Showing posts with label pvr. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pvr. Show all posts

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Sony PlayTV review

Sony's long-awaited Freeview dual-tuner adapter add-on has arrived in the somewhat functional form of the PlayStation-branded PlayTV! Will it transform the PS3 into a credible personal video recorder (PVR)?

The PlayTV pack-in includes a Blu-ray installation disc and mini USB cable! Be warned: PlayTV has no loop-through and there's no aerial splitter, a serious oversight! As my PS3 is conveniently placed near the sky+ box, I connected PlayTV directly into the RF2 output, which proved a useful workaround! I'd recommend using a high quality coaxial cable, to minimise signal loss, such as Profigold's BA-PGV8921!

Installation is a breeze and, following a system reboot, PlayTV is immediately accessible from the PS3's XMB! The GUI is intuitive and responsive with a luxurious 7-day electronic programme guide (EPG) that compares favourably with Apple TV and eclipses current offerings from sky and Virgin!

Scheduling recordings, with either the SIXAXIS controller or, more preferably, Sony Blu-ray remote, is the epitome of simplicity! I'd like to have seen a series link option and the ability to record two channels at once, but Sony assures customers that PlayTV will be continuously updated via PSN (a broadband connection is required)!

Background recordings can be performed whilst watching Blu-ray discs such as Wall-E or playing video games! However, there is a caveat. The quality of recordings maybe adversely affected according to Sony! During gameplay tests (using Devil May Cry 4 and Soul Calibur IV amongst others) I've yet to note any detriment to playback.

The overall quality of recordings is excellent (contingent on compression and signal strength) and is upscaled to 1080p (if your television supports the resolution)! Incidentally, native 1080i support for Freeview HD will be added in the future.

Bear in mind that 1GB of HDD space roughly equates to an hour of recording time and there's no means to adjust the bit rate to trade-off picture quality against recording duration! Therefore the PS3 40GB model won't pass muster if you're going away for weeks at a time and recording every episode of EastEnders and Neighbours.

With disk space at a premium, I'd suggest going for the 80GB model or higher! Sony promises a limited edition 160GB model for the upcoming holiday season!

Going forward, the engineers at Sony Cambridge should consider picture-in-picture (PiP) and conditional access for subscription-based services such as Setanta Sports!

As it currently stands, PlayTV is an absolute "must-have" for anyone with a PS3 and PSP! I cancelled my sky+ subscription and PlayTV trumps it in almost every regard! Look no further for a scalable multimedia PVR that can be accessed (via PSP) from anywhere in the world!

PlayTV crashes with alarming alacrity! Worst of all, it's a hard lock that necessitates a reboot of the PS3, stopping any ongoing recordings until the power's back on. Hopefully Sony will push a PSN patch ASAP!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Previewing PlayTV

Sony launches its much delayed and maligned PlayTV Freeview tuner add-on for the PS3 on September 19th!

At the beginning of August I cancelled my sky+ subscription, following unresolvable technical issues, and am in the market for an inexpensive HDD PVR!

PlayTV plugs directly into the PS3 via USB (no additional power supply required) and is a space saving solution: it is no larger than a SIXAXIS controller.

The following key features of PlayTV are yet to be confirmed:

* Record and view your favourite programmes at the same time - PlayTV enables you to record both Standard Definition as well as High Definition

* Personal Video Recorder functionality - watch live TV, pause, fast forward and rewind

* Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) to show what's on, now and next - up to 7 days in advance in certain countries

* Mobile TV functionality - export content easily from PS3 HDD to PSP - watch TV on the go! Thanks to live streaming, you can watch your favourite show whilst abroad

* Channel surf with either your BD remote or your SIXAXIS

PlayTV is available for pre-order from at the very reasonable price of £59.99! I'll be reviewing PlayTV soon!

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Sky Non Plus

For the last month I've had a persistent problem with sky+, which appears to be well documented on Digital Spy!

Input 2 kept cutting out (irrespective of weather conditions and the south facing satellite dish has a clear line of sight), which resulted in innumerable failed recordings! I swapped over the cables and input 1 stopped working! So, clearly this was not a fault with the excellent Pace PVR3 box!

After playing telephone ping pong with sky customer services, and threatening to cancel my subscription (for the umpteenth time), sky arranged for a contractor to visit gratis! He replaced my working Pace PVR3 with a brand new Thomson PVR3!

I can now record two channels, but switching from standby the internal HDD boots up 'twice' and the 'technical fault' banner disappears following the second disc spin up! The Thomson also runs quite warm and noisily! All said, it beats paying out a £100 call out charge doesn't it?

Thursday, 12 January 2006

May The "Frak" Be With You!

Tuesday heralded the feted return of Battlestar Galactica on sky one (UK commercial television channel ultimately owned by News International). Season Two's opening episode Scattered proffers a breathless and stomach-churning dramatic pace that lends verisimilitude to the story.

