I just got a new PVR, the HomeWerx HW-180. A few observations....
Prior experience-I've had an HDTV tuner (USDTV ?) since the NYC broadcasters began experimental transmissions. Around that time, I got lucky and picked up two Sony HDD-250 units at the Sony Outlet Store, which were single tuner HD recorders, with a listing service provided by TV Guide Onscreen, later bought out by Rovi.
These units were good OTA DVR units. They also had cablecards, prior to my clipping the cord. New, $250 as B stock. New, over $500.00 retail. Tivo shut this great DVR down in Court, so they were sold for about six months, there was one production run....Sony, to their credit, supported them for quite a while. For a long time, they were the only "free" OTA and Cablecard DVR, and worth quite a bit on e-bay.
Rovi buys TV Guide onscreen. Shortly thereafter, the over the air listings were discontinued, along with a vital clockset signal. There was no workaround. Damn u Rovi. HDD units are bricked-the units lasted me close to 8 years, and the HDD still hadn't crashed....very impressive. No clock, though, meant pretty much no usability, other than as a tuner for an SD set or a buffer.
I go Tivo, where I am still in my main room. Oh, and I had the free cable co DVR the SA 8300. I gave it back the month before the free year was up. Crap.
In an office, I want a DVR. I miss the Sony, but don't see the need to spend the money for a lifetime Tivo for very occasional watching. I'd like to pause, or build up a few shows in a folder for when nothing is on.
After the usual searches, etc, I end up with an HW-180. I have the V.11 software, and the unit is hooked up OTA and to a Toshiba 1 GB HDD I had in a draw.
You can record off the EPG data, but that is limited, or by time and channel, just like mom's VCR. Most controls are intuitive, save a few odd chinese translations. The unit records and will run a buffer if you hit "pause".
It isn't as solid as the HDD 250, or nearly as slick as the Tivo Premiere. Still, if you think of it as a Toyota Corolla compared to a BMW or a Cadillac, it works. The box is tiny. Split the signal before the box and your TV, so you can record and use the tuner in the TV at the same time.
The tuner in the HW is decent, although I have a good location with solid signals and no real multipath. It gets credit for picking up an rf channel 2 translator station I don't get on any of three other HD tuners-I have an old school big TV antenna, 2-68. The unit gets time off the EPG signals, so if your stations are off, you might have a problem, but you can record by time if it is an issue. The NYC stations appear to Know What Time It Is
, but this unit like the Sony ten years plus prior, ALSO needs an external clockset. I doubt EPG is going anywhere soon, but if your local station is off, you may have an issue.
I had to rebalance the input colors on the TV-but some tweaking is usually needed for different inputs.
The recordings are 'media files', which you can move and view elsewhere, although the size of the files is huge.
I have used both an 8 GB thumb drive and a 1 TB disc drive. Both work well, although the buffer function takes 3 seconds to start with the thumb drive, and 7 to get the HDD running. The 8 GB drive pretty much filled recording two shows, so expect either the 64 GB max thumb drive or use a spinning drive.
I can't comment on 5.1 sound, which it claims to record, as my setup with this set is not surround sound.
I am absolutely amazed at what this does for $40. It won't record two channels and stream internet video at the same time; it does not have listings like Tivo. As the heir to your VCR for the digital age, it is brilliant. At this price, you can buy two for the dual tuner issue.
I will see how it works long range. The EPG only allows 24 hours max, but the unit will record a show "daily". We shall see. Worst case, I just program manually....
I'd say five stars at the price, three and a half overall.