Pace Twin PVR Review

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If you view the Pace Twin Digital TV Recