't give up try the manual search facility.
The manual search is no different to many other receivers. The glaring difference here is the the Coship will automatically find the SR once the frequency and the polarity are entered. But as I say as with all other receivers you need to enter the symbol rate as well. Another retrograde step. Another improvement chance lost
Let us now look at the received channel. As with the Coship, the Satworks down loads data transmissions entering them into the receiver as Radio Channels taking up valuable channel space.
Talking of space taking up. This receiver lacks so much and yet they have found space for a stupid game. All that memory wasted, come on give us a break, and I do not mean a game break. Memory space that could accommodate the rest of Hotbird and provide edit facilities in the Satellite Search Mode.
Well for the money the Video and Audio aspects are somewhat better than many much more expensive receivers, but that doesn't mean to say it is the best. I think the best way of putting it is "Good Value for the Money".
Again the threshold lacks and is on a par with the Coship 3188C.
Now I am going to try the functions of the keys on the remote control.
At the top of the remote are the Standby/On button and the Mute, are both self explanatory.
Below that are the numbered button 0 to 9. To the left of the 0 is button marked Pause, what this does is simply freeze the picture. The only use I can find for this is making screen grabs on the computer, that is of course if you can view your receiver on your computer.
On the right of the 0 is a button marked recall, this takes you back to the last channel you viewed before the one you are now watching.
Below the Pause button lies the Menu button which I have already described in great detail. Across the other side after the "Up" arrow is a button marked Exit. This gets you out of the menu. Whilst in the menu, if you only want to go one stage back, then press menu, this defaults you to the last menu position.
The next row is the left and right arrows and in the middle is the OK button.
Below that are the TV Channel select and the Radio Channel select, between them is the down arrow.
The red button on the row below the TV radio select is the "Info" button. Pressing this whilst on an active channel reveals the Channel Name, and for some obscure reason the LNBs LO frequency? Why? Also displayed is the TOP frequency and its associated PIDs, Video, Audio, PCR (Clock) and teletext. The polarity, DiSEqC setting if used and whether the 22Khz tone was used or not.
Last but not least are two signal bars. The top one being named Signal Quality, the lower Being Signal Intense, no I have not spelt that wrongly at all, that is the way it is written. This is just one of the many spelling howlers throughout the menu.
Last but not least is the signal status, whether it is Locked or Unlock.
The Info page can be got rid of by pushing the Info again or the Exit button on the RCU.
Next to the Info button and to its right is a button marked audio When this is depressed there appears on screen the mode of audio in use. I noticed something odd here on the initial try out and again Pete Sivyer has come to my aid and points out the oddity here. To quote Pete........"Where alternative soundtracks are available, the menu indicates that you are successfully stepping through them. But the actual audio output does not change in sympathy. Left/Right audio selection on the main soundtrack does change correctly." Thanks for that Pete.
Last button on the line is marked FAV. This enables your constructed list of favourite programmes to be displayed with an insert of the channel appearing as you key through them. Good job this receiver for me is not motorised as I can envisage the dish dashing all over the place to supply the channel insert.
The bottom row consists of a Page - and a Page + button. this moves you rapidly through any lists that you have sorted, as well as the standard channel list.
Between the page buttons is a button marked PAL/NTSC. This does just as it says, switches the receiver between PAL and NTSC receiving modes. Unfortunately this does not function until some channels are downloaded, especially irritating for those with out multi standard TVs.
To control the volume of the receiver, you need to depress the mute button to apply mute, then depress mute again to release it, then the two side arrows on the RCU will control the volume of the receiver. This is of course until you carry out another function, then you need to do the double pressing bit again.
The remote is small and comfortable and can be used with just one hand.
The handbook, well one is tempted to ask "What Handbook". It contains very few descriptions of functions or facts about the receiver.
Just how many channels can be loaded?, how many transponders? What level of DiSEqC? and I could go on.
And finally no Electronic Programme Guide facility, could this be memory saving at the expense of a useless game?
To summarise, what is good and bad about the Satwork ST 3618 receiver...........
It searches a little faster than the Coship 3188C is about all that can be said is good. But is this at the expense of missing the SRs below 3700
What is bad about the receiver..................
