Keep the title in mind when considering some of these impressions. Overall the unit has done most of what I expected, but there have been a few letdowns (that could possibly be corrected if Dvico is serious about adding new features, etc. through firmware updates).The Box
Small, unobtrusive, and slick. Every connection imaginable in this day and age. For me the inclusion of both a digital audio in toslink and coax is appreciated. So far hookups direct to my computer (over USB) and component video and RCA audio to the TV (with the aforementioned digital audio to my receiver in addition) have all gone without a hitch. The power cable felt a bit tight and this worried me at first, but after some wiggling and shaking it fits fine. It'll get a workout as well since I'll be bouncing this box between the home theater and my computer as needed.The DVR
The HD tuner works like a charm. Over my most basic of cable connections, it pulled down the original 25 analog stations we were getting previously, those same stations in their digital counterparts, at least two or three dozen music-only stations, and the 9 or 10 broadcast stations in HD. This latter is great as with my five year old Toshiba CRT, it's the first time we've gotten HD stations on the set and it will at least double the life of this older TV.
Recorded shows in HD so far appear to be pixel perfect. When you set a recording (or record by hand), it drops the file in a folder called "PVR" in the root of the drive. In my experiments so far, I've noticed it further breaks this folder down by a folder titled with what station you recorded from, with the actual video file contained within (some times with a helpful name, other times not so much) as a ".tp" file. Supposedly you can manipulate this file on a computer then using some transformation to mpeg but I haven't done this yet (not even sure if I will, but it's a nice feature to have). Time-shifting is done on the fly and no files are stored when you are in this recording mode (at least once you stop time-shifting).
Of note I should say that you kind of need to look at this box right now as a high tech VCR. While you can schedule a recording by date/time and even with the meager EPG (impressions on this are further down), the functionality of the DVR is pretty limited. When you make a scheduled recording, you select which mode to do this in, "Watching" or "Recording." Now, I did read as much as I could before buying this box and also once I had it, but there never appeared to be an explanation for what these modes actually do. Upon first looking at it, one would think that "Recording" would make just a recorded file (which it does) and "Watching" would turn on the DVR and start recording until you told it otherwise. Unless I'm doing something wrong, I've found that the Watching mode does little except turn on the box to the channel you specify at the indicated time, and then sit happily doing nothing. It may be recording what it is showing, but there is no time-shifting allowed. To me, this kind of defeats the purpose of having a mode that doesn't really let you "set the VCR" and then come in later and time-shift away. The time-shifting function (while working quite well) is purely a manual affair where you pause live TV, make a sandwich while time passes, and then boogie around in the buffer of TV you've created. I kept the default time-shift duration to Free Space so I can have maximum flexibility (such as during CBS's triple header of college basketball!) but like I said this is strictly a manual process. This is one area I hope Dvico improves the functionality by make the "Watching" mode actually start the time-shift buffer.
Despite these limitations in the DVR, like I said the picture quality is exactly as you see it live and when you are watching a recorded show the skipping functions work just fine. Right now the only default skip duration is 15s (I've requested you be able to set this) which you do with the Up/Down keys on the remote. Left/Right toggles between higher backwards/forwards speeds at 2X, 4X, and so on, while the >>| skip buttons just go to the end and beginning of the file. I tell you this only because it's not that intuitive and took me a while to get used to. (While time-shifting these buttons work pretty much the same functions.) What I have used the scheduled recording so far for is snagging Sesame Street at 9AM each morning so we can watch it with our daughter any time during the evening (rather than "waiting" for the 7PM broadcast, how barbaric!). I've also done some basketball recordings and while the DST setting betrayed me over the weekend, again this has worked out OK. It really depends on your needs; we don't watch a lot of TV so the fact that the box acts as a high tech VCR works OK for us. To grab one or two shows that we do want to see and for me getting to actually watch
sports occasionally (when I have time, not when it's on) is a godsend. However, you get what you pay for and this is not a media center TV or a Tivo, so adjust your expectations according to what you need. For us, being able to tune HD channels and record stuff on a basic schedule works out just fine.The EPG
This could use some work. Not only does it not really give you a lot of information, but the basic UI is pretty broken. Instead of anything like your standard TV guide setup (Edit:
Yeah, they do have a patent on this), you have this odd "dates and channels across the top with the limited programming listed below" thing going on that is just a bear to navigate. Add in the fact that you get a preview window on the left that actually changes channels
when you scroll through stations, and this is a pretty broken EPG. Supposedly you get up to 7 days worth of programming listed, but in my use so far I haven't seen even close to this (try maybe 7 hours). There are also some stations that show absolutely nothing in the programming space (hello, PBS) and what appears when can be wildly unpredictable. However, when it does work you can set a quick recording schedule for a program from here and that worked out fine (I grabbed a random Tonight Show using this method, simply because it actually showed up on the EPG). This is definitely an area Dvico is going to have to work on if they expect this to be a viable feature. Again though, adjust your expectations. I'm not paying for a Tivo, so I certainly don't expect
