Originally Posted by HDTV1080P24
The EpVision PHD-VRX final review (at least I hope it is my final review) Part 1 of 3...
Ho-Lee-Crap! That's one magnum-opus my friend! I had to clip and save it to a text file to read it, but the 3 parts weighed in at ~64 kB, and 10 pages or so when printed. Amazing dedication.
I could create a third party user’s manual...
I have NO doubt about that whatsoever!
On tuner 2 if there is a virtual digital station on 65.1 one has to type 65.1 on the remote in order for the PHD-VRX to tune directly to that station. Consumers will get confused if on one tuner they can type 65 to get to 65.1 and on the other tuner they need to type 65.1. A software update would be able to fix this issue.
Agreed. That should be relatively trivial for them to fix. But compared to the many other issues, I'd consider its Priority=Low. (Users can just enter 65.1 all the time, and get the same results on both tuners.)
Currently the PHD-VRX only shows the channel number data when flipping the channel. Adding the ability to see the program title and description along with the channel number would be a nice feature.
Yes, that would be a nice enhancement, some day. The only problem I see is that there are so many critical issues they need to fix that for us to start listing "nice to haves" may not be very productive at this stage. I wouldn't even tag that as Priority=Low. Rather a "Future enhancement". They need to focus on fixing things, and making the UX a smooth one. You're asking for icing on the cake, when the cake hasn't even been fully baked yet.
The PHD-VRX does not offer a high speed e-SATA III interface which is capable of transfer speeds of up to 6Gbps. Also the PHD-VRX lacks a USB 3.0 interface that is capable of transfer speeds up to 5Gbps.
So what? And, who cares? I have expensive computers that don't support any
eSata, much less eSata III. And who needs 5Gb USB3 bandwidth on their DVR drives? You do realize that the absolute maximum bandwidth these drives will ever experience would be 58 Mb/sec, while recording 2 full ATSC channels, and playing back a 3rd. With multicasting, I'm not sure you'll ever even find a full ATSC carrier allocated to one channel. If you do, then congrats, because you are very lucky to be in a select minority. The most I ever see here is ~15 Mb/sec. 3 of those would be 45 Mb/s. What possible value would 5,000 Mb/s have for any of us on the DVR side? None whatsoever.
Most HD DVR cable boxes and HD DVR satellite boxes will offer a high speed e-SATA jack for consumers to plug in a hard drive using the e-SATA interface.
Is this true now? I have 4 HD-DVR boxes, though none of them are cable/satellite, and none of them have eSata. When I did have 2 different HD-DVR cable boxes (from Charter) neither of them supported any eSata. Still, irrelevant.
So instead of the PHD-VRX using a e-SATA interface it has two slower USB 2.0 interfaces. The USB 2.0 interface has a maximum speed of 480Mbps (0.48Gps).
Good. That's way more than adequate.
Even the old e-SATA 1 interface is over 3 times faster compared to USB 2.0. The latest eSATAp interface is a powered interface that allows consumers to plug in a hard drive without any external power needed.
It's starting to sound to me as if you'd like ePVision to start over, with a new product.
The one positive feature regarding the USB interface is that it is hot swappable. e-SATA devices are much faster but they are not hot swappable.
Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Shirley you can't be suggesting
that a non-swappable external media approach would be acceptable on such a consumer product?
So consumers can plug in their flash drives and hard drives that contain USB interfaces without the need to power down the USB drive and the PHD-VRX.
Yay! That's the only reasonable approach, AFAIC.
I would have still preferred to also have both a USB and e-SATA interface. e-SATA would have been ideal for a 2TB hard drive for long term recordings.
Ideal how? Having dual interfaces on the DVR would benefit you in absolutely NO WAY. The only place that the extra eSata speed would be of any benefit is when you disconnect the drive from the DVR, and take it over to your PC. THEN it would be able to extract the data much more quickly than via USB2. Solution: buy a dual-port drive enclosure, that has both USB and eSata interfaces on it. "Problem" solved.
The fastest USB flash drives on the market with read and write speeds of 35Mbps or higher can be used on the PHD-VRX. The problem is high-end flash drives do not have the storage capacity of hard drives and also they are higher in cost.
