When I first got into Free to Air, the first real receiver I got was a Pansat 1500 and I really liked it. So when I decided to review the new 2005 model, the Pansat 3500, I thought “what is this thing going to do to wow me?”. Boy was I in for a shock.
The Pansat 3500 is an upgrade from the popular 2500, with a lot more options. The unit is a little bigger than the 1500. The first thing I noticed is there is more than 2 or 3 buttons on the front panel. There is channel up & down, volume up & down, the power and a menu, exit & OK button. So if you lose the remote, you can still use the unit and get into the menus. This is a big plus. On the back of the unit, there is a satellite input and a loop out, RF in and out, S-Video, RS232 port, a UHF plug, SPDIF output for AC-3 audio (you need a receiver to decode it), plugs for a C-Band polarizer and a set of audio/video outputs and component outputs. So If you have a big screen that has component outputs, you can use those.
I unplugged the receiver I was using and hooked up the 3500. Since I had worked with a Pansat before, I knew how to operate it. But even a newbie will find it easy to operate. Select the language and away you go. Setup is a breeze. Go into installation (type in password, which is 0000) and enter the info of your setup. I went to IA6, which sadly still is labeled T6, and went to change the LNB stuff. Since I had a standard, the LNB type and LO frequency was right. Changed a couple parameters (Diseqc) and set up my motor. Since I was on true south, I was already there. Stored that and backed out to the second screen. Since the unit has a smart scan, I let the unit do the work. I went through and selected the satellite and what I wanted to store (FTA only or everything). On the 1500, my options for polarity always defaulted to Horizontal, so I would have to switch it to ALL. The 3500 already is at ALL, but as you can see in the picture, I goofed and changed it to Vertical...whoops. Switched it to All and hit OK and the unit was off to scanning. Now let me tell you, this thing is FAST, much faster than the 1500. In less than 5 minutes I had channels. I went in and set up for G3 and did the same thing. Again, this is very easy to set up. Since the transponder was already in there for G3, I didn’t do a blind scan.
I decided to really put this to the test. I got Nimiq1 lined up and did a blind scan. Now, anyone with a Pansat knows of the dreaded “Pansat issue” where when you scan a Dish Network satellite, you get 13 dummy channels per transponder. So if you want the audio on 119, you have 400+ dummy channels to delete. While ExpressVu isn’t as bad as Dish, there still is 150 channels to delete. So I figured “well here we go”. Much to my surprise (and happiness), this unit DOES NOT HAVE THE PANSAT ISSUE!!! If you see the pictures below, there was only 15 channels on ExpressVu that popped up. This is great for people who want to scan to see what is free, without the worry of deleting hundreds of channels. I tested out the USALS function and it is dead on. When I did scan one of the satellites, I picked up a HD signal. When it landed on it, I thought I would have to reset it like the 1500 (the 1500 locks up and you lose the menu until you power off). I was very happy this didnt do that. After a half hour of monkeying around with it, I went back to IA6 and did a master reset so I could enter everything right.
I went to G10 and scanned in the channels and scanned them. I came across Imagin-Asian and the no audio, because of AC-3. So I decided to hook up the receiver I bought 9 months ago (and really never took it out because none of my receivers did AC-3). I hooked up the decoder to the unit and audio came out of the decoder. I now have AC-3...I can listen to the PBS stations now. This is a huge feature for me. When you are on a channel, press info to see the satellite and PID info. There is an EPG, but sadly most US channels don’t have a guide. It did work on the ExpressVu channels. Deleting channels was very easy to do, along with moving and renaming channels. You can even see a list of all tranponders at a glance with easy edit option. Another thing I noticed is the signal meter isn't as spazmatic as the 1500 is, which is good if you dont use a meter when aiming a dish
The universal remote is very easy to use and the button layout is very well done. You also have an option of adding a UHF remote to the unit, so you can hook a second TV and control it from another room. This is an option I will be getting. The unit has a card slot for a subscription, like Globecast. There also is a MP3 player built in to the unit. All you need to do is put your card from the MP3 player into the unit and it recognizes it. There is a real time clock in it, so it actually keeps time. I did set a couple timers and they fired off with no issues. The nuit powers on and moves to the satellite if it isnt there already (so if you have to do this, you might want to start it a minute early). This unit does it all (and the manual is actually easy to understand)
Some of the features of the unit are
-smart scan (very fast smart scan)
-multi language on screen display
-fast channel change
-AC-3 output (need a receiver to decode it)
-REAL TIME CLOCK
-Picture in Guide
-5 favourties lists
-easy edit of channel names
-can sort the channels by transponder, alphabetical
-easy to move & delete channels
-manual PID entry
-satellite scan, network scan, advanced scan
-can use a motor and switches in tandem
-easy to upgrade software
-pause the picture
-you can list and edit tranpsonders
-can add a UHF remote
-has an option to use a card for Globecast or other subscription
-MP3 player (need a card)
My favorite things about the unit are
-speedy smart scan...I don’t have to wait 10 minutes to scan a satellite
-the clock actually works. I hate on the 1500 to set the clock right, only to have it an hour off in a day or so
-I can scan a DBS satellite without deleting 400 channels.
-AC-3 output so I can listen to the PBS channels.
The only flaws I found are
-When I was scanning IA6, the unit seemed to get stuck on one frequency it picked up, It was trying to pick up something on that transponder for about 2 minutes before it gave up.
-This really only pertains to me but where I wanted to put it, the remote sensor wouldn’t pick up the remote. The 1500 does pick it up, so I moved it to another area and it worked fine.
Since I had worked with a Pansat before, I didnt know what to expect. I am very happy with this unit. All and all, this is an awesome unit as an upgrade (in my case) or as a first unit. On a 1-10 scale, I give this a 10. Other than the one delay when scanning (and my personal issue with the remote), I can’t find a reason not to buy it. This is a great unit and you will be happy. I highly suggest this unit.
Once again, I want to give a big shout out to ftadirect, now one of our Gold sponsors. They are a top notch operation and you will be happy with the service.
(warning to dial up's...big pictures)