This is televisions equivalent of The Empire Strikes or The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Commander Adama is dying, Starbuck and Helo are trapped on Cylon-occupied Caprica and Baltar's shipwrecked on Kobol. The relentless Cylon force is in hot pursuit and engages the Galactica in an epic dogfight. A solitary Cylon centurion troop transport reaches the Galactica and its passengers disembark. To be continued...

I'd recorded the show on my Pace PVR and lamented the fact that sky has yet to add an optional audio commentary option. Come on sky, as a content author with a modicum of technological savvy, I know how easy this would be to add, especially given the increased bandwidth available in third generation hardware. For the moment I'll continue to subscribe to Ronald D. Moore's podcasts via iTunes.

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Deck the Halls

With the holidays now upon us, regular postings will most likely dry up! Therefore I wanted to wish you all a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and a Festive Festivus.

UK readers don't forget to set your VCR, DVD-R and PVR to record Doctor Who. The Christmas Invasion starts at 7:00PM on BBC1 Christmas Day. David Tennant looks set to eclipse even the brilliance of Christopher Eccleston.

Thank you for reading and please stay tuned via RSS for more pop culture goodness in 2006.

Monday, 7 November 2005

Fire In The Sky

This year's Bonfire Night passed without incident. Unlike 1985 when a high school friend ignited a rocket in my parents kitchen and burned a hole in the carpet (luckily for him we were moving to a new property).

Here's an in-depth look at the new Pace TDS470N.

*VCR A/V SCART – VCR Scart for connection to Video Recorder.
*TV A/V SCART – Provides either composite or RGB and composite video output. Audio volume can also be controlled in software.
*Analogue Audio Outputs – An important addition for users wishing to integrate the set-top box into their home audio system. Volume can be adjusted or muted under software control.
*S-Video Connector – For high quality video connection.
*UHF Modulator – For connection to main TV and optional connection to second TV.
*RS232 – Serial port connector for service and factory use only.
*USB 2.0 – For connection to an array of multi-media devices (iPod and PSP).
*SPDIF – For connection to home Dolby Digital amplifier.
*RF Input – Twin IF inputs to connect to dual LNB at dish.
*RJ11 – For telephone line connection.
*AC Input – For mains power supply.

3rd Generation
The TDS470N is a third generation personal video recorder (PVR) currently deployed by BSkyB in the UK.

Main processor speed runs at 166MHZ.
Internal hard disk drive (possible option to upgrade HDD size).
High speed data port for future connectivity upgrades.

PVR Features
Twin Tuners – The TDS470N’s twin digital tuners allow the user to:

*Watch one digital channel whilst recording another.
*Pause live TV – Pause a live programme.
*Archive favourite programmes on to VCR.
*Dual Record - Record two programmes simultaneously while watching a programme from disk.

The TDS470N’s Time Shift and Video Recorder functionality allows the user to:

*Store 40-80 hours of programmes (depending on bit rate and set up).
*Use VCR style facilities (FFWD/RWD/Stop/Pause).

Assuming that your satellite dish is installed and correctly aligned. Self installation is a breeze. Before starting I'd recommend switching the mains power off. Interconnect quality is important and I used Monster and IXOS SCART and Toslink cables. Once you've completed this step. Insert your viewing card and turn mains power on. Leave in standby for at least 60 seconds. Switch on and leave it for another 60 seconds. This gives the software time to settle and download channel listings.

The Pace TDS470N shipped with EPG version 1.28d (latest version is 1.30q) and is missing new, but non-essential features (the new PIN restrictions are a nuisance). Go into the menu, system settings and configure the following (not defaults):

Picture > RGB SCART (for a suitably equipped television)

Sound > Dolby D (for a suitably equipped receiver)

Foregoing callback (accessed via 'secret menu' Installer Setup - 4 0 1 Select > New Installation), call customer care to match your viewing card (you will need to go into Service > System Setup > System Details). And that's it! Really, really simple.

Yesterday evening I watched this on sky+! With the exception of Star Trek: Nemesis all scheduled recordings in the sky+ Planner were successful.

Sunday, 9 October 2005

Geometric Gaming

The GameCube has clocked up a few miles in its first week. An interesting fact for anyone who maybe mulling over a purchase and requires Digital A/V support. The following is an extract taken from Nintendo's support pages:

The Digital A/V Output port was removed from systems produced after May, 2004 (these systems will have a model number of DOL-101). If you have a Nintendo GameCube without this port, and you wish to play your games in progressive scan, you may be able to obtain a system that was made prior to the removal of the Digital A/V Output port. Please call our Consumer Service department at 1-800-255-3700 to discuss available options.

Additional Information:

Why have you removed the component video feature from the Nintendo GameCube?
On newer models of the Nintendo GameCube, we opted to remove the Digital A/V out port from the system because we found that less than one percent of all Nintendo GameCube players used this feature.

