I got my refurbed 515 from Worldwide yesterday and set it up. The 515 is in excellent shape, and all accessories (less batteries for the remote) were present. The label on the outside of the box said it was refurbed by Funai on 2011/11/23. After doing the initial channel scan, I checked the firmware revision. Even though it was refurbed very recently, it still had original firmware, so I updated it to 727H/V and rescanned. I've got one problem, then several comments.
Question:I'm on Knology cable, and have both analog and a bunch of clear QAM channels. One of the clear QAM channels, 104.11 has no sound. It is one of the subchannels of our local OTA stations. Other channels on the main channel, 104.9, and 104.12, have sound. I did a recan with no change. I deleted the 104.xx channel group manually, then readded it, no change. I switched to analog then back to digital, no change. It comes in fine on other clear QAM tuners. Any ideas?
Comments: Some of these may be wishlist candidates or clarifications to the current list.
1. DTS passthru on digital out/HDMI for DVD's needs to be enabled. This should be a no brainer since the DTS track can be selected on the DVD. To a player, it simply appears as a PCM stream and it passes it as such to the AV receiver to decode. I don't think they'd even have to license anything since it is simply a passthru, not a decoder. Then could silence the RCA outputs when DTS is selected. Virtually every DVD player on the market can do it, so why this one doesn't baffles me. My old Polaroid DRM-2001G HDD/DVD recorder can do it (it even has a built in DTS 5.1 decoder, not advertised). BTW, I tried both sound over HDMI and over digital coax, and there was no difference.
2. Most of my digital locals broadcast in 5.1 DD. Since the stream that the 515 sees is basically an mpeg2 video stream with the 5.1 DD sound on it, the tuner in the 5.1 has to demux the stream and downconvert the 5.1 sound stream into a 2.0 stream. The tuner should be able to simply passthru the 5.1 stream to the HDMI or digital coax, no decode required. The max bit rate for DD is 640 Kbps, and many times 5.1 is at 384 or 448 Kbps, so the size difference on a HDD or DVD is not that big, especially compared to the video stream. Passing thru and recording the original 5.1 is a no brainer since it takes virtually no processing power in the 515 to do it.
3. My cableco labels the local clear QAM stations with the call letters, or what the subchannels are (e.g. WAFF or THIS). This needs to be displayed when surfing along with the raw channel number. The label is available on the first INFO screen, so this should be easy to implement.
4. Add the ability to add/edit labels to raw channel numbers to be displayed when surfing analog and digital channels. My no-name brand 7" portable DTV has this ability, so obviously it isn't that hard.
5. Add a SIMPLE way to check to see if a station has a valid time signal. Doing the 11:57 AM trick is neat, but it can take quite awhile. This should be enabled in the Manual Time screen when you select a station; the 515 should do a check, and tell you if that station is capable or not. (BTW, the only station I could find in my local area with the 11:57 trick was PBS, and it's time was about 40 minutes off!).
My 515 can playback region free (region "0") PAL DVD's over HDMI. The playback is somewhat jerky, possibly as a result of the different framerates between PAL and NTSC, but it can do it.
Picture quality is very good. Obviously not HD quality, but far superior to what I expected. I got this mainly to make DVD's of broadcast shows for my girlfriend in a different state (my Windows Media Center HTPC will do it, but it takes forever and and PQ is not that great on the DVD's). Pleasantly surprised.
Let's face it, the 515 and previous versions are geek machines. The general public has moved beyond VCRs of old as far as setting up timers to record programs. Unless or until a 515 or successor have a built in guide of at least a week of channel listings, map clear QAM channels to "real world" channels (channel 48.1 in the real world is 105.2 on the 515), and make it a simple matter to select a show from the guide to record it, these will not be big sellers. Also, not being able to record a series, new episodes only, is a key omission not possible without a guide. I'm not sure where Microsoft gets their guide info for Windows Media Center, but it is pretty accurate, and it is fairly easy to assign guide data to clear QAM channels if it is missing. If Funai could use the same guide data, it would be a huge improvement. The more mainstream Funai can make this product, the better chance for us to have them available in the future. The digital PQ is good enough for 90% of the public, the analog PQ is as good as any cable box I've had. An IR blaster would also be a huge plus for those poor souls on Comcast. I like the 515 so far, but I wouldn't give one to my technology challenged girlfriend.
One final question: should I buy a backup DVD burner for this? It appears these units are very reliable in general. I don't plan on using anything but 8x media. My old Polaroid DRM-2001G quickly got a new burner (fortunately it can use a standard computer burner). My gut tells me to buy one, but it doesn't appear that many people have had to replace them.