Remember my previous post where I posted about the contenders for who would win the Freeview HD PVR race? Well, as things are hotting up with a few more contenders ready to join the race in the very near future, I thought it might be a good idea to update everyone about the state of play as it currently stands. Progress has moved on apace since my last post on the subject. The first one’s out of the block if you remember, were the Digital Stream unit and the Philips/Pace unit. These two were closely followed by the Technica (Fetch TV) unit sold exclusively at Tesco’s supermarkets and by far the cheapest to purchase at £200 nearly £100 cheaper than its rivals. As usual, the members of AvForums and Digital Spy were out in force buying these units as soon as they had hit the shelves and in typical ‘early adoptor’ fashion, have been busy acting as unpaid beta testers for each manufacturer since.
First out was the Digital Stream unit and although it did ship with some problems, the Digital Stream manufacturer has been more than willing to work closely with most of the early adoptors who have bought this unit and who post on either forum. As soon as a problem is reported, they acknowledge it and feedback between both the users and the units manufacturers has foisted some very good relations. Software updates have already been downloaded and applied to the unit, and so far, from the current crop of launched units the Digital Stream is emerging as the most stable at this point in time.
Next out came the Philips/Pace and since then, things have not turned out to be quite so rosy. Again, the unit was released with a few problems on board, and those early adoptors who had bought this unit purely on the strength of the Pace name were sadly disappointed with the behaviour of the unit. Added to that, unlike the close rapport that built up between the early adoptors and the Digital Stream unit, no such rapport was achieved between Pace and the early adopters on Digital Spy or AvForums as no one from Pace either bothered to reply or give any indication that they were aware of the problems those users were encountering or that they would be resolving them any time in the future via a software update.
As far as I am aware, users are still waiting patiently for an update to correct the stated problems with the electronic program guide not allowing you to press OK to watch a program and any other issues encountered. It has been acknowledged though by all those who purchased this unit that the build quality and HDMI upscaling is of this unit is far superior to any other unit they have owned previously. If the software problems could be resolved by Pace, then most would certainly re purchase for the picture quality alone.
In the case of the Fetch TV unit better known as the Technica Smartbox 8320HD, which followed the two previous units, things got off to a bad start. There were lot’s of bugs initially and the unit was actually withdrawn from sale by Tesco at one point. However, luckily a discourse quickly sprang up between the manufacturer and the early users who had purchased this unit, and slowly but surely updates have been applied to the software since the units first launch. In fact, Fetch TV have been quite prolific with their updates to this unit and seem very intent on responding quickly to their users feedback. This unit still has a few problems. Some early adopters are determined to stick it out until the unit is more or less perfect (although in fairness to any manufacturer, that particular utopia has so far never been achieved by anyone in the Freeview or Freesat PVR market in the UK so far and we PVR users are still patiently waiting for someone to come along and achieve that particular goal.) whilst some have simply become fed up and taken their units back to whence they came. It’s the price that makes the Technica Smart Box such a tempting buy when compared to its rivals, and this is no doubt adding to the reluctance to return the unit and look elsewhere. If the manufacturers can get this little unit free from its current problems, then they are certainly onto a sure winner.
The other unit already available to buy and which also is receiving some praise from the early adaptors who have purchased it, is the Sagemcom RT190-320. They too have been listening and applying updates to remedy any problems found so far by the users. An over the air update has already been downloaded from Sagemcom and a member of staff is monitoring all feedback from the early adopters on Digital Spy which bodes well for this particular units future. According to the Sagemcom thread on DS, it appears that the latest software update has fixed the sound glitches and the slow to navigate Electronic Program Guide so maybe this unit will become a front runner.
And what of that promising sounding newcomer to the Freeview PVR market, 3View? As it’s a new company which is obviously still finding its feet, some hiccups have occurred with production and with launch dates. The unit was initially expected in April then because 3view were not happy with the first production run, they changed to another factory to assemble the units. They then made the mistake of broadcasting that the 30th July would be the despatch date which has since fallen by the wayside as well, causing some mutterings and cancellations of pre-orders from doubting and impatient would be purchasers. However, this author is holding out for this particular unit and hopefully will be publishing a full review when I manage to get hold of a unit.
However, they are far from being the first to make these mistakes as most manufacturers who have been here for some time will probably agree. Never promise a firm date for despatch! Something is bound to go wrong and then you end up with egg on your face. Be vague. Say something like ‘We hope to have these units in our warehouses and ready for despatch sometime in the Autumn’ which gives you a fairly wide range of dates as your goal should anything untoward go wrong during the assembly process or from some other unplanned hiccup. This much anticipated unit is now expected some time during the next week or so.
But what of the mighty Humax? Where is its Freeview HD PVR offering? Well, we are supposed to be seeing the Humax HDR- Fox T2 hit the shop shelves sometime in the next week or so at the hefty price of £329. How that will fair being one of the last to launch when others have enjoyed so much of a head start remains to be seen. Certainly as a manufacturer of both Freeview and Freesat PVR’s they have up until now been undisputed King of this area consistently achieving the position of being the most stable and usable on both the Freeview and Freesat platforms. Will they be able to keep their crown or will one of the new upstarts take their place? We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?
PVR Junction currently have a check list of features for each Freeview HD PVR either currently launched or about to launch that some might find useful to check if you are considering owning one of these units here.