Will future Nintendo GameCube games continue to have the progressive scan feature?
About one-third of licensee-published titles and over 90% of Nintendo-published titles currently have the progressive scan feature. We expect that most Nintendo-published titles will continue to support progressive scan. Each licensee will continue to make the decision of whether or not to include this feature in their future games.

In order to reduce costs and increase profit margins it is not unusual for consumer electronics companies to simplify production. Sony made changes to the PlayStation and my model lacked S-Video connectivity. The good news is that I can confirm that the Limited Edition Resident Evil GameCube has a model number of DOL-001 and not DOL-101. Incidentally, DOL refers to the console's codename. Dolphin.

My fiendish friends at The Iconfactory, are unleashing seasonal GUI ghoulishness in time for the season of the witch. Grab those disgustingly delicious icons, dim the lights and play the Castlevania and Resident Evil franchises.

The ultimate browser-based feed reader is to be found in Google Labs. A Gmail account adds further razzle dazzle.

A glutton for punishment. I'm already preparing a DVD review of Battlestar Galactica (2004) Season 1! "It's the things I do for you..."

"One more thing..." There is much speculation regarding next weeks Apple event. I'm going to go out on a limb (as is my duty) and suggest that there maybe a new product line introduced. A PVR based on Intel?

Wednesday, 15 September 2004

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

There are already excellent blogs that cover PVR (Personal Video Recorders). However, I want to chime in with my user experiences!

In December 2000 I bought a TiVo machine (manufactured by Thomson) and within a month sent it back! Not because the equipment was flawed, no, I lamented the lack of a built-in decoder and shelf space was at a premium. In early 2001 I interviewed for a TiVo guide editor post at sky. Prophetically, within a few months TiVo decided to withdraw from the UK market (continuing support for existing customers only). And sky focused on its own branded product that lacked TiVo’s signature feature - suggestions.

In 2003 I subscribed to sky+ as part of an upgrade package. However, following the ‘failure’ of two Pace V1 STBs (replaced with reconditioned kit) and ongoing technical issues including crashes, failed recordings and the inability to download recorded content to VCR/DVD – it appears that there may be sky+ software glitches that undermine its reliability - I decided to cancel my subscription. Question to sky: Do you seed software updates to testers during R&D?

As an avid Apple user, I’d welcome a digital lifestyle application that records directly to HDD/removable media along the lines of Elgato’s award-winning EyeTV. Coupled with QuickTime (H.264/AVC) and technology licensed from TiVo, the potential for another Mac OS X killer application is not that far fetched! Perhaps Apple will have the insight to add a TV tuner (included in my Performa 5200) in future revisions of the new iMac and claim the Media Center throne.

Thursday, 13 May 2004

Seattle sans Frasier

I'll start this entry by bidding bon voyage to Frasier, Niles, Daphne, Martin and Roz! Tonight it's "Goodnight, Seattle" for the last time! Life without Frasier will be a little poorer. Michelle Branch articulates this sentiment best in her emotive ballad "Goodbye To You..."

Thanks to the ingenious invention that is sky+ (PVR), last evening I watched Sunday night's all-new episode of Alias, which guest starred Canadian director David Cronenberg (Rabid, The Dead Zone, The Fly and eXistenZ)! His cameo follows in the footsteps of silverscreen luminaries Quentin Tarantino, Ethan Hawke and Olivia d'Abo. Conscious was so good - a postmodern homage to the cinematic oeuvre of Cronenberg - that it commanded a repeat viewing!

Readers of the official Alias Magazine, published by Titan Magazines, can read my series comments in Issue #4's Dead Drop section. Look for Psychological Profile, which ties in with Frasier! On newsstands now!

The spring issue of The Talbot, Bournemouth University's Alumni Association magazine, arrived this morning. In the next edition they're focussing on careers in the media and are seeking contributions. So, it would be remiss of me not to respond to their clarion call!

As you may already know, I am a staff writer for Inside Mac Games (IMG). Currently I'm on the waiting list to join the beta test for Blizzard's upcoming World Of Warcraft - an online role-playing experience set in the award-winning Warcraft universe. In the meantime I've attempted (and failed) to download the latest patch (1.15) for The Frozen Throne! Blizzard is suffering from FTP overload! However, the game is one of my favourite (RTS) titles alongside Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds and Clone Campaigns expansion pack! So, I'll keep trying... A new Neutral Hero, the Goblin Tinker, has been added to the game and many more enhancements.

Browser company Opera has released version 7.50 of its popular flagship application. However, I was disappointed to note that several bugs made it into the GM! The smart money is still on Firefox and Safari 2!

As I write, iTunes 4.5 is playing Life For Rent on shuffle play! Dido's lyrics are replete with rich narratives, which transforms, via iPod, my personal space when traversing the urban landscape!