The advent of digital television has brought many advantages but if you only have a standard set top box, recording programs is not one of them. TEAC's PVR-160T is a good device to both receive and record digital TV. It offers twin standard definition digital tuners with a 160GB hard disk allowing you to watch one channel while recording another.
- Dual Tuners, Good quality recording
- Lacks advanced features, Not the most intuitive interface for recording, software needs additional documentation
A good quality PVR with basic features but poor documentation.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
There are two primary advantages of using a PVR over a VCR: image quality and convenience. Gone are the days of crackly pictures and washed out colours. The PVR-160T produces bold images with crisp colours and footage free from disfiguration. Random file access means that fast forward is a thing of the past, with the PVR-160T storing each recording in an easy to use list format, labelled with the programme's title. Despite this convenience, this PVR isn't the simplest to use; we found several aspects of the PVR-160T's operation were less than intuitive.
SetupSetting up the PVR is relatively easy, simply a matter of connecting the aerial and plugging in the appropriate output to the television. TEAC has supported a whole range of connections that are more than adequate including standard composite jacks, S-Video, Component, Digital optical and coaxial. While we always like to see HDMI or DVI present on such devices, since this has just a standard definition tuner its absence isn't a huge problem. Tuning in the channels is also simplistic, as the PVR-160T does it all automatically, sorting the channels into television and radio.
DesignBrowsing the channels is intuitive with several Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) options displaying the list of available programmes along with their running times. The interface is clear and clean, making it easy to read and navigate. The front of the PVR displays the channel number, though there is no text display to show the channel's name. The unit as a whole has fairly basic aesthetics, and is nothing special to look at. Recording programmes can be done with the touch of a button or programmed using the EPG. Unfortunately, due to the inadequacies of Australian free to air digital TV, the EPG doesn't display the TV schedule any further than the next programme. This isn't a fault with the PVR-160T and is found on all PVRs, bar the subscription only IceTV service.
RecordingAs with all PVRs, the Timeshift feature allows for live television to be paused and then restarted. The inclusion of a twin tuner also allows for the useful ability of watching one channel while simultaneously recording another. It is even possible to Timeshift while recording another channel, effectively allowing two programs to recorded at the same time. Recordings are of good quality and the 160GB hard drive allows for over two days of continuos recording. Accessing the recordings and editing them could have been made easier, despite the use of on-screen prompts which show the appropriate buttons to press. Another downside is that TEAC has not implemented advanced features such as picture in picture which are commonly found on twin tuner devices.
MP3 and JPG transferThe PVR-160T also offers some interesting options for transferring files to and from a computer. 3GB of the unit's 160GB can be used to store MP3 and JPG files for playing on-screen. To upload files onto the PVR it is first necessary to download software from TEAC's website, for which there is no documentation. Installing the drivers and software isn't especially hard, but the lack of any instructions may leave baffle some baffled. Once this is done a computer can be connected to the PVR using the supplied USB cable. Annoyingly, the PVR-160T only supports USB 1.1, so file transfers are incredibly slow. Using the software is intuitive and we managed to transfer both music and images with ease, despite the lengthy transfer time. Playing them back on the PVR is equally simple.
Copying recordingsOf more interest than uploading files to the PVR is the ability to download them. Video recordings can be transferred onto a PC should you wish to save copies. However, it is here that the whole process really falls apart. Though slightly annoying when transferring 5MB audio files, the USB 1.1 connection becomes downright ridiculous when transferring 5GB video files. Even a five minute recording took well over ten minutes to transfer. Once you have managed to transfer the files the next irritation is to find that TEAC has used an entirely obscure video format, HAV. There is very little information about this format available online and the first three programs we used to open it failed to decode the video properly (despite claims they supported HAV). After some reading we discovered that there is only one program capable of playing the files, DVR-Studio, available from Haenlein Software. This costs Euro 49.90 (A$85.75 at the time of writing) for a basic version that can convert the files to more useful formats, or Euro 69.90 (A$120) for a version that can also burn them to DVD. Both can be evaluated free for 30 days.
We tested the more advanced version and were pleased with the results. Video playback was near flawless, with excellent clarity and smooth pictures. Converting to standard MPEG files also produced exceptional results. We then copied the files to DVD, which was very easy to accomplish and again produced excellent quality video. Although DVR-Studio is an excellent product, it is galling to shell out over $100 for a product that should have come as standard in the box.
Overall the PVR-160T is a decent product. Its good quality recordings and relative ease of setup make it a great choice for those entering the world of digital television. However, the lack of documentation and bundled software for its more advanced features will undoubtedly cause frustration.
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