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  #1  
Old 10-08-2003, 07:45 AM
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TeamM3 TeamM3 is offline
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Lightbulb Bye-bye Ti-Vo, hello software download

Review: Software offers TiVo-like recording at lower price

(CNN) -- I have seen the future of television, and it lies within a computer.

The idea of watching TV on your PC isn't new. TV tuner cards for computers have been around for years. And TiVo and ReplayTV pioneered the concept of the Personal Video Recorder, or PVR -- allowing users to pause, rewind, and fast-forward TV broadcasts. But the price of the recording boxes -- around $250 -- and monthly subscription fees in the $13 range have slowed the spread of PVRs.

Now, new software promises to let you record programs on your computer and watch them at your leisure without buying a personal video recorder.

For about $60 for the software and another $80 for a tuner card, SnapStream's Personal Video Station 3 lets you record your favorite shows to your heart's content -- without the monthly subscription charges. InterVideo's WinDVR 3 software, which costs about $80, also offers subscription-free recording capabilities.

But there's a catch: you need a fairly new PC with plenty of processor speed to run this software properly. The company advises that your PC run at 733 megahertz or faster. Though these requirements are easily met by most new PC's, my older 650 MHz Dell desktop was unable to run SnapStream's software. Also, only a few of the newest PC's come equipped with a TV tuner card.

Getting the hardware
If you choose to use your PC to record video, you'll also have to worry about hardware installation -- something that you won't face with a plug-and-play TiVo. And you'll need a good command of basic Windows functions and the Internet.

You'll probably have to install a TV tuner card and the software it requires -- which is straightforward assuming Windows doesn't give you any hiccups. During my installation, I had to download newer, Windows XP-compatible drivers from the tuner card manufacturer's Web site before the card would work with the video recording software.

Once you're done getting the hardware you need, the software installation is fairly simple.

SnapStream easily wins the interface contest, providing a TV-like full-screen presentation of live and recorded video as well as a program guide, all operable by remote control and smoothly animated. You'll have to visit a Web site to see InterVideo's program guide, which is not integrated into the software.

Special features offered
SnapStream also includes a bundle of features that they say you won't find anywhere else. Their software contains a built-in streaming video server that allows you to watch live or recorded TV from any computer connected to your home network. If you're away from home, the software can stream recorded shows to you across the Internet using broadband.

SnapStream lets you encode archived shows into different formats, allowing playback on many gadgets including DVD players and PocketPC's. Users can e-mail shows to friends or swap them on the Internet.

The SnapStream software also offers a 30-second skip function -- which can be handy for skipping commercials.

One of the most heralded TiVo features, however, is missing from SnapStream's and InterVideo's software: recommendations. The software records only what you tell it to record. TiVo records additional programming based on its understanding of your tastes. While SnapStream's program can record an entire season of "Friends," TiVo can deduce that I might like "Seinfeld" as well, providing me with more episodes to watch whenever I want.

Time to update?
If it's time to update your PC, you might opt to skip buying the software or a TiVo and go for a system preloaded with Microsoft's new version of Windows XP. For about $1,500, the Media Center Edition PC comes complete with a tuner card and TV-recording capabilities.

More options for interactive TV viewing are likely to appear soon, as cable companies scramble to offer their own services as well.

In the meantime, SnapStream and InterVideo offer good software and plenty of functionality -- if you can get around the system requirements and installation roadblocks
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  #2  
Old 10-08-2003, 07:47 AM
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Betcour Betcour is offline
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However it is still a lot less convenient than a set-top PVR. I used to try that route but it's just too much trouble to get the PC hooked to everything and have it on 24/7 so that your recordings can go on
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  #3  
Old 10-08-2003, 07:50 AM
Galun Galun is offline
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I had one of the early versions of snapstream from maybe two years ago. I used to download TV programs onto my Ipaq.

The software was ok. To make it function like a Tivo, I need to leave my computer on. Back then, the program wouldn't "wake up" from power save mode, and I ended up with a huge electricity bill. Hopefully this new version has solved the problem.
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  #4  
Old 10-08-2003, 08:54 AM
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TeamM3 TeamM3 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Galun
I had one of the early versions of snapstream from maybe two years ago. I used to download TV programs onto my Ipaq.

The software was ok. To make it function like a Tivo, I need to leave my computer on. Back then, the program wouldn't "wake up" from power save mode, and I ended up with a huge electricity bill. Hopefully this new version has solved the problem.

huge electricity bill from a computer???

what did you own, a Deep Blue Superputer?
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  #5  
Old 10-08-2003, 09:03 AM
Galun Galun is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TeamZ4
huge electricity bill from a computer???

what did you own, a Deep Blue Superputer?
Well, relatively speaking...

I think the bill went up by about 10% for leaving the computer on almost 24/7 that month. Probably around $10 - $15 in absolute terms. It was a long time ago.
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  #6  
Old 10-08-2003, 09:28 AM
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Kaz Kaz is offline
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Yeah, I've looked into the whole SnapStream/ATITV/Showshifter/WinPVR thing, and so far it just hasn't been as convenient as having an actual PVR. If you're the kind of person who doesn't mind going through some 'procedure' to watch/record TV, sure, it'll work, but for my money/time, I'd much rather sit on my couch, hit the 'system on' macro on my remote, and be done with it. And with the added features of my replay5000 over my old replay3000, it makes a PC-based PVR even less compelling.
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  #7  
Old 10-08-2003, 12:39 PM
LeucX3 LeucX3 is offline
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I'm getting a DVR through Cox cable soon after the 14th. I'll still be able to use their standard cable guide and revised remote. It'll only be a few dollars a month more because i'll be returning the current cable box for this newer one. I think they said its' capable of 50hr recording at the lowest setting. More than i think i'll need.
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  #8  
Old 10-08-2003, 03:56 PM
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nowonder nowonder is offline
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I suggest you talk to someone with this setup before you trade in the tivo. One of my coworkers went the Home Theater PC route around the same time I got my tivo. At first he had the advantage, since it could play MP3's. Tivo soon released the Home Media Option... so now it's about even.

My coworker is now trying to sell his PC. It's too loud. he's sick of having to install software updates and virus definitions. He isn't happy with the remote control solutions available. He wasn't happy at all when the harddrive overflowed and he had to reinstall everything. He's had issues with occasional failed recordings.

--nw
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  #9  
Old 10-08-2003, 05:40 PM
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milski milski is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Galun
I think the bill went up by about 10% for leaving the computer on almost 24/7 that month. Probably around $10 - $15 in absolute terms. It was a long time ago.
That's a bit surprising, I have between two and four computers on 24/7 and my total bill during the summer is about $20. Half of it being for computers? That would be geeky...
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  #10  
Old 10-08-2003, 08:41 PM
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elbert elbert is offline
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I have a DVR from Time Warner. I am now a couch potato.
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  #11  
Old 10-08-2003, 08:48 PM
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Bruce128iC Bruce128iC is offline
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Who the heck wants to watch TV on their computer screen anyway? TiVo rocks!
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