Tuesday, April 24, 2007

PVR Heaven - SnapStream BeyondTV 4.6 Review

I bought SnapStream's BeyondTV 4 in December 2006 for $39.99 and I couldn't be happier with my purchase. This is the best software I'm come across in the last few years because it always seems to be a few steps ahead of me.

Generally, BeyondTV is a software application that lets you to watch television, pause, rewind, find, and record any TV shows you want in full DVD quality. The software is very customizable and offers plenty of support (with very good forums).

The software comes complete with a lifetime subscription to an electronic program guide (EPG), which is synced to my local cable provider. It also lets you log in online when you're away from home and schedule shows to watch remotely (always comes in handy when I'm going to miss a Nuggets game). The guide does a wonderful job of working around conflicts (i.e., when I have two shows I want to record at the same time). It will often record a re-airing of a show in the middle of the night. And it does all of the recording in the background and out of the way, with hardly any noticeable impact in the responsiveness of my computer.

And unlike TiVo or similar products, you pay no monthly fees nor are you stuck with fixed recording capacity because you can always add storage to your computer. I currently use an external hard drive that's 160GB, which gives me approximately 60 hours of recording time at medium quality. This is more than enough for me, but what's nice is that if I need more room, I can plug in a bigger hard drive and/or lower the quality of the recording, so this system grows with me.

Keep in mind that BeyondTV is just software. Although my purchase of the software came with a free remote from FireFly which lets me control BeyondTV and other applications when watching TV in bed, I should make clear that BeyondTV does not come with hardware that lets you get a TV signal into your computer. This might seem like a limitation, but is actually the software's greatest strength. It is compatible with many different manufacturer's TV tuner cards, of which Happauge's are industry-leading.

I bought Happauge's WinTV PVR 150 two years ago for $49.99 and I am still amazed with its feature set and quality of recording, especially for such a low price. Just yesterday, I decided to upgrade to an updated "hybrid" card called Happauge WinTV HVR 1600. This hybrid recorder lets me watch and record normal TV over a cable, satellite, or antenna signal, but also lets me watch over the air HDTV.

I intended to just remove the old TV tuner card, but I decided to keep both of them in my computer at the same time and see what happened. And what do you know, with hardly any setup at all, BeyondTV recognized both tuners and now lets me record two shows at once! Apparently BeyondTV supports an infinite number of TV tuners.

Amazingly, I can watch a previously recorded TV show and also record two shows simultaneously with virtually no system lag. This is truly an amazing combination of products here and I couldn't be happier with how effortless the setup was.

Is there anything this software can't do? I'm in PVR heaven here.


Anonymous said...

how much did you get the HVR for? what's the total cost for all the parts

A.H. Rajani said...

BeyondTV and Remote 39.99
Happauge PVR 150 49.99
Happauge HVR 1600 79.99

I would recommend just getting the HVR 1600 and BeyondTV -- great combination. And spread out over a year or two, modding your system becomes quite affordable b/c the prices come down considerably.

Anonymous said...

you actually can record 3 shows at once, 1 off the 150 and 1 analog and 1 hdtv for a total of 3 at the same time. and still watch a recording while your recording all three.

Patrick X said...

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Have You Ever Missed Your Favorite TV Shows, Episodes, or Seasons?

A.H. Rajani said...

technically I'm limited to recording two shows at once right now because the HVR didn't come with an antenna for HDTV.

But yea you are right. the HVR 1600 has dual tuners so I can add hi-def to the mix pretty soon.

A.H. Rajani said...

i got linked on the snapstream forum: http://forums.snapstream.com/vb/showthread.php?p=250185#post250185

Anonymous said...

I don't suppose you've tried Microsoft's version, either in XP Media Center or the new Vista Home Deluxe?

Or can you compare it to Tivo? Everybody always says Tivo is the most intuitive interface.

A.H. Rajani said...

i have not used xp MCE and i plan on holding off on vista (maybe permanently).

i did review a similar product called "ReplayTV PC Edition" here: http://arajani.blogspot.com/2006/11/replaytv-pc-edition-review.html#links

I don't think ReplayTV's software is anywhere near as good as this. My roommate also has the real ReplayTV (the precursor to TiVo) and although it is useful, I have problems with it's interface as well.

I think most of it is getting used to something and not wanting to change. I will say that I can't find a very good way in BeyondTV to see my current lineup in the EPG.

Anonymous said...

ХРЮ!!! ;-P