Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Has a real EPG; supports pay television; well designed
- Timeshifting not automatic; no HD support
If you want to record pay TV and have a real electronic program guide, then the Foxtel iQ is the only choice. It's a fantastic product, if you're willing to pay the subscription fee for it.
Price$ 395.00 (AUD)
Acting as a replacement for your Foxtel Digital set-top box, the Foxtel iQ has two enormous advantages over the digital PVR competition: it's the only one that supports the capture of digital pay TV, and it's the only current PVR that incorporates a real electronic program guide (EPG).
In spite of those huge advantages, the developers of the Foxtel iQ haven't rested on their laurels. Not only does the iQ look good, it also incorporates a lot of great features and has a well-designed interface.
It has two tuners, so you can watch one channel and record another, or record on two channels simultaneously. It has a very good system for managing recorded files, and it names files appropriately and usefully, keeping the full EPG information along with the recorded video. Timeshifting is not automatic, but is easy to initialise.
If you're familiar with the interface of the Foxtel Digital set-top box, then the iQ interface will not present much of a shock. It's nearly identical, with the "planner" interface incorporating the EPG recording functions. The remote is also similar, but with additional playback functions for recorded video.
The EPG capabilities of the box are excellent. At the present time, the EPG broadcast with free-to-air digital television only tells you what's on now, and what on next. It's not much use for planning recording times in advance. The Foxtel digital EPG, however, details programming information weeks in advance. Rather than having to figure out a time and channel for recording, you can go to the Foxtel Digital EPG, find a show and press a single button. The iQ takes the information from the EPG and programs the recording time for you. The exception is Network TEN and the Seven Network, which have not agreed to let Foxtel broadcast an EPG for their networks. You can manually set recording times for both of those channels, however (a process which seems downright primitive next to the simplicity of using the EPG). You can even record Foxtel Box Office movies with the iQ, but they are removed from the hard disk after three days.
The Foxtel iQ also has a "series link" button that programs to record every episode of a given series. Say you want to record every episode of The Simpsons on Fox8. Find one episode, press the series link recording button, and the iQ will automatically schedule and record every episode of The Simpsons that appears on Fox 8. When you're ready to watch them, they'll all be sitting on the iQ's hard disk--a pretty awesome feature if you're a fan of some of the television series shown on Foxtel. The iQ is even clever enough to not record dupes (for instance, when the same show is replayed at a later time).
According to Foxtel, the iQ has enough hard disk space to record approximately 60 hours of standard definition television (Foxtel Digital does not broadcast any HD channels at this time).
The bottom line with the Foxtel iQ is that, if you have Foxtel Digital (and it's useless to you if you don't), then this is the PVR you should get. Its EPG makes it stand head and shoulders above all the other PVR competition, and it's the only one that will receive and record pay TV signals. It also happens to be a damn fine device: quiet, well designed, stylish, usable and feature-rich. If you can afford it, and are willing to pay the subscription fee to Foxtel ($5.95 per month) for the EPG, it's a fantastic product.
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