PVR 2.0 (Sagem DTR67320T mini review)
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)
- Having an Ethernet port and UPNP support
- 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)?
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Tags: dtr67320t, freeview, pace twin, PVR, sagem