Emtec Movie Cube S800 DVR
TiVo meets AppleTV?
Recording schedules went off without a hitch, but the S800's recording schedule is based strictly on time so if a show overruns, the recording will simply cut off. Some DVRs have the ability to detect when a programme is running over time and adjust the recording duration accordingly. Others will at least let apply an automatic early start and late finish to buffer you against overruns or premature starts.
Emtec has also included a timeshift function which buffers the live TV stream, allowing you to pause, rewind and fast forward the feed. In practice, we found although the timeshifting worked, it slowed down the machine so much as to make it barely usable.
The story's better when it comes to playing back other media, as there's good support for the majority of common codecs, including MP3, WMA and Ogg for audio and MPEG 2, MPEG 4, AVI, VOB, DAT, MP4 and XVid for video. Furthermore, the S800 saves recordings in MPEG 2 format, allowing you to copy these onto a notebook or other media player to watch while you're out and about.
What it comes down to is that the entire recording structure harks back to the days when VCRs were just starting to get smarter. DVB-T provides a plethora of information in its transmission streams that can make life so much easier for everyone, if only Emtec's programmers would make use of it.
The one positive side to this is that none of these are problems are hardware related, meaning that they could overcome in future firmware updates. We're hoping that Emtec will continue to work on the S800's interface and EPG, but as it stands we simply can't recommend using the machine to watch live TV, though playing back recorded shows and other content is very easy.
We loved the notion of the S800 as a DVR with so much extra functionality thrown in, but the clunky EPG, the unfriendly recording systems and the poor timeshifting performance means that it's very hard to recommend the unit as a digital video recorder. If your prime interest is the media streaming and storage side, and the DVR functionality is secondary, it's not a bad box. If Emtec improves the firmware, then we'd give the DVR side the thumbs-up. Until it does, though, we can't rate it highly. ®
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