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Home>Reviews and Tests>Arion 1000SA


Arion 1000SA

Arion 1000SA is a new FTA satellite receiver of well-known Korean manufacturer. In spite of very affordable price it shows many features that are common to higher-priced boxes.

At a first glance

Given: FTA satellite receiver of lowest price tag. Carries on composite video/stereo audio and RF jacks. No SCART or digital audio output available.

What"s included

After unpacking you will find an usual set: receiver, user's manual, remote and two AAA batteries. Packaging is very small. It has size and shape of a motherboard box.

Receiver case is very small too (300x213x37mm). It has bronze coloring and carries two groups of vent holes on top. Manufacturer announces operation in temperature range up to +50C (122F), so you can place the receiver even in wall niches and closets. This is a huge advantage. It is well known that in warm summers users of some top-branded receivers experience overheating problems.

Front side

Arion-1000SA

Front panel carries green four-digit display and only three buttons - power switch and channel selectors. When receiver is in stand-by mode display shows current time.

Rear side

Rear panel carries two F-connectors for LNB-in and loop-through, 3 RCA jacks for composite video and stereo audio, RF input and output jacks, DB-9 male RS-232 port, and programmable 0/12V output.

Arion-1000SA Back

Power supply

Universal pulse-type power supply supports mains of 90-240V, 50/60Hz AC. We think all contemporary power supplies has to be the same. In addition to safety considerations it allows to reduce total device weight. Lower the weight lower the price of postal shipment.

Remote control

Remote control is well shaped and has a special groove for forefinger. Rubber buttons are nice to touch and to press. Page navigation buttons are placed far from cursor movement buttons, which isn"t convenient during customization (here and after you can click images to enlarge).

Remote Control Unit

User's manual

A perfectly printed user's manual is enclosed in the shipment of the receiver. All images are perfectly done and easy to read. We have found only one misprint. On the page 7 author suggests to connect aerial to RF-out: "RF-OUT: Connect the terrestrial antenna", which is not you have to do. All the rest is correct and easy to understand. We have to stress out presence of detailed specifications, glossary, and menu map.

Software

This receiver has very attractive software. It seems that Aston has established a new standard for software design and Arion"s software is on the level. At the first glance you find it beautiful. After having browsed the menu for a while you will find it easy to use. Software design is very user-centric, contrary to common developer-centric approach. So let"s go inside step by step.

First power-up

When you plug in the device for the first time you will see Arion"s logo screen. After that receiver enters initial setup mode. First step is selection of languages for menu and audio. You can select between English, Arabic, Russian, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Turkish, Hebrew, Dutch, Greek, and Danish for menu. There is no limitations besides the DVB standard for audio language.

Menu: Setup Language

Having finished with language selection you press Ok to confirm ... Oops, no reaction. Second try - absolutely nothing happens. In distress you stare at the screen and see mention "Exit (Previous)". You press Exit having slightly bad feeling because there is no previous screen at all! Yahoo! Finally it works and you find yourself on the next screen - UHF control.

Here you can choose TV channel and kind of PAL to be used for RF output. Do you feel yourself a brave one ? Press Exit (Previous) button and you will go ... forward, not back. Next step is satellite selection.

Menu: Edit Satellite

There is 137 positions in alphabet-order satellite list. Title of the screen says "Edit satellite" but you do not have to really edit them. The receiver contains sufficiently complete satellite database so you have only to select satellites that you are able to receive. You are in distress again ? You have used buttons Add and Delete but they add and delete satellites to database, not to favorite list ? Well, we have to admit that at this point we have looked into the manual. All you need is to simply press Ok to select satellites.

Our peculiarity is to insist on the clear logic of user interface. We think that a home device, which even specialist cannot use without manual, is dangerous. This receiver is generally well designed. Evidently software developers have forgotten to implement initial setup procedures and reused existing dialogues when discovered that the thing is missing.

Do you find us too exigent ? Perhaps you are right, because you do not need to reconfigure your receive every day. However, often the first impression is the key. So skilled professional is preferred when installing this set-top box at home.

There is another one nuisance that is common to many devices. When you press the Exit key receiver hangs for 1-2 seconds before changing the screens. Sometimes you press the key again to hurry this up (there are bad contacts everywhere around us, isn"t it ?) and you find yourself jumped one screen too far. It is a good idea to show something in reaction to Exit like "Saving ..." message is shown in reaction to Ok button in some menus.

When all favorite satellites are selected you press Exit and get in Antenna Setting screen. This stage is very clear and easy to complete. You have to specify LNB type, DiSEqC switch port or positioner settings for every selected satellite. In addition you can manually control 0/12V output and 22kHz tone signal. The procedure is fast and straightforward.

