|Humax DRT-800 DVD Recorder/DVR|
|Home Theater Media Servers Satellite & Cable Receivers/PVRs/DVRs/TiVo|
|Written by Matthew Evert|
|Wednesday, 01 December 2004|
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One of the more amazing trends today is the absolute explosion in the amount of television programming available to the average person. Technologies such as digital cable and satellite TV have made the proliferation of television channels a reality. My DirecTV satellite service offers over 900 channels of programming, ranging from the Thai Channel to HBO and darn near everything in between. With programming available on most channels 24 hours a day, a nearly limitless variety of shows can be seen. Of course, you may have to be up at 4:00 AM to see that episode of “The A-Team” that you missed back in the ‘80s.
With a TiVo digital video recorder (DVR), you can now record those normally out of reach shows with a click of a button, and watch the recording at your convenience. The shows are written to the built-in hard drive of the TiVo unit, allowing you to play, pause or fast-forward through shows just as you would with a VHS tape. Still, the problem of portability and convenience remains. How do you archive that awesome “A-Team” episode, so that friends and family can see it in months to come? With a Humax DRT800 DVD recorder, you can burn a DVD copy that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere. The DRT800 is a great package of TiVo DVR, a DVD recorder, a DVD player and an analog tuner, all in one for a retail price of $399 after a $100 TiVo service activation rebate.
The DRT800 has a silver steel case with a black plastic front display and tips the scales at nine pounds. The size and layout of the front panel buttons are similar to a DVD player. Eject, play, track advance, pause and other familiar buttons are all present, as well as a rocker control that can navigate the onscreen menu. Standing at three inches tall, 16-1/2 inches wide, and 13-1/4 inches deep, this TiVo will sit easily on top of your TV or in your AV rack. Rubber feet prevent the scratching of your other components or the stand that may rest below the DRT800.
The back panel sports a cadre of inputs and outputs for use with various types of connections. For inputs, there are two sets of composite video, two sets of analog audio RCA inputs, two sets of S-video, an RF coaxial and an IEEE 1394 DV input. One set of inputs and the DV input are also located at the front of the unit behind a hidden door. These front inputs make for easy hook-up to a camcorder or VCR, so you can record home movies to the TiVo’s hard drive or burn them to DVD. Never have the dreaded home movies been more accessible to your unexpected friends. In addition, USB expansion ports enable you to easily hook up an MP3 player or a digital camera. There are two USB ports, so you can have a digital camera plugged in and the USB Ethernet adapter plugged in at the same time. The Ethernet adapter allows for additional TiVo functionality, such as online scheduling of recording requests (you will need a broadband Internet connection for this) and sharing recordings between multiple TiVos in the house. You can also view digital photos and play music on your TV by having the TiVo serve them up from a shared drive on your PC. This is handy if you want to show all your Halloween costume pictures on the big-screen TV in your living room vs. the tiny PC monitor in your office. All of this is possible using the DRT800, an Ethernet adapter and your existing home network.
You can record analog terrestrial TV and analog cable TV through the tuner in the DRT800 by hooking the coax cable directly into the unit. Although this feature is nice, most people will want to record digital cable and digital satellite instead. In order to do this, you will need at least one digital cable or satellite receiver in addition to the DRT800. These will range in price from $50 to $300 and beyond, so be sure to factor that into your purchase decision. If you get two receivers, you will be able to watch one live show while recording another. This is an expensive but sometimes necessary evil if you frequently have “domestic battles” about which primetime sitcom is going to be watched or recorded. If “Friends” and “The Simpsons” are on at the same time, with two receivers, you can record one while watching the other or record both while you sleep. Problem solved.
You can record digital cable and satellite programs through appropriate connections from a cable or satellite set-top receiver to the DRT800’s composite video/audio and S-video inputs. I would recommend the S-video for the best video transmission from the receiver to the TiVo. The analog RCA inputs are your only option for recording sound from the receiver to the TiVo. Outputs are one S-video output, one RCA/composite audio/video out, one component video and an optical digital output. You will want to use the component video and optical outputs to connect to your A/V receiver for optimal video and sound.
The TiVo portion of this unit offers all the same features that a TiVo Series 2 DVR would have. WishList™ allows you to find programs based on an actor name or a keyword, such as “soccer,” etc. Like a weekly show? Season Pass™ helps find all the episodes and will even sort out the ones you have already seen and not record them. The TiVo can be trained to automatically record anything that meets a set list of your suggested keywords. It really is as simple as you may have heard from your friends. The DTR800 can record 80 hours of programming using the low quality setting. There are best, high, medium and basic quality settings that you can choose from. The higher the quality setting, the smaller number of programs you can store. HDTV can be recorded, but the programs you wish to record will be down-converted in resolution from their original 720p (or higher) to 480p.
As a progressive scan DVD player, the DTR800 can play MP3s, CDs, DVDs or audio CDs. Most common types of recordable disks can be read, such as CD-R/RW and DVD-R/RW. The DRT800 can also decode Dolby Digital Surround and DTS Surround multi-channel audio formats. Using the component video outputs and the optical digital output, you can replace your DVD player with this unit. TiVo supports MP3 ID3 tags, so you can view the album and song names on your video screen.
The best part of this unit is the DVD recorder. The DTR800 has a “4X” DVD burner in it that can burn to DVD –R/-RW discs (sorry, it can’t write to DVD+R/+RW discs) and recording to DVD is nothing short of simple. Just select the programs you want on the “Now Playing” list and select “Copy to DVD.” It will show you how much space remains on the DVD and you can either add more or burn it. This allows you to save your favorite shows or share them with friends who have DVD players. Recording to DVD allows you to save previously recorded shows to DVD and free up valuable hard drive space. In the highest-quality mode, a one-hour TV program will take up most of the DVD. In high mode, you can fit two hours of TV shows onto a DVD-R or DVD-RW. If you still want to burn a two-hour movie you recorded in best mode, the DTR800 can span the movie to multiple DVDs. The DTR800 burns DVDs in the background, so you can still record and watch live TV while this is happening.
First, you will need to activate your TiVo by calling in and forking over some cash. You can pay for a month at a time for $12.95 or a one-time product lifetime fee of $299.
You will need to find out whether you can use the serial cable to connect your satellite or digital cable receiver to the TiVo. Careful, there are two settings for the serial cable. I chose the wrong one the first time I set up the TiVo and, after being unable to change the channels on my receiver through the TiVo remote, I traced the issue to the wrong setting for the serial cable. The set-up will take close to an hour to perform and you will need to wait up to eight hours before the TiVo can download all the program schedules. Otherwise, you can use the IR transmitters to control the receiver using the TiVo remote. Lastly, you will need to have a phone jack nearby so you can download account info and programming info from TiVo headquarters.
Now you can plug in the video, audio, phone and Ethernet connectors. When you enter the guided set-up, you will be amazed at how easy it is to get the TiVo up and running. Easy to answer questions and applications that test to see if you plugged in the A/V connections properly are there help you along the way.