MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.
- Innovative combination of digital PC TV tuner and set-top box, decent software provided
- Lack of integration between set-top box functions and PC functions
The DEC2000T is a handy two-in-one purchase, giving you both a PC-based tuner and a standalone digital set-top box in one hit. It would have been great if you were able to access the PC-based capabilities of the box (such as recording and time-shifting) from your TV set.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
One of the most unusual PVRs you can find, the Hauppauge DEC2000T is not actually a PVR at all, but a combination of digital set-top box and digital PC TV tuner. It has no integral hard disk, but can store recorded movies on your computer's hard disk, using the supplied software. Even without a PC, it operates as a standalone digital set-top box, delivering digital channels to your TV set via SCART (with RCA adapter) or a 75 ohm aerial cable loop-through.
The biggest flaw with the DEC2000T is that its set-top box and PC TV tuner functions are not at all integrated. It's almost criminal that you can't set recording times for programs using the remote control while watching the TV set, nor can you access timeshifting capabilities (that is, pausing and rewinding) while watching digital television on your TV set--you have to do these things using the supplied software on your PC. It would have been great to be able to use the DEC2000T while watching your TV like any other PVR, and use your PC as a kind of data store, but that's not possible. If you want to record or timeshift, you have to walk to wherever your PC is and do it from there, using the supplied software.
The DEC2000T connects to your PC via USB 2.0, and the software supplied with the box is ugly but functional. Switching channels, timeshifting and scheduling recording were all managed with little fuss, and the on-screen picture quality was excellent. There was no noticeable frame skip or quality loss over the USB connection.
Being a digital TV tuner, you have little control over the bit-rate of the recorded video (it simply takes the digital signals off the airwaves and puts them on your PC hard disk). Typically, broadcast television signals take between 1.5GB and 2GB per hour of recorded video. The advantage of having them on your PC rather than integrated into the PVR, of course, is that you can quickly archive the video to DVD. Since DTV is broadcast in MPEG-2, the same format used for DVD, you don't have to re-format the video to make it playable on a standalone DVD player.
As a standalone set-top box, the DEC2000T did a decent job as well. It supports HDTV, and has a basic, no-frills interface and remote control. Rapid channel switching and tuning were no problem and the DEC2000T has on-screen support for the digital television EPG.
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