Menu: Setup Antenna

We want to focus on DiSEqC-positioner control. For the first time this function was designed by people who really know how the dish is tuned ! You can specify variable number of steps for every position when variable step size can be specified in either pulses or seconds. You can even specify parameters of test transponder used to measure signal strength. This allows for fast scanning of orbital positions in order to estimate reception quality. Fast recalculation of positions is available too. In other words this is one of the most convenient implementations of DiSEqC positioner control center we have ever seen. You can note the lack of autofocus and automated satellite search functions. But remember the price tag of the device!

Menu: Motor Settings

Channel search

When you have completed configuration of dishes you get in channel search screen. You can choose between fast (scan transponders from database only) and slow (scan all frequencies) search modes. Unfortunately you cannot specify multiple satellites to scan. This is not convenient for positioner or switch owners. On the other hand every satellite has its own list of possible symbol rates (SR) to reduce the time of slow search.

Menu: Auto Search

Having done with channels you get in time setting screen. Arion 1000SA is plenty of features for its price range. Time-related functions are at the level too. You get clock and on/off timers. Great, but how to change time ? Field with current time is disabled and you cannot get in. Finally we realized that menu-lock mode is on, which disables some menu options.

Consequently we have to remove menu-lock in order to change time. Let"s try ... Surprise ! It is password protected. Do you know the password ? Manual"s author wasn"t informed at the time of writing too - no mention of default password in manual. Only great experience helps and magic "0000" key works. After that we have successfully changed the time.

We have to mention here that we"ve inspected pre-production sample of the box. So we expect the manufacturer to remove this unneeded lock or at least to mention default password in the manual.

At this point we have successfully finished with initial setup. Now lets explore the menu.

Menu

Main Menu

Menu is a strong side of the receiver. It has only three levels and is easy to navigate. Its design is very convenient; both first and second level are on the same page. Main menu is horizontal and placed in bottom half of the screen while second level menus are vertical and appear above it.

Main menu has four items: Search (channel search), Edit (editing of satellites, channels, and transponders), Setup (various customization settings), and Tools (service functions and games). When you navigate main menu using left/right arrow buttons corresponding sup-menus appear above.

Below you will find a copy of menu map taken from user's manual. First column shows main menu items, second column shows items of sub-menus, and third column shows third-level dialogues.

Menu Map

Using the receiver

The receiver is very easy to use. All features you really need are here at your fingertips. When you switch channels or press "Info" button a kind of commode appears at the bottom of the screen. On the shelves you find various info about channel, current and next events, and so on.

OSD: Infobar

There is special function that enables you to browse current events on all channels. When you select a channel you see what"s on and current event is described in special window. The window includes both title and description (if available). From there you can jump to the schedule window for selected channel in order to examine the future lineup.

OSD: Infobar

Arion 1000SA offers you four modes of 16:9 to 3:4 transformation. These are Letter Box (image is reduced and padded with black stripes), Pan and Scan (image height isn"t changed and image"s left and right parts are cut off), Combined (a combination of both), and Ignore (distortion).

We have loved how favorite lists are done. You can create as many channel groups as you wish with unlimited group size. During satellite scan the box creates one group per satellite but you can reorganize the groups at your will. When browsing a channel group you can select between different sorting criteria.

OSD: Groups

To finish with the software we have to mention nice features that help to enjoy the life. For example at the right of signal strength gauge you find a smiley, which change its face"s mood according to reception quality. That"s fine. In addition you can select transparency level for menus and one of four different background images: Summer, Winter, Autumn, and Spring (Cf. below, left to right).

Summer Winter Autumn Spring

In addition to satellite receiver you get two free games packed in the box. First one, the Blockout is generally known as Arcanoid and differs significantly from what we have expected. Second one, the Tetris, is fine.

Inside

This chapter is here mostly for people, who either repairs satellite receivers or is electronics hobbyist. It has nothing with the use of the receiver, so you can simply skip it.

When a technically inclined kid gets a new toy, he will play with it. But not a long time after he starts feeling a great desire to take it apart and look what"s inside. We do not wish to hide it from you, we"ve got the same desire. We"ve taken a screwdriver and started to make frightening passes with a hammer. We have to advert to the fact that we made it to free you from the similar desire. When you open the receiver case you loose the warranty. Please don"t try this at home - we"ve made our best to supply you with most detailed view of the receiver"s hardware. :)

It seems that our passes with hammer were frightening enough as receiver was taken apart easily. We had to unscrew only 7 screws. There were no hidden locks and the cover was easily removed.

