Dedicated digital video recorder (DVR) boxes that let you automatically record, watch and pause live TV programs without using VHS tapes are all the rage in the US, though they have yet to arrive in Australia. It is possible, however, to achieve something similar using SnapStream Personal Video Station 3 and your PC.
At $US50 (download) or $US70 (boxed CD), PVS 3 enables you to watch and record shows on your computer (See here for a screenshot). You’ll need a PCI TV-capture card if your system lacks a graphics card with a TV input.
The advantage of PC-based systems like PVS 3 is that they allow you to watch the programs you have recorded on another PC over your home network, the Internet or a Pocket PC-based PDA. You can also put the programs on DVD if you have a DVD burner.
The PVS 3 system does have its disadvantages: watching TV on a computer screen can be unpleasant, and connecting a TV to the video-out port of your graphics card requires that the PC be near your TV.
PVS 3’s image quality depends on your PC’s speed, but on my test system (a 1.2GHz Athlon PC with a GeForce4-based graphics card and 512MB of RAM), it was certainly acceptable. Nevertheless, even at the higher quality settings, the same program looked worse on the pre-production PVS 3 software than it did on my trials of a TiVo DVR (not yet available in Australia).
For Australian users, the company makes available a .dat file of tuning frequencies for local television broadcasters; you’ll find it at www.snapstream.com/support/international/australia. SnapStream also offer the cut back PVS Lite 2.0 available for free download from its Web site.
In brief: SnapStream Personal Video Station 3
(Preproduction software, not rated)
Cheaper but less convenient than a digital video recorder box.
Price: $US50 (download), $US70 (boxed CD)