A high definition journey

What I expect from MyFreeview|HD

, posted: 21-Sep-2009 16:10

A few weeks ago, I was approached by my friend Mauricio. The team at Freeview wanted to know if we were interested in trialling some MyFreeview|HD approved DTR devices.
 
Freeview is New Zealand’s free-to-air digital television and radio service. It is designed as a replacement service for the current analogue TV transmissions, that are going to be switched off nationwide in a few years (at which point you will NEED a set top box to receive either Freeview, or the transmissions of another provider, such as SKY's satellite service or TelstraClear's cable tv service).
 
No more snowy/ghosty TV1 and TV2 via bunny ears!
 
The platform currently has 19 television and radio channels, with more being added from time to time (including the recent welcome addition of Prime television). You can see a full list of Freeview channels here. Note that some channels are exclusive to the satellite service, the terrestrial service, or particular regions.
 
A DTR is a "Digitial Television Recorder". Similar to a PVR, DVR, MySKY, DVD Recorder, HTPC and other products.
 
I jumped at the chance to be part of this trial, as previously I have owned three Windows-based Home Theatre PCs (HTPCs), two different hard-drive based DVD recorders, and always really liked to have a PVR.
 
Previous HTPCs have been sidelined due to poor acceptance factor from non-geek household members (HTPCs can sometimes be difficult to deal with when things go wrong).
 
A few months ago I tried a Panasonic DVD Recorder, but with no HD capability and no EPG (program guide) to make recordings easy, the time and effort required to set a recording up was just not attractive - to name and set a recording was up to 30 - 60 button presses (Really! By the time you set date, hour, minute, channel, picture quality, name the recording, set any repeat flag, it really is that many buttons to push), and the end result was still only a mushy picture quality from the analogue tuner.
 
I disconnected my Sky Tv service early this year, as it was a luxury I just was not prepared to continue paying for, considering the bulk of my viewing was free to air ("FTA") channels anyway (TV2, TV3, C4 & Prime mainly), I felt a bit miffed at the prospect of paying per month to activate the HD capability in the reciever, and much of SKYs SD content appears to be of worse picture quality than the same SD content broadcast on the Freeview platform.
 
Currently my setup includes a Panasonic 50" High Definition plasma TV and a Sony 5.1 Home Theatre System.

So what do I hope to gain from moving up to a DTR unit?
 
Currently I watch hardly any TV. In fact, I watch less than I actually want to. I am a busy working single parent, and when most of the programs I wish to view are on, I am simply too busy to watch them - either spending the time with my children, or meeting other commitments.
 
With a DTR, I will be able to get back to watching "my programs" at a time that suits me - generally late at night, after 10pm.
 
I will be able to watch those recordings in HD, and hopefully it will be as easy to use as the MySKY I once had, AND maybe even have a few less annoyances (with the MySKY, if you activated the onscreen EPG, your picture and sound both disappeared - making browsing the EPG impossible whilst trying to watch a program, as well as a few other issues.
 
The DTR has arrived while I write this, so I look forward to having some time tonight to unpack it, and set it up. I believe they have sent me a Homecast HT9200DTR, and the Freeview crew (say "Freeview Crew" ten times fast!) phoned me yesterday to let me know it was on its way, and also to arrange an aerial install for me (not required, as I had a new UHF aerial put up before). Freeview seem to be paying good attention to detail - thats always a good sign.
 
I will run through the full setup later on, and discover how easy (or otherwise) it will be to get up and running. 

I also have a Logitech Harmony 525 programmable remote control and hopefully the Homecast works well with it too.
 
And remember, aside from the cost of the box (and any cable, dish or aerial which you may or may not need), thats it! Freeview is exactly that - free to view. No sign up, no subscription, no payments. Just your regular free TV channels (plus many you cannot get via analogue) in high quality digital format.
 
About the author: Tony Hughes is a self-employed financial & IT consultant, based in Hawkes Bay. As a busy, working parent of young children, I am enjoying the family & child oriented content available on Freeview, as well as the odd Sci-Fi series as well (Primeval for starters!). I often find I miss shows, as I do not glue myself to the tv every night, so I am looking forward to trying out the Homecast PVR from Freeview.


