Fiivo set-top box and PVR
A cheap digital set-top box with plenty of features
- Cheap, lots of features, component video input
- Only 1080i support, can’t play MKV or h.264 files, ugly interface
If you’re looking for a cheap PVR and set-top box that’s chock-full of features, check out the Fiivo. It can do plenty that more expensive players can’t — including ad skipping and BitTorrent downloading. It does have an ugly interface and the image quality is inferior to other, albeit far more expensive, video recorders.
Price$ 439.00 (AUD)
The Fiivo is a personal video recorder (PVR) and digital set-top box that’s significantly cheaper than big-name players like the TiVo HD. Despite this, it offers some features that might sway digital video enthusiasts.
Constructed mainly from black plastic, the PVR has a single-line VFD display that shows vital information. A combination volume control/button is joined on the player’s front by play, stop and recording controls, but you’ll be more likely to use the bundled remote control from the comfort of your couch. Its simple layout and high contrast black-and-white colour scheme makes it easy to use, although backlit buttons would have been a good addition.
The Fiivo has the usual range of video outputs, with composite, component and HDMI available. We were disappointed to find no VGA port, and the player’s maximum video output of 1080i might annoy those with high-end flat screen televisions or extensive 1080p (Full HD) movie collections. More interesting, though, is the inclusion of component as well as composite video inputs — you’ll be able to record high-definition shows from pay TV service like Foxtel or Austar if you're a subscriber. It also has Ethernet and USB connections. Wireless networking is available through an optional USB dongle.
The on-screen menu is not particularly nice — it uses low-resolution graphics and a yellow-on-red colour scheme — but it gets the job done and you won’t see it often if you’re using the Fiivo primarily for watching and recording television.
If you want to use the Fiivo as a fully featured PVR, you will need to purchase and install a 3.5in desktop SATA hard drive. This lets you record digital television to the hard drive and store compressed video and downloaded files.
If you can spare the time to go through the process of setting it up to play nicely with your router and Internet connection, the Fiivo supports an FTP server, remote Web scheduling of television recordings, and BitTorrent downloads.
Watching television on the Fiivo is trouble-free: the hybrid tuner can receive anything from analog television to high-definition digital broadcasts. Changing channels is swift and the initial scan is also fast. The usual time-shifting and recording options are available if you have a hard drive installed, while skipping ads in recorded programs is a massive boon. The advertising-hungry national broadcasters might not be happy with this — it’s a feature notably unavailable on any product carrying the Freeview label — but we found the feature especially useful when watching lengthy recordings.
The Fiivo's low price doesn’t mean the picture quality is poor. The maximum resolution is only 1080i, but this doesn’t hamper the Fiivo’s ability to display image detail.
The Fiivo is also able to play streaming video over a network as well as compressed video files from its internal hard drive. A wide range of video, audio and picture formats are supported; almost everything you’ll want is covered apart from the MKV and h.264 videos.
We found the Fiivo to be a good all-round unit once a hard drive had been installed in it. Its television and multimedia capabilities will suffice for most users, while Internet connectivity is useful for tech-heads who aren’t always at home to set up recordings.
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