Arion 1000SA Inside

As it has to be, a low-priced box does not contain many components inside. We have presented below all information that we have found about used components.

Processor STi 5518BVB (OMEGA)

STi 5518

STi 5518 is another OMEGA-family chip by ST Microelectronics. It contains 60 MHz RISC CPU (using ST20 architecture), transport demultiplexor, descrambler, decoders for video and audio, and all the peripherals, which are needed to build a digital satellite receiver.

The interesting features of the chip include CSS decoder; ATAPI interface, which enables DVD drive or HDD connectivity; Dolby Digital decoder (the chip carries six full-fledged audio outputs); MP3 decoder; and two digital TV standards (DVB and DirecTV) support (decryptors for CSA and DSS included). STi5518 is virtually suitable for an implementation of digital combine "DVD-receiver-PVR", which is for a long time waited by satellite TV enthusiasts.

As usually all the technical docs for such a chip aren't publicly available. It is very difficult to find something about it in the Net. However we have found some flow-chart level descriptions of this highly interesting chip.

Flash memory M29W160DT

Ordinary 3.3V flash-memory chip by ST Microelectronics with 2Mx8 or 1Mx16 structure. You can find the detailed datasheet here.

RAM Hynix HY57V641620HG

64MBit 3.3V SDRAM with 4x1x16 structure. You can find the detailed datasheet here.

Tuner LG DBS ENG SPL TDQG-S001F

Manufactured by LG Innotek. Manufacturer"s site contains descriptions only for similar models TDQB and TDQC. However it isn"t clear what"s the difference between them.

RF-modulator Samsung RMUP74055WD

Manufactured by Samsung Electro-Mechanics. Works on channels between 21 and 60. Voltage 5V. TV systems used - G, I, K, NTSC M. Specifications are here.

LNB power supply ST LNBP20PD

LNB power supply and controller. We have to mention that this is most heavy-duty version of the device. It's good. Detailed specifications are here.

Other chips

In addition you can find here a ST232C RS-232C driver, a IL358D twin operational amplifier, a WM8725 stereo DAC, a 74HC164 shift register, a KA78R05 chip to reduce 5.8V to 5V (?), and a 7812 chip.

Power supply SDT Top Power SA-5040IR1CE

Gives output voltages of 3.3V, 5.8V, 23V, 17V, 30V and has a T2AL250V fuse (it's good!). We have found no specifications for it.

Miscellaneous

The device is accurately mounted up and carefully soldered. You will have no problem when replacing components. They are all easily accessible. Another pleasant fact is that there is no ASICs here and all chips can be easily bought.

Another interesting thing is the presence of Reset switch, SL-SW1 (Boot mode-ROM card mode) switch, and J2 (JTAG port) and FJP1 (Flash card) connectors.

JTAG Port is very interesting. It allows for debugging of the receiver"s CPU using external IEEE 1149.1-compatible debugger. The port allows to read and to write to memory (even flash), place breakpoints, execute subroutines, and many others. You can find in the Internet many programs that are able to command ST20-compatible devices (including STi5518) through this port. In the case of repair you will enjoy the possibility to restore flash-memory when loader is broken.

Next we'll tell you about FJP1 and SL-SW1. It seems that you can connect external flash memory to the connector and select between external and internal memory using the switch. We see no usage for the feature in repair practice.

Probably all these features were used at software development stage and are present only on pre-production samples. It is possible that they will not be on production receivers (lets remember Samsung 9500 with compound on JTAG port). However its good idea to have a Reset switch available.

The receiver case has polystyrene cover combined with front panel. This solution reduces weight and price of the box. However this plastic is easy to scratch and to deform with heat. You have to avoid placing hot or sharp things on the receiver.

Sensitivity and quality of picture and sound

Reception

Many people tend to use signal strength (or reception quality) for given transponder in percents, which is shown by receiver on the screen, as sensitivity measure. We think this technique gives results that aren't adequate as we have no idea how these values are calculated. Moreover it is not clear how to compare values for amplifiers of different design. From our experience we know that signal showing 90% on one receiver can show 50% on the other.

One method that gives objective results is measuring BER (bit error rate) value, calculated by FEC module. Rate of errors, which aren't corrected by FEC module, affects directly number of distortions of video and audio per unit of time. Greater the BER worse the quality. Thus comparing BER values shown by different receivers on the same signal one can objectively compare amplifier quality and sensitivity of these receivers.

