I just got a Zinwell 630HD knowing that it had scheduling capability, as I want to record to an external DVD recorder (occasionally we like to cut a DVD of a program to keep longer term). But it complains and won't change channel at the appointed time if there's no disk attached. Works OK with a FAT32 flash drive but we want more storage than that. Tried two portable HDDs, one of which admittedly was NTFS, but couldn't even get it to recognise that a disk was attached, i.e. the 'format' installation option said no disk present to format. Which makes me wonder if the USB port is not supplying enough current. Anyone had any success with USB-powered portable drives with this unit, or is it going to be necessary to use an externally powered drive, e.g. a desktop drive?
Pure conjecture on my part, but maybe, like the ZMT640, it's expecting to find two partitions on the hard drive. One small EXT formatted partition where file info is stored and a a second main partition with jfs formatting where the media is stored. I guess you'd need Linux to achieve this setup. The inbuilt format routine would probably only work on the jfs partition.
If powering is a problem you could buy a USB connector to replace the existing one on your ext HD cable and split out the power pair to a suitable connector to use with a plug pack. (assuming you can't open the existing connector to separate out the power pair)
More likely I suspect that accessing a USB HD has been disabled in the firmware to satisfy NZ Freeview requirements.
It certainly works with a USB drive - the FAT32 flash drive recorded and played back OK. I didn't even tell the STB to format it, just plugged it in and it made sense of it. The manual says that it works with "Zinwell companion HDD recorder model ZHD-USB35"; and that if you tell it to format the drive, it will use the EXT3 format "which can support longer recording duration".
I might be able to rustle up an externally powered drive to test with it, so we'll know if the power is the main issue.
1) I just put a NTFS formatted desktop drive (externally powered) onto the box. On boot it told me there was a USB device attached. The format menu allowed me to format it; that took about a minute, at the end of which it showed 298MB available, which is roughly right. So I think we can say that the USB port is fine for PVR functions, it just doesn't put out enough current for typical portable HDD drives.
2) Scheduled recording from standby works but didn't do what I hoped. Specifically, it blanks the output to component and S-video outputs. So if the thing is in standby, and wakes itself up on schedule, it's still no use as a source for the DVD recorder. If one happens to be nearby and hits the 'standby' button it livens up the output ports, but it's no use unattended.
3) Scheduled recording from operating mode works and continues to produce output to component and S-video. So if I want to record to the DVD recorder, I'd better leave the Zinwell turned on. Thus I have to have both the STB and the HDD chewing power.
One of the attractions of using a HDD DVD recorder (Pioneer 530H) for the actual recording is that we tend to watch news etc at 2X speed, and ours does a good job of providing sound at 2X - it's faster but otherwise quite decent quality. To say nothing of commercial skip functionality. Most STB PVRs seem to have no sound at all when using 2X speed.
Conclusion - either we waste some power by leaving STB and HDD on all the time, or we just use the STB as our only PVR and lose out on having sound at 2X playback.