AVerMedia Technologies Inc. is very well known in the industry for its computer-related audio and video products. They have been manufacturing TV tuners, capture cards, media players, streaming servers and a few other products for more than a decade. We have seen TV tuners ranging from internal PCI cards for desktops to thumb drive-sized USB dongles for desktops and laptops. USB-based AV capture cards that can record videos from external sources such as a DVD player, game console, set-top-boxes and media players are also in their line of products. There have been other manufacturers, including AVerMedia, presenting external TV tuner boxes which can convert any regular CRT or LCD monitor into a television set. But all these were just for watching TV and none offered the feature of recording TV shows or broadcasts for viewing later. Though this was possible using a TV tuner on a desktop or PC, you needed to keep the computer switched on, in effect wasting power. Well, AVerMedia now presents an external TV tuner box which can record your TV shows and also pause live TV completely eliminating the requirement of a PC. We had the unit with us and this is what we found.
Average looks and build quality, glossy shell
Design and Build
The AVerMedia AverTV Box PVR is a very simple, light and easy to configure digital video recorder to help enhance your television watching experience. The device is approximately the size of a conventional modem or wireless router. The chassis is all-plastic, and has a high-glossy black colour, which can attract dust and scratches easily. The PVR does not look impressive enough to be flaunted around with your interiors as it looks like any standard assembled electronic device. The reason—the unit has buttons and connectors on the top and all around its body which makes it look a little ugly. What makes the unit less attractive is the front area which has a small translucent window that houses a red and green LED and the infrared (IR) receiver. When the unit is powered on, the plain-Jane LEDs make the product look like a Chinese-made or a home assembled unit. What we think would make it impressive is a display screen or at least smaller LEDs.
Control panel on the top
Moving ahead, the TV box has its main control panel on the top, with volume up/down, channel up/down, OK, Menu and power buttons. The front panel has the LED status window (as we mentioned above) and a USB 2.0 port for plugging in an external hard drive or a flash drive. The right side features composite AV input and output RCA jacks. A VGA-in/out port, Audio in/out jacks, an antenna and power jack are seen on the rear. Apart from the unit, the package includes the necessary RCA cables for composite video, a D-sub VGA PC interface cable, audio cable, a power adapter and a fully featured infrared remote control.
USB port on the front panel
Features and Performance
The AVerTV box PVR is a single all-in-one unit that features a built-in TV tuner to convert any monitor or PC setup into a TV set and a DVR unit for recording and pausing television broadcasts. You can also use the device for digitizing analogue videos from older DV or VHS tapes or recording games by connecting gaming consoles to the input. The device can also operate without a PC, using a conventional CRT or LCD monitor or TV that features a VGA interface. You can also use it on a PC by connecting the monitor using the VGA in/out connectors. This will enable you to watch TV on your monitor and when not using the TV mode, simply power off the unit and switch the inputs to have your PC display back. Setting up the device is almost child’s play and all you need to do is connect your monitor to the VGA out at the rear, an external speaker set to the audio out jack and your cable TV to the antenna jack. Power up the device and use the remote or the control panel on the device itself to scan and save the television channels and you are ready to enjoy your favourite shows. Those having a satellite TV setup or a CAS cable set-top box can connect the AV out of the set-to-box to the AV input on the right side.
Audio and VGA in/out ports on the rear
You can further enhance this entire setup and convert it into a personalized TV unit by using the recording capabilities of the AverTV Box. All one needs to do is plug in any USB pen drive or USB external hard drive with sufficient available storage space for recording videos. Plug in the storage, set up the unit for recording and you are ready to record your favourite flicks or TV shows by simply hitting the record button on the remote. You can also assign the amount of storage for the time-shift using which one can pause, play, rewind and fast-forward live television shows and movies to skip advertisements and breaks. All recordings are stored on the drive connected to the USB port in .TS format. These files are stored with individual file names along with a date and time stamp for viewing later. These files can also be shared, saved and viewed on any regular media player on your PC. The videos are marginally compressed using the MPEG 1/2 codec (7098 Kb/s) with a frame rate of 50 fps and a resolution of 720 x 576 (576p). The audio is stored with a sample rate of 48 KHz and a bit rate of 192 Kb/s.
We expected to see the saved files use higher compression in formats of AVI, MP4 or MKV, but there is no option to do so. In our test run, we recorded a standard TV show (from a satellite set-top-box) using the AV input for 10 minutes. Though the recording is satisfactory with good video and audio quality, the size of the file was around 500 MB. This means a television episode of one hour could take up around 3 GB of space on your USB storage. Using a regular 16 GB pen drive would give you just four hours of video recording after leaving around 4 GB of space for the time-shift feature. Though a 32 GB pen drive should suffice for casual usage, using at least a 500 GB hard drive for saving more TV serials and movies is advisable. This can be optional unless you transfer your recordings to the PC to retain maximum space for additional recordings. Do note that the product can only handle up to 1 TB hard drives formatted in FAT32.
Composite AV in / out on the right side
What we also found out is that the AVerTV Box PVR does not playback any other video formats other than its own recordings that are in .TS format. This makes the PVR Box useless as a conventional media player for watching movies stored in DivX or MKV formats. But this box can be ideal for converting old analogue VHS and DV tapes into digital format for safe keeping and computerized editing. Other downsides of the product are that it cannot record videos from the VGA input source. This means you cannot record anything from your computer’s display out such as a video tutorial of software or game plays. But there is an expensive alternative to it and you can record it using an additional composite TV-out card installed on your PC.
The AverTV Box PVR also features scheduled recording with auto on/off feature to help record your TV programs and movies when they are played late at night or while you are at work. All you need to do is schedule the record timings, set the channel or input source (if STBs are connected) and the Box will do the needful without any further user intervention required. Never miss out an important serial, movie or game while you are out at work or shopping. The feature of auto on/off also helps save power as the device will automatically turn on, record the broadcast and shut off after it’s done till the next schedule is in line.
Complete connections explained
Verdict and Price in India
Priced at a steep Rs 8,750, this product is very expensive for the features it offers. The same features can be obtained using any standard TV tuner card or USB dongle which is available for cheaper. The only plus point we see is the feature of recording videos on a USB drive so that they can be transferred, shared and viewed on any PC. If the product had the features of a standard media player and could alo play any AVI, DiVX, XviD or MKV files it would have been a good price. If you are considering this product for only recording television broadcasts, we would instead recommend opting for satellite TV set-top boxes which have recording features that are available for Rs 2,000 onwards. You can play, pause, rewind, fast-forward, record and schedule recordings of your favourite TV broadcasts at a lesser cost. But if you intend using this product for recording videos from external sources apart from STBs and cable TV, the product is a good alternative. We still find the price of the product a bit too high for the features it offers.