Other related posts:
Reliability of the Homecast DTR9200
Recording, Series Link & Wife Acceptance Factor (WAF) with the Homecast HT9200DTR
Setting up the Homecast HT9200DTR








Comment by RedJungle, on 23-Sep-2009 10:42

Keen to hear what you think of the Homecast Tony. I'm eye-ing up a purchase. 


Comment by Richar, on 4-Oct-2009 19:30

Hi there I certainly don't qualify as a geekzone applicant, however am looking at purchasing this freeview homecast device. I too have the panasonic plasma but 42in and a sony DAV TZ200 home theatre so looking forward to your review especially if it can be successfully hocked up to the home theatre, other option is the zinwell ZMT-640PVR


Comment by Nicholas, on 22-Nov-2009 14:52

Hi, I am looking at upgrading to a DVR/PVR and found your article to be most helpful. Currently I have the old fashioned VCR which has given long appreciated service. There was a brief foray into DVR a couple of years back when I purchased a Phillips unit. However that had multiple faults and after a lack of service from both Phillips and the store I settled for a refund. I too just want to mainly time-shift programmes, but also retain the occasional special programme for later. Thinking the new Tivo unit might be the answer, I went shopping today only to be sadly disappointed. Don't get me wrong - it has good points like transferring content to a PC and wireless networking. However the barrier for me came when I asked "how do I connect the Sky decoder to it?". Seemingly the sales assistant had never heard this question before. Turned out the answer was "you can't". I enquired how I would be able to record the 50% of programmes I on UKTV; Discovery etc which I currentl can on VCR and was made to feel that I was some sort of oddity for wanting to do this. After all, she said I could still watch them on my TV live, couldn't I? So - to quote "Top Gear How Hard Can It Be!" - either someone comes up with a DVR that is easy to operate; twin freeview tuners; expandable hard drive (or ability to back up to PC/DVD); inputs for sky decoder/VCR/handycam OR I continue on VCR; build a PC based media storage; increasingly supplemented by friends from overseas sending me series pre-recorded (which would be a shame for manufacturers to miss out on my consumer $ and poor old NZ advertisers wasting their revenue on ads I won't be watching).


Comment by Nicholas, on 22-Nov-2009 21:07

Hi, I am looking at upgrading to a DVR/PVR and found your article to be most helpful. Currently I have the old fashioned VCR which has given long appreciated service. There was a brief foray into DVR a couple of years back when I purchased a Phillips unit. However that had multiple faults and after a lack of service from both Phillips and the store I settled for a refund. I too just want to mainly time-shift programmes, but also retain the occasional special programme for later. Thinking the new Tivo unit might be the answer, I went shopping today only to be sadly disappointed. Don't get me wrong - it has good points like transferring content to a PC and wireless networking. However the barrier for me came when I asked "how do I connect the Sky decoder to it?". Seemingly the sales assistant had never heard this question before. Turned out the answer was "you can't". I enquired how I would be able to record the 50% of programmes I on UKTV; Discovery etc which I currentl can on VCR and was made to feel that I was some sort of oddity for wanting to do this. After all, she said I could still watch them on my TV live, couldn't I? So - to quote "Top Gear How Hard Can It Be!" - either someone comes up with a DVR that is easy to operate; twin freeview tuners; expandable hard drive (or ability to back up to PC/DVD); inputs for sky decoder/VCR/handycam OR I continue on VCR; build a PC based media storage; increasingly supplemented by friends from overseas sending me series pre-recorded (which would be a shame for manufacturers to miss out on my consumer $ and poor old NZ advertisers wasting their revenue on ads I won't be watching).


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What is this blog about?

Welcome to MyFreeview|HD Review! It’s almost like a “reality show” online. For the next four weeks we are going to follow three people experiencing high-definition digital TV, recording their experiences with three different MyFreeview|HD devices. This blog is sponsored by Freeview but the blog posts are by no means influenced by the company. Here is how it works: I had to chose three people from the Geekzone community to try and report their experiences with the devices, broadcast quality and anything else related to using the service. So I found my three candidates and each received a different model, courtesy of Freeview. Here are the reviewers: Suzi Heath (Magic TV 3500 DTR), Tony Hughes (Homecast HT9200DTR), Scott Palmer (Zinwell ZMT-640 PVR), and Nick Parfene (JCMatthew DVT-320T).

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