Unfortunately no one receiver known to us with the only exception of SkyStar1 shows exact BER value. Reception quality gauge, which accompanies sometimes signal strength gauge, cannot be used because of calibration problem described above. This means that there is only indirect technique of measuring BER by visually estimating picture quality (i.e. by counting number of distortions per unit of time) on the selected weak transponder.

We have chosen as the reference points for Arion 1000SA two low end models of well-known manufacturers: SatCruiser DSR 101 ACE and Aston Simba 202VA. The measurement was done in Moscow using offset dish 240x270cm, LNB Euston Premium 0.5dB. Hotbird"s Superbeam was chosen as provider of weak signal.

We"ve got a surprise ! Arion 1000SA have shown good sensitivity. However it declines to scan transponders with high BER. This means that receiver show the channel in the list only if it can receive the channel with no errors. We have to mention that it receives without errors all the transponders that Simba and SatCruiser do, which stands for good quality of the tuner. But when other receivers show distorted picture Arion declines to scan this transponder for channels. Perhaps such a noncompromise (no picture other than ideal) approach can exists, but we cannot agree with it. At least you still have the possibility to enter channel data manually.

Picture quality

It is well known that there is two factors affecting the picture quality. First is the quality of MPEG-2 decoding by digital decoder. Second is the quality of signal formation by output circuits. Evidently only MPEG-2 decoder model (STi5518 in the case) affects quality of MPEG-2 decoding. We are willing to compare different MPEG-2 decoder in separate article. Here we can mention only that we have found no flaws in decoding result.

That is not the same for resulting picture quality. We have not expected high-quality picture to be given by a receiver with only composite video output. All the drawbacks of composite video signal as parasite mixing of Chrominance and Luminance signals are here. There are weak overshooting and oscillations too. When high-quality cable is used noise is barely visible.

In conclusion we have to state that picture quality is convenient when receiver is connected to TV sets with 14" to 21" tube, which are usually intended to be used with receivers of this price range. If you have large TV perhaps you will opt for higher-priced variant of the receiver bearing SCART connector.

Sound quality

Receiver has stereo output. "Mute" button is used to completely shut it off. In addition you can select from menu which audio channel (left, right or both) you want to hear. There is virtually no digital noise and separation of stereo channels is good, which stand for good design and high manufacturing quality of output circuits. It seem that sound quality largely exceeds the level of amplifiers and speakers, which will be connected to the receiver by most owners.

PC Software and Technical support

The manufacturer has a nice site in English. You can find here even a forum. However you will find to technical support here. Manufacturer do not contact with end-users and suggests to contact local dealers. In the case of OEM manufacturer this is acceptable. However when you examine the packaging and the manual you find only address of the manufacturer"s site. Therefore it's good idea to open there some topics of general technical support.

We were interested mostly in software update programs and PC software for channel list editing. All these were found on the sites of Arion Technology dealers.

Ariter - PC software for channel list editing

This software allows for downloading, computer-aided editing, and uploading of channel, favorite channel, satellite, and transponder lists.

Ariter

The software is downloadable from here (792 kb)

Arioner - PC software to upgrade receiver"s software

This PC program allows for uploading of new versions receiver"s software to receiver. We had not possibility to verify how it works simply because there was no newer versions of receiver"s software.

Arioner

The software is downloadable from here (216 kb)

Conclusion

In our opinion ARION 1000SA is one of the best and easy to use FTA receivers. Its support of different languages in both menu and EPG (electronic program guide) makes it a reasonable buy for every people who want to watch satellite channels broadcasted in clear.

Advantages of the receiver include menus of exceptional quality, ease and convenience of the use, along with small size, energy consumption, and heating.

We have to mention also the following drawbacks: no automatic scan of weak transponders and plastic used for receiver cover.

Specifications

Receiver typeDVB, FTA
LNB connectorF-Female, IEC 169-24
Frequency range950-2150 MHz
Impedance75 Ohm
Sensitivity-60..-30 dBm
LNB power supply500mA max.
LNB control13/18V, 22 kHz, DiSEqC 1.0, 1.2
ProcessorSTi5518
SR range1..45 Msps/s
MPEG streamMPEG-2 MP@ML, 60MBits/s max
Resolution720x576 (PAL), 720x480 (NTSC)
Viewing area formats3:4, 16:9
SoundMPEG Layer I & II
Video outputRCA
Audio output2xRCA (stereo)
RF-modulationPAL/NTSC
MainsSMPS, 90-260V, 50/60 Hz, 35 W
Operation temperature range+5..+50C
Dimensions300x213x37
Weight1.2 kg

Alexander Ponomarenko shura@satmania.com
English translation by Oleg Assovski

Posted by: shura
29.09.2002

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