21 January, 2004

Added ReplayTV (DVR) to Entertainment Center

Sure, we moved into our new house. Yeah, it's cool. But let's talk TOYS.

For about four months I compared TiVo and ReplayTV digital video recorders (DVR's), wanting to know which was considered "better", by those in the know. As expected, each unit has its religious followers, each proclaiming the superiority if their own units. There are other brands of DVR's, but these two are broadly considered to be the best.

I chose the ReplayTV, model 5040, because it has features not available on TiVo, such as:

General Features of ReplayTV
- Can pause live TV up to the capacity of the hard drive (TiVo only pauses for a 1/2 hour). Want to go potty during the news? Go ahead and pause it, and continue when you get back. With commercial skip (see below), you'll probably catch up to "live" TV in the course of the broadcast. If you don't, so what.

- Has commercial skip during playback. This is fantastic! It jumps right over the commercials, like watching a DVD go from scene to scene. [This feature disabled in the newer models, due to lawsuits. However, the new models still have '30 second skip-ahead', which allows one to effectively skip commercials with just a click or three on the remote.

- Ability to define one's own 'Channels'. For example, I created a channel called 'Peter Sellers', and I set it up to record anything with 'Peter Sellers' in it as an actor, director, in the title, or in the description. I also have a channel called 'Don Henley'. If Don is on Austin City Limits, or Letterman, or the Today Show...whatever, I'll get the recording. Further, I can define how many hours (in half-hour increments) of 'Don Henley' I want to keep, before the newer stuff scrolls the old stuff off the system, and at what quality (standard, medium, or high) they will record. I am planning a 'Gregory Peck' channel in the near future. These channels take only moments to configure; but the shows still take real-time to watch, so I don't want to go overboard.

- Pre-defined Channels - I can browse numerous categories, from Action Movies to sitcoms, from horror flicks -- classic, modern, cult, crap (so bad it's good) -- to SciFi, and many, many more.

- Instant Replay - I haven't read how many seconds back it goes, but I suppose it's five or seven or so. Works with both live and recorded shows.

- Organize recorded shows -- When I record a show, I set it up to file into a specific category. Pre-defined categories are 'TV Shows', 'News', 'Kids', 'Movies', 'Sports', 'Family', etc. Categories I defined are 'Kristie', 'Sci-Fi', 'Danly' (items only Dan would watch), 'Talk' (Letterman, Conan, Ellen, I put here), and 'Media' (Entertainment Tonight, Inside the Actor's Studio).

- Photo Gallery -- Free software, downloaded from http://www.replaytv.com/, allowed me to copy pictures, from my PC, to the ReplayTV (via my network). We can now play slide-shows of our digital pictures on our TV, organized by folder.

- Export to Video Tape -- Were I to connect my VCR to it, I could export a recorded show, to tape. And of course, it would be commercial free.

- Export to DVD or SVCD -- I could do this, using freeware I downloaded from geeky sites. I have no interest in doing this, though, but I could.

Internet Features of ReplayTV
- Has Internet Show Transfer. This also is cool! For example, when we moved, the last thing on my mind were our two favorite shows, 'Angel' and 'Smallville'. Jan. 14 was the return of new episodes, of each, after the Christmas break. Tonight are two more new episodes. When I learned I missed the two episodes, I requested, in the Yahoo! group 'ReplayTVSharing', that someone send me each of the shows. I got immediate responses for each. Last week's 'Angel' came down last night, and last week's 'Smallville' is coming down right now. Kristie and I are not going to watch either of them at this moment, but we could, even though this week's NEW shows are recording as I type this.

Features of DVR's in General
- Record a show while simultaneously watching another recorded show.
- Download channel guide information from the internet via broadband, or via modem to a special phone number.

Basically, there is now SOMETHING good on all the time, and with the settings for scrolling stuff off, I don't worry about running out of hard drive space. If I ever need a bigger drive, I'll just buy one off the shelf and install it using guides I've found out on the net.

Life in TV Land is good. I did not connect my old 1983 VCR, when we moved here, and I do not anticipate that I will. I'm sure I've forgotten something, but that's it for now.