True, but again, so what? Do you overclock your quad-core CPU to 4 GHz to run a word-processor?
IMO, the use for such memory sticks is to be able to conveniently plug them in and play back music or videos from your computer. NOT as a recording device. (Though even there they could be handy to quickly grab a snippet.)
Also extremely fast solid state drives with a USB interface in theory will also work with the PHD-VRX but again like flash drives they lack the storage capacity of hard drives and they are much more expensive.
So since you apparently feel the need for extreme speed, get a small and cheap high-performance SSD drive. Even 60G would be adequate. Connect it to the DVR, and record over 10 hours of content. That should be enough for one day. Then take it to your PC, connect via eSata-III, and suck the data off the SSD at 500 MB/s. You can empty the drive in ~2 minutes (though that speed will be reduced by the device you're transferring to, like your legen- (wait for it) -dairy 200MB/s Seagate). That will take a whopping 5 minutes to transfer to. Then wipe the SSD and return it to the DVR for the next day.
3TB hard drives will not work correctly with the PHD-VRX under the current firmware
That's good to know, but since they already documented that, I'm a bit concerned that including such commentary may side-track real issues. If we give them too much to read, they may just toss all of it and ignore it. To have the best chance to get core issues corrected, IMO we need to focus on those issues.
I decided to use a Seagate SV35 series hard drive. The 2TB model is the ST2000VX000 which has a SATA III 6Gbps interface with a maximum sustained data rate of 210MB/s and an average data rate of 156MB/s. (lots and LOTS more deleted)
I fail to see how any of this has any place in a review of the VRX. Sorry. It's completely tangential. Especially so if we're hoping that ePVision will read our comments, and make use of them.
Test results of the 2TB hard drive connected to both a USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 interface
Even more interesting and possibly useful information on HDD performance, completely out of place in the context of a product review.
When I placed the SV35 series hard drive inside my USB 2.0 hard drive enclosure and plugged it into the USB 3.0 hub, the speed jumped to an average of 31.35 MB/Sec write and 35.83 MB/Sec read.
This is pretty typical. I use mostly green drives, on several PCs, and I get 30-35 MB/s on USB2 on all of them. Vs. 90-100MB/s over eSata (II) on the same drives. Yes, USB2 is slower. And yet, even running at ~25 MB/s on the VRX as reported here previously, that's WAY more than you'll ever need to run 3 ATSC-HD streams. (Now Blu-ray is something else, but so far we're not talking about that.)
Speed results when connected to the PHD-VRX:
Yay! I started to forget that's what this review was about.
The PHD-VRX USB speed test program has issues. For one thing the “USB Speed Check” program has a problem of not giving accurate results when one is on a digital channel.
Thanks for the useful info and suggestions. IMHO, that utility is not a core function of a DVR. In fact, if they removed it completely, I'd never miss it.
...another issue is that the PHD-VRX for some reason allows one to run a speed test while one or more recordings is going on at the same time... the recordings on the hard drive will have digital artifacts until the speed test is finished. There should be a firmware update that fixes these speed test issues. When a consumer tries to run a speed test while recording a TV program there should be a message that pops up on the screen that says something like “USB Speed test is not available, please stop your recordings first”.
Agreed. Though I'd rate the priority of these rather low, because to "fix" them all you have to do is refrain from doing 'the bad thing'. "Doctor, my arm hurts when I move it like this
I'd much rather see them nuke this, and fix the other stuff.
So the PHD-VRX USB ports appear to be limited to a maximum of 26MB/s.
Yep. Not bad at all.
When it came to the NTFS file system I was in shock that I could only get 6MB/s maximum which would only be ok for recording one SD channel.
a) I'd be shocked too, if that hadn't already been reported here several weeks ago.
b) 6 MB
/s (not 6 Mb/s) should be perfectly fine for recording one HD channel.
There is a major problem with the way the PHD-VRX handles the NTFS file system.
Yes, they use a really *****ty NTFS driver they got for free in a back alley.
I had massive digital artifacts trying to record one or two HD channels using the NTFS file system.