It is truly awful comparing it with the bench mark Coship 3188C. But if it is your first foray into a truly auto search receiver you may be at first very easily impressed, until of course when you read this.
First thing to take into consideration is that this receiver is built for the US Market so the manual satellite load list is totally useless to us Europeans unless an edit facility is added.
With the Coship 3188C you could blind search all satellite positions.......with this one you cannot. You can only search an unnamed position with the blind scan facility. Now here is the problem, this blind scan facility cannot handle all the channels on the Hotbirds at 13 East, it gets to would you believe 600 Video and 400 Radio and then refuses to down load any more. If the receiver goes beyond the 1000 mixed channel type threshold (Radio & TV) it locks up solid. The only way out then is to use the mains off/on switch and then do a factory reset. losing everything you have found. Good Eh! I have another name for it which cannot be printed here.
The receiver finds the transponder first and then after finding those that it will, it goes through the throws of adding the channels, it is at the 1000 channel point it dumps out of channel find mode and back to the menu.
When I went to Turksat 1C at 42 East another problem reared its head, in that I had to do a Factory re-set after downloading Hotbird to make space available for blind scan, BUT worst of all, when carrying out a Blind Scan, it would only detect those channels with a Symbol Rate (SR) above 3700 bits. Not much good then for the feed hunting game where all kinds of SR appear well below this receivers SR threshold.
Another problem is, if like me you have a 4.2.2. facility within your computer and you have found with the Satwork a 4.2.2. channel functioning, DO NOT leave the Satwork on a 4.2.2 operating channel. For some reason the receiver tries to decode 4.2.2. and when you move off the 4.2.2. channel the receiver remains in the mode of trying to decode 4.2.2. instead of working at 4.2.0. consequently the only way to kick the receiver out of this trauma is to use the mains switch on the rear and re-boot the receiver.
On the box and in the Handbook it says it has the search parameters 2 to 45MBits. It certainly does not attain this on the Blind Scan facility.
There is a "Manual Scan" facility, but even this falls well short of the Coship 3188C, whereas with the Coship one can enter just the frequency and polarity, with this Satworks you need to also enter the SR as well. This is a massive retrograde step. However it will then handle the lower SR's.
This lack of finding the SR's below 3700Mbits during blind scan I feel makes the receiver fall short of what we call here in the U.K. "Merchantable Quality".
Talking about SR's, it has the exact same SR error as the RSD ODM series receivers, and that naturally follows on to the New Wave 9000 receivers. 6111 appears as 6117, 5632 as 5640, 27500 as 27531, 6666 as 6671 and so on.
The receiver also does not show FEC (Forward Error Correction), I must admit nor does the Coship 3188C.
The "Satellite Search" load section of the Menu is totally useless to the European theatre.
There are so many niggles with this receiver it would take a year to list them.
When switching on, the receiver defaults to NTSC (USA TV System), however with this receiver you can go into the menu and set PAL as your preference. I have yet to discover whether this is PAL I, or PAL G, or what ever through the RF.
A real niggle is that the receiver does not store your LNB preference, it defaults every time to the US system. Do a blind scan, move to another satellite and you need to re-set the LNB type or parameters.
When it is Blind Scan searching you cannot tell which polarity the receiver is searching nor do you know the frequency that it is up to. You also cannot rush it through those parts of a satellite that are not in use. All this is available on the Coship, why not on this receiver. This is a step backwards, where as we the consumer were fully expecting a step forward.
I will not go through the menu etc at this point in time, but suffice to say I am desperately unhappy with my purchase and am seriously thinking of returning these receivers for my money back as they do not meet the merchantable quality requirements of the EU, they also falls foul of the UK Trades description act.
This receiver desperately requires a serious re-hash of its facilities and software to be a contender or even saleable in Europe.
I can praise where praise is due, the Coship 3188C was well worthy of the praise that I gave it. This is an unmitigated disaster in every sense of the word and I would standby for the cancellation of many orders once the word is out.
I guess at this point in time I become public enemy number one. But I cannot and will not sully my reputation for honest reporting. Too many hardworking people part with their cash on my say so.
This is a definite "DON'T BUY" in its present form.
All I can say is that if the software for the Coship 3188C can be modified and set onto this receiver, it will sell and sell well.