a Tivo. Still, the EPG is pretty hobbled in this device. I imagine unless they improve it I just won't use it (I've never had an EPG so you can see where I'm coming from; your results may vary).The Media Jukebox
This is one area where I didn't necessarily buy the Tvix for
, but it definitely impacted my buying decision. Simply put, this is awesome. You set up the internal hard drive with three folders, Movie, Music and Photo. Then, dump copied DVDs as .iso files in the Movie folder, digital music in the Music folder, and any kind of picture files in the Photo folder. Hook up Tvix, GO. The .iso file playing works wonders, it basically replicates the DVD playing experience bit for bit. I used their recommended software solution of DVD Shrink 3.2 to make the .iso files and it works as promised. In this area I see us making copies of DVDs we have for kid watching as the ease of the jukebox just beats out exchanging physical discs when it comes to kids (I would imagine Dvico doesn't want you to necessarily use the .iso function for illegitimate means, but just treat it like you would any other digital media functionality). I haven't done anything yet with the Music or Photo functions, but on the page they appear well done and with the stupid amount of storage space I have on this thing (I bought the 1TB option) I imagine I'll just dump my 30GB or so collection of mp3s and picture files on it as a backup at least. It supports playlist files (at least in .m3u format) and has some slideshow features for the pictures, but I haven't done any of this yet. Overall, the media functionality of this box is very cool and an added bonus to the DVR and tuner.The UI
This is pretty slick and you can see where Dvico is probably most experienced with media functionality. Everything is clean and sharp; moving from item to item and within the menus is snappy. The one area I feel is hindered the most is simply the startup time of the box. As a media player, 30-40 seconds is not a big deal. When it is your main TV tuner, the wife starts to complain. I would think this boot time could decrease with Dvico's tweaking, although maybe there are some other ways around it. The box will turn itself on when a scheduled recording is needed, and it does have a screen saver function. I'd like to get Dvico's answer on whether you can/should leave the box on most of the time and how much of a power drain or hindering to the components that is. If the thing just powered on faster this wouldn't even be a problem.The Remote
Nothing fancy here. It gets the job done though. Buttons across the top switch from TV mode, Movie, Music, and Photo. Unless I just don't know how yet, there doesn't seem to be direct access to the PVR folder and your recorded shows (at least not with a button on the remote). This is a tad irritating, as I'm required to jump into the Movie folder (for example) and then folder jump up and over to the PVR folder. Like I mentioned in the DVR section above, some of the button choices for time-shifting video seem a bit odd and unintuitive. To their credit though, they do explain which buttons to use so you're not flying blind. It's just not the way I would have designed it. Changing channels in DTV mode is a bit odd as the number pad has an aspect ratio change button and zoom button flanking the 0. In order to get the dash/decimal for digital stations (like 73-10, what idiot thought that
was a good idea), you have to type 7 > 3 > Aspect button > 1 > 0. Again, not terribly intuitive but you get used to it. The nice thing about the remote is it's small and light, not quite as diminutive as your Roku player remote but also not a big honkin' universal-style remote.Various Sundries
As far as I can tell, the box makes almost no noise. Remarkable considering there is not only a (potentially) big hard drive in the thing but a fan as well. Dvico recommends setting the fan speed to Normal and I see no reason to change this; with the box in my components cabinet and me sitting across the room on the couch I can't hear a peep out of the unit. Even when I had it upstairs at my computer copying files to it, I don't remember much of a racket. The almost silent nature of the unit doesn't seem to change whether you're watching live TV, time-shifting, or watching a file.
The expandability of the unit can't be underestimated. Like I said, with my meager media collection and TV viewing habits, 1TB of storage is a heckuva lot. If you really needed more (or just wanted to offload some files from the internal HDD but still wanted quick access to them) the unit supports external drives over USB. This seems to be a common complaint with most commercial DVRs (what few exist) but Dvico has got you covered. As I have no need for this right now I haven't done any testing with it, but it is one of those nice features to have for the possible future. The unit also supports wired ethernet and wireless connections, and while I haven't used these yet I could imagine setting it up some time to try the FTP copying (to save the Tvix a trip upstairs to the computer room, say).
I did a firmware update first day out of the box by copying the .fwp file from Dvico's site to the root of the drive on the Tvix. Fire up the file browser (again, either I don't know what I'm doing or there's no direct access to this without going through one of the folder modes), select the firmware file, and fire away. This is easy, fast, and appreciated. Easily updated firmware makes this unit have possibly limitless potential, if Dvico wants to continue to add features and tweak the hardware (if not, I suppose there's always http://www.opentvix.com/
, if anyone starts working on the R series).
This device only has one tuner in it. So there's none of that fancy "watch one show while you record another" stuff. Again, this is a high tech VCR with a lot
of other bells and whistles that you have to adjust your expectations to (the HD tuner is actually an expandable card slot, sort of; who knows, maybe this can be changed out some day). To me and my needs it is a magic box but to others it may not fit what you want. Overall I would say if you have been looking into a device like this and understand what it can/can't do, I say take the plunge. For just about four bills from Digital Connection (thanks, Kei!) the value of this thing can't be beat right now.
(and thanks for reading, if you came this far!)