Bruce reported being able to record one HD channel on an NTFS drive successfully. I'm not sure why you had different results. As I said, if you're not doing simultaneous Play while Recording, the 48 Mb/s speed limit under NTFS should not inhibit <19 Mb/s streams from being recorded. However, they may have some additional overhead elsewhere in the chain that slows things down even more (like the time they take to strip stuff out of the transport stream, and convert to a program stream).
This NTFS file system quality issue is a clear flaw that needs to be fixed with a firmware update.
Yes, IF they keep it, they should fix it. The other option is to just nuke it. Getting other things working is a far higher priority (IMO) than suppporting NTFS, when as you pointed out, there are numerous other formats that work just fine. I'm not saying that I wouldn't like to have NTFS. I'd rather have it (working) than ext2. But lacking that, a working ext2 is good enough to do the job.
The PHD-VRX has a USB Disk Format utility program. This USB Disk format utility will not work with hard drives that are unformatted. So the consumer needs to format the USB flash drive or USB hard drive with either FAT16,FAT32, NTFS,ext2 or the ext3 file system before plugging the drive into the PHD-VRX. I found the “USB Disk Format” utility to work very good for hard drives that already were formatted with FAT16,FAT32, NTFS, ext2, or the ext3 file system.
Aha! Excellent. That may explain why Bruce was unable to Format, yet Allen claimed they had no problems at all.
With Digital cable boxes and satellite systems that allow an external e-SATA hard drive to be connected, those recordings are all encrypted. ...one time the Motorola digital cable box broke and had to be exchanged. All the programs that were recorded on the 2TB hard drive had an encrypted key that only the old digital cable box could read. As soon as the 2TB hard drive with all the programs recorded on it was plugged into the exchanged Motorola digital cable box all the programs were erased...
Yes, Bife's a Litch in the cable world.
The PHD-VRX does not encrypt the recordings onto the 2TB hard drive at all. Also the MPEG-2 video and audio are bit for bit the same quality as the master ATSC broadcast and master QAM signal...
I hope that is true about the stream contents, because they do muck with the PS wrappers.
I do wish the PHD-VRX would have had an IEEE-1394 interface to make a bit for bit recording to a D-VHS or future standalone Blu-ray recorder but it does not.
Wow, your wish-list is almost as long as your reviews.
You left out the sun, the moon, and the stars.
With PowerDVD Ultra 12 or other free 3rd party software one is able to watch programs in true 1080i quality on their HD computer monitor.
But not VLC, for some reason.
Thanks for adding PDVD 12 to the list that it does work with. (I'm not overly concerned that it doesn't work specifically with VLC. It's just that VLC is pretty compliant, which means they are doing something that is not. And I don't know what that is.)
The current firmware makes it difficult to connect an external hard drive to a Windows PC
Ext2 file system works the best on the PHD-VRX. So consumers if they want to make backup copies of their recordings onto the PC hard drive or computer Blu-ray drive will need to install special Windows software and or drivers that will read the Ex2 and/or Ex3 file system.
I'm wiped out!
That's all I have the energy to respond to, and I suspect, more than most folks here are willing to wade through.
I will have to defer Parts 2 and 3 until tomorrow. I got carried away on this one, and will likely (hopefully) dial it back on the rest.
Thanks again for your time and effort. You obviously put a lot into it. My only constructive criticism would be that if we want to get the ear (eye?) of ePVision, it may be useful to focus on concise descriptions of what we find problematic, and label them with a Seriousness/Priority index (High, Medium, Low). Otherwise, if what they perceive is a mountain of unattainable requests for extra features, they may just get discouraged and give up. There's plenty to discuss in the Priority=High category, without spending a lot of time on Pirority=Low. We can get to those later, IF the product survives that long. If they don't address Priority=High, it simply will not. And all the rest will be moot.
I know that if I were Product Manager on a device in this condition, that's the strategy I would employ. They obviously have limited resources, and if we want them to succeed, we have to help them by focusing on critical issues, and getting them resolved.
My congrats to anyone who made it this far.
You deserve a medal.