Set Top Boxes (STBs) - which I bought last year to replace the GVA ones which started malfunctioning - began malfunctioning themselves! Initially I thought that there was something wrong with my aerial but it was the tuners in the STBs instead. The one in the lounge stopped receiving most channels properly all the time, and the one in the bedroom (which has the thru-loop of the one in the Lounge as a feed) would only tune in when the other was switched on! At other times either STB would sometimes just "freeze" and not turn off until you unplugged them, and when you re-plugged them in the recording schedules would be randomised. Also they were very temperamental on reading and writing to the external USB drives. The Bauns shared a lot of these problems with the GVA units, but initially it was very rare when they happened. Not so lately.
The set-up looks like this:
It looks complicated but it means I can play stuff from the Set Top Boxes, DVD players, Media PC, or Turntable, very easily. Anyway, I decided to take a punt and buy another STB to test in either position. Initially I was going to buy a $39 Thomson thing, but when I got to K-Mart I took a punt and bought a Telefunken TEL828N for $49 instead. It was impossible to tell if it was any better than what I had until I got it home. When I got there I wasn't planning on going out again, so I changed into PJs and played around with the STB in the bedroom.
It auto-scanned well (missed out on SEVEN network channels, but a rescan in the Lounge got everything) and even played the stuff I'd recorded on the old STB. But a big factor was the relative ease of use. The menus were easy to read, the EPG had several modes and it was very easy to setup recordings and later edit them. A big plus in its favour was the way it set up recording schedules. The last two types of STB I'd used had a system where you set the start
and end times
. This is OK, except
when you tape something across midnight
(e.g starts at 23:50 and ends at 00:20). What happens then depends - sometimes the show starts recording but doesn't stop. Other times you get an error msg saying it conflicts with program 1, even though that might not have any overlapping times. That's the result of a cheap unit that economises too much on the operating system. But the Telefunken used a Start Time
+ Duration method
. No problems over midnight.
It also listed the name of the tv program you started the recording at, in the file name of the recording. This would be generally OK but I like to add a "recording buffer) of (at least) 5 minutes before and after a show I record, so in general the name I've been getting is the one that was on before my recording. The rename function is easier on the whole to use, because the coloured keys on the romote allow you to shift case, add a space, delete, and confirm the name change. The old STBs had those functions as extra buttons on the screen display, so you had to move the cursor to do that function, and then move to the next button - adding a LOT of key presses on the remote!
In fact what I really liked was how it handled the external disk. I had modes for playing movies (recorded TV is just another movie), music, pictures, "native games" (but where do you get them from?), and e-text. There's also a disk manager where you rename, move and delet files. The thing is, tit doesn't just read drives - it reads partitions
! That means you can have a large external drive and have your recodings in one partition, music in another, and other stuff on other partitions. It probably means as well that you might be able to hook it up to a PC directly - though I haven't tested that yet.
Recording's interesting as well. If you're recording and press information, it comes up with a list of previously recorded stuff which you can select and watch while the STB recording the current program. Haven't seen that before. You can also set the duration of the recording on spec, which is handy. I used that last night when I was watching Elizabethtown
. I realised that I wasn't going to stay awake to see the end of it, so I started a manual record and set the duration for 2 hours. Great stuff compared to what I was using before.
There are a few annoyances, but they're more in the way of omissions (like being able to move your cursor left or right when renaming without deleting - that'd be great) and easy to work around. I am VERY pleased with this model so far. Maybe it'll start malfunctioning just after the warranty period ends, like the Bauhns did, but that's the risk I'll take. I was so impressed I got dressed, went back out and got a second STB of the same model. A good investment so far.