PVR 2.0 (Sagem DTR67320T mini review)

27Oct09

Update (3 May 2010) – I’m getting increasingly sick of how often this machine fails to record things. Worse still I’ve even seen it say that it’s started to record something, but when I go to watch it there’s nothing in the list. Reliability is awful compared to when I first started using it. I’m also annoyed by its propensity to record things on C4+1 rather than C4 when doing series record.

and now back to the original script…

As an early adopter of the Pace Twin I’ve been using a Freeview PVR for as long as they’ve existed, and as I posted before, mine was pimped a little (with a 60GB drive) to improve on the stock spec. Sadly the recent Freeview channel shuffle seems to have brought it to the end of its useful life. Perhaps it’s just the poor signal quality from my communal aerial feed (though my other Freeview TV and boxes seem to cope), or maybe it’s just not up to snuff any more? Regardless of the cause, viewing and recording of many channels had become too much of a hit and miss affair. Time for a change, and some new gear.

I didn’t do my usual extensive research, just a quick dive into some end user reviews on a few online shopping sites. The Sagem seemed to come out less badly than some of the others, and was in stock for £129.99 at my local Argos (along with a £10 voucher offer) so I ventured out into the rain and bought one.

The big shock is that it has no UHF output. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise, as analogue TV is being progressively decommissioned, but one of the nice things about the Twin was being able to watch it on any TV in the house. I briefly considered buying a UHF modulator from Maplin to fix this omission, but in the end plumped for a jury rig arrangement with my ancient VCR (Scart in -> UHF out).

There are however some good things about the new box:

  • It can record on both tuners at once
    • and you can watch another recording at the same time
  • Series linking seems to work, even for those Saturday evening shows that jump around the schedule every week
  • The 320GB (~160hrs) drive is much bigger than the 60GB (~30hrs) that I had in the Twin, so I can leave the kids stuff on there
    • and it allows me to put stuff into sub-folders so there’s not too much clutter in the programme list
  • It has an ‘exportation’ feature that allows programmes to be copied onto FAT32 USB devices
    • and the exported files seem to be bog standard MPEG2 .ts files, no nasty encryption or silly file formats

There are also a few areas where I can see a need for improvement:

  • It can play mp3s off USB media (FAT32 only, though it seems to work but whine with regular old FAT), which is cool but:
    • You need to switch mode from media list to player if you want it to actually play successive tracks
    • It is supposed to be able to copy stuff from USB to the local HDD for more convenient access, but this is a totally unreliable process. I have given up on trying to copy my music library (16GB) onto it. It seems to struggle with a single album’s worth of files, never mind a few hundred.
  • The favourites lists are not all that easy to edit, and the split between TV and Radio can also be confusing (it seemed to me initially that I had to choose TV or Radio, but in fact you can have both in a favourites list).
  • The UI/remote control combination can seem a little sluggish at times.
  • The skip forward function (achieved by pressing >|) skips 5mins. UK ad breaks tend to be 4mins, so the function becomes pretty useless, as you either have to miss or rewind a minute. The 1min skip on the Twin was fine, and the 30s skip on my Panasonic box is OK (though 8 button presses per ad break is a bore). C’mon guys, either make this configurable, or make the default fit for purpose.

It would of course be killer if:

  • I could use it to replace my streaming media player (a Kiss DP-600), which would involve:
    • Having an Ethernet port and UPNP support
      • Better still if you could do ‘exportation’ over the LAN
    • The ability to play DivX (HD)
  • If the media player stuff actually worked then a directory sync tool would be handy for managing large libraries.

Overall though I’m finding it hard to complain given the price, and the fact that it hasn’t failed in any meaningful way (yet – fingers crossed). Even if it does end up missing a recording, then that doesn’t seem too much of a big deal these days. I wonder how much longer it will be before the whole concept of a PVR becomes redundant, and we just have a local cache of the media library in the sky (for those times when it just doesn’t make sense to drag those bits across the internet)?



9 Responses to “PVR 2.0 (Sagem DTR67320T mini review)”

  1. 1 Mike Smith

    Thank you for the useful review. I am thinking of getting one but was wondering how loud it is when in use. An Argos reviewer said it is a bit noisy.

    • 2 Chris Swan

      Mine isn’t at all loud. There’s an occasional tick from the hard disk as it spins up, but that’s all I’ve ever noticed. It certainly doesn’t suffer from persistent fan noise or anything bad like that.

  2. 3 Mike Smith

    Cheers for that Chris – I think I’ll get one.

  3. 4 James Santos

    Hi Chris,
    We’ve got an older Sagem PVR in the house, and the one thing that’s always annoyed me is that if I want to look through the guide, it automatically changes the TV channel to whatever channel the guide is on… does this model still do that?
    Cheers,
    James.

    • 5 Chris Swan

      James,

      No, the guide lets you flick through what’s available on all channels for the next 7 days whilst watching your chosen channel in the top left corner (or you have the option to have more channels listed and no picture, just sound). You can also ‘zap’ a channel in the guide if you want to start watching it, but this feature doesn’t exit the guide itself, so you can keep browsing.

  4. I’ve got one of these – good pvr and much quieter than my old toppy

  5. 7 Steve

    Just bought one of these at Asda – they’re on offer for £97 which is a bargain (particularly as they’ve got the 250Gb model next to them at £125!)

    I can hear the disc drive but only if the TV is off so that’s not really a problem.

    Very pleased with the way series link seems to work so far (doesn’t pick up the multiple showings of programmes on some channels)

    Export to USB is terribly slow which is a real pain. I have an Archos media player and I want to be able to copy programmes on to that so I can watch them out of the house. If I can only export one at a time and it’s going to take 15 minutes to do each programme then it’s going to be pretty painful.

  6. 8 John Mullin

    Hi Chris

    I’ve had one of these Sagems for about 6 months or so and my experience is pretty much the same as yours. I’m fairly impressed with the unit but it seems to be missing recordings at an increasingly common rate.

    Googling doesn’t throw up many similar complaints apart from your blog so I’m wondering if it’s a faulty batch. I’ve also been told that the broadcasting stations may be at fault if they don’t broadcast the programme’s unique ID tag. This may have some truth in it as my sister in law has a Sky+ box that misses some recordings as well.

    The other issues such as noisy HDD when starting up and USB import/ export problems are apparent but aren’t my main concern.

    I get serious ‘earache’ when the soaps aren’t recorded so I’m considering returning this unit if the problem persists.

    NOTE
    I think it’s fair to say that the unit doesn’t miss a beat when in standby. My wife normally has a pretty heavy recording schedule loaded when we go on holidays and there’s never anything missing when we get back.

    John


  1. 1 Video distribution at home « Chris Swan's Weblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: