The packaging was minimal (well done), and easy to get into. The unit included component cables, standard RCA ‘a.v. leads’, and importantly – an HDMI cable (note that Freeview certified boxes require HDMI to output HD content – even though component cables can support HD, Freeview certification removes this ability).
I made a space for the DTR in my TV cabinet, plugged the HDMI cable in the back of the unit, the other end to the TV, plugged the power cord in, and hooked up the aerial. (For the sake of simplicity, I will leave integration with my home theatre for another time).
The unit booted nice and quickly, and offered me a few options regarding languages and type of TV. I accepted all the defaults, and the unit then proceeded to automatically scan for channels. It found every channel available, and within 3 minutes of turning the unit on, left me sitting watching High Definition free to air TV.
The on-screen displays are easy on the eye, informative and friendly, and the remote buttons are clear and concise. Layout of the buttons is not overly impressive, but it doesn’t feel awkward either.
Simply labelled buttons like “Info”, “EPG”, “Play list”, “Exit” etc are a godsend in terms of being user friendly, and the manual has so far sat unopened on the tv cabinet.
Press ‘EPG’ and the MHEG-5 middleware pops up on screen, shows you a guide, and you simply select a program, and either press the ok button to watch it, or the red teletext-style coloured button to record it. But more on recording (and series link) in another post.
So that’s it for setup – if you have your aerial installed with the correct plug on the end, the Homecast comes with everything you need, and despite the fact that I am a card carrying member of Geekzone, even my mom could have set this up in the same time as I did - about 5 to 10 minutes from closed box to channel surfing.
The next time I post, I will discuss the user interface, and provide some screen shots too. For those of you looking to find specific capabilities, or avoid specific annoyances, feel free to comment below, and I will check up on your query.
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
What I expect from MyFreeview|HD
Comment by Tony Booth, on 25-Sep-2009 10:30
Hi Tony. Three things you could comment about: 1) I have read that you can record TWO programs while watching a THIRD, can you please check that this is correct. I find it difficult to believe with only two tuners. 2) Roughly how much space does a three hour program take up on the disc? 3) How well does the FF work in skipping the ads?
Comment by tonyhughes, on 25-Sep-2009 14:12
1. Yes, due to the way digital TV works, mutliple streams can be picked up by one tuner at the same time. I have indeed recorded TV2 and TV3 and watched C4, all at the same time with this unit. :o)
2. I will have to get back to you.
3. Extremely well. Can use the FF button, or using the left and right arrow controls can quickly skip several minutes very quickly and easily. When I skip ads, it takes me about 5 seconds total. You won't be disappointed.
Comment by jonathan18, on 25-Sep-2009 15:28
2) Roughly how much space does a three hour program take up on the disc?
Surely the amount of disc space taken up by a recording will be pretty much constant (between recorders, that is), as I understand that all units simply record the datastream as it comes in, ie there's no re-encoding. (The only difference I could see happening is if a recorder "strips off" one of the audio tracks when more than one is broadcast - there are questions circulating as to whether the Panasonic recorders record both the AAC and DD audio. Can't imagine that's the case, considering even my $250 Vantage simply dumps all data, including both audio tracks.)
Rather, the difference will be between channels - both its resolution (eg 720p v 1080i) and the level of compression etc.
Some quick calculations of my recorder give some idea:
SD - 2.76GB/hr (off TVNZ7); 1.895/hr (off C4)
720p- 4.4GB/hr (TV One)
1080i - 5.27GB/hr (TV3)
Comment by thefatmould, on 27-Sep-2009 15:48
A couple of questions about some of the connections on the backof this unit. 1) What can the LAN port be used for on this device - Can I use it to view my recorded TV on my computer?2) what can the USB ports be used for both the two USB-A and the USB-B ports.
And also would you recommend this over Tivo and either way what are your reasons.
Comment by Kelly Hayward, on 27-Sep-2009 20:02
Hi This feedback is awesome. I am very keen to get hold of one of these Homecast HT9200DTR. I have checked out TiVo feedback from ozz because it's been their for awhile and got warned that the tivo has trouble when you set to record a program from the "select a program" guide. I was told that as soon as the title on the channel screen changes, so does your recording. Which isn't always at the right time. meaning movies & programs miss the start, finish, or even both when this happens. I am keen to see how this problem is avoided with the Homecast HT9200DTR. Thanks for your response. Kelly Hayward
Comment by wongtop, on 28-Sep-2009 09:36
Re: recording two channels while watching a third - this only works if the third channel is on the same mux as one of the two channels that is recording. For example last night I was recording something on prime (Kordia mux) and TVNZ7 (TVNZ mux), which meant that I couldn't watch TV3 at the same time. I could watch any of the other channels on the Kodia or TVNZ muxes though.
Comment by Bazza, on 13-Jun-2010 17:01
Yeah I'm keen to see what the LAN port can do too. Is it possible to get access to recordings on the HDD from a computer or watch the recordings from another LAN connected device?
Comment by Scotty, on 1-Feb-2011 21:38
I think the only thing that everyone who has an interest in this product keeps avoiding is that you can only do firmware upgrades with the 4 USB ports, so why have 4? I reeally hope they fix this to at least be able to playback avi files from USB stick/drives. Also I see a querie in regard to missing program if the title change over - you have a buffer you can set to record a couple of minutes before your set show starts and a couple of minutes after.
Comment by Des J, on 26-Mar-2012 12:40
Programm recording is set via EPG. The machine starts recording before the program starts and stops recording before the program finishes so now I dont know how the story finished. What to do?