So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- Dual HD tuners, PVR functionality, Media streaming, USB and network support, All-in-one device
- A lot of its functionality still depends on upcoming firmware updates, recording quality modes are preset
An absolutely fantastic device, with only a few slight problems and omissions. If the firmware updates go as planned, it has the power to become a truly revolutionary product.
Price$ 1,599.00 (AUD)
When it comes to convergent PVR technology, the Australian market has legged behind the US market, where devices such as the TiVo and, more recently, Vudu offer convenient ways of recording and playing back TV shows. The Australian market may finally be catching up, however, if beyonwiz's DP-S1 is any indication. It's an all-in-one device that boasts a DVD player, PVR functionality, media streaming from PCs via wired and wireless networks, support for USB and memory cards, a full array of digital outputs, and twin HD tuners.
The reasonably high asking price can be forgiven for the mammoth array of functions that are on offer, all inside a single unit which has been described by beyonwiz as a HD multimedia epicenter. Its functionality, at times during our tests, wasn't as smooth as we would have liked, but considering the sheer power this unit delivers, it's a small trade off.
Recording is one of the beyonwiz's biggest features, and generally speaking, it handles it well. Packing a 200GB hard disk drive, there's a lot of room for recordings; however the lack of recording quality modes means you're stuck to the one quality. This means you won't really be able to vary how much video you can fit on the drive; it will depend on whether you're recording HD or SD broadcasts. Also of annoyance is the inability to set the recording to stop automatically at the show's end. Nevertheless, recording is a fairly easy process. The DP-S1's twin tuners mean that you can also record two programs at the same time, and even watch a third, as long as it's broadcast by the same provider as one of the others (for example, you could record ABC Digital and Seven Digital, and meanwhile watch ABC2).
Other PVR functionality includes a time-shift buffer and timed recordings. Both functions work fantastically, automatically prioritising and, if necessary, disabling themselves based on the status of other recordings presently active, so you don't need to worry about doubling up your recordings or canceling those already in progress.
Overall, it's quite a decent PVR, lacking some of the features and functionality of more powerful PVRs, but definitely covering all the basic, important bases; customisable recording, time-shifting, and timers.
The DP-S1 doesn't stop there. It also features media streaming functionality through both wired and wireless networks. This lets you connect the beyonwiz to your PC. The beyonwiz has a shared hard drive, from which you can watch files on your PC. Conversely, shared PC files can also be viewed through the beyonwiz. Although file transfer currently doesn't work both ways, beyonwiz has said that this functionality will be available via a firmware update in the future, allowing you to backup recordings made on the HDD to your PC.
Additionally, the DP-S1 includes support for USB storage devices and memory cards. Although media on these devices can be viewed, it can't currently be copied to the HDD. Again, beyonwiz said that this functionality will be available through a future firmware upgrade. Nevertheless, the support for these devices is a great addition, which helps to flesh out the unit's capabilities and gives users a lot more options when bringing media from other sources to their home entertainment setup.
DVD playback, yet another feather in the DP-S1's hat, is smoothly integrated and we didn't have any problems playing back movies in our tests. Unfortunately, recording to DVD isn't available on the beyonwiz, but if the future firmware upgrade adds the ability to backup to USB devices and PCs, then you'll still be able to save your recordings without worrying about running out of disk space.
With such a vast array features and functions, it's relieving to note that the DP-S1 has a reliable and functional interface, which doesn't bog itself down with too many options and multiple menus. A well laid out remote facilitates navigation through a sometimes complex, but for the most part intuitive interface and menu system. During testing, we noticed that a few menu-trees could have been optimised for greater simplicity, but for a device with such a whopping collection of features, the interface is exceptionally well designed.
Design-wise, the DP-S1 certainly looks sexy. It has a sleek, black case, which is flanked by two silver-gray detachable side panels. The front panel contains basic buttons and an LED screen. A wide array of connections resides on the back, including HDMI, composite, optical audio, USB and Ethernet, as well as many more.
Overall, we found the DP-S1 to be an excellent device, let down slightly by a number of omissions. Still, it handles all the essential stuff, such as recording, exceptionally. It might not be able to outperform a dedicated PVR or a dedicated DVD player, but it's a wonderful and convenient package. Unfortunately, a lot of its functionality still relies on future firmware updates, with which, the DP-S1 will truly become an outstanding product.
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