We live in an evolving age of television. Digital television, both standard and high definition, is slowly taking over the airwaves. Until recently, finding out what program are going to be shown has been the domain of publications like TV Week or free newspaper inserts. IceTV, an Australian company, has realised there is a gaping hole in the services that digital TV is offering. The signals being broadcast by the stations are accompanied by basic information about what program is currently being shown and what is just around the corner. IceTV has taken things a leap further with their IceGuide product.
- Excellent up-to-date guide, Easy to use, Simple to set up, Good Value
- PIMP still needs work.
If you have a PVR device and don’t get IceGuide, you are missing out.
Price$ 13.00 (AUD)
IceGuide is an electronic program guide, regularly downloaded from the Internet (it cannot be used without Internet access), which shows not only what is on now but what will be on, in detail, for the coming week and sometimes, beyond. Each program has detailed information including a synopsis, original airdate, genre, rating, run time and additional data such as closed captioning.
However, the usefulness of IceGuide does not stop at its abilities as a TV guide. IceGuide is designed specifically to be used with PVR devices and Windows Media Centre Edition (MCE) enabled PCs. Using the guide, all you need to do is press record on your remote control when the program you want is highlighted and that program will be recorded. You no longer need an astrophysics degree to understand how to program your recorder; IceGuide does it for you. Not only that, but in Windows MCE, pressing the record button twice allows you to record the entire series of one show. For example, if you tell IceGuide to record the entire series of The Simpsons, it will record that show every single time it is on. This means that not only will the new episode that Channel 10 is showing be recorded but every other episode that week and forevermore. If The Simpsons somehow ended up on Channel 7 then it would be recorded from there too; MCE with IceGuide looks for the name of the show, not the time slot. This feature is very cool and extremely useful but it should be noted that it only works with Windows MCE.
We tested IceGuide on three devices; a PC running Windows MCE, the Topfield TF5000PVRt Masterpiece, and the Xbox360 console coupled with a PC running Windows MCE. Setting up the guide was fairly simple and involved downloading a software add-on for each device. The IceGuide Web site has thorough step-by-step tutorials for compatible devices. While the IceGuide interface didn't look as pretty on the TopField as the MCE version, it certainly had all the same functionality and was a pleasure to use. However, the product really shines when used with Windows MCE.
The Xbox360 seems like the last place you would expect to run a TV guide. When your Xbox360 is connected to a computer running Windows MCE PC, the functionality of the MCE system, including IceGuide if it is configured, becomes available on your console. Programs are recorded to your Windows MCE hard drive and can be accessed either from your PC or Xbox360.
IceTV is also in the process of introducing a new element to their already brilliant service. PIMP (Personal Interactive Media Planner) will extend the functionality of IceGuide to include remote scheduling. Imagine being at work and remembering that you forgot to tape an important football match. With PIMP you will be able to log in to the IceGuide website and schedule the match to be recorded. Your Media Centre contacts the IceGuide servers periodically to check if you have added any programs and if so, adds them to the schedule on your PC. This is an innovative idea and will come at no extra charge to IceGuide users. If that wasn't enough, you will also be able to schedule programs from any 3G enabled mobile phone. The PIMP service is currently in beta trials and as such has its fair share of bugs. Users can join the open beta at the website and contribute to the debugging process, either by phone or via the forums. Once this feature is finalised, it will become a valuable and exciting addition to IceGuide.
In other countries, an EPG is nothing new. In fact, across the world, these features are provided with the signal as it is broadcast. Unfortunately, the way the Australian Broadcast standards are, we have to use a third party EPG. IceGuide is the only one of its kind in this country. That being said, it does cost money to use! IceGuide has three payment options which cost $13 for one month, $39 for three months or $146 for twelve months. For all the functionality it brings and the promise of the PIMP service, we can't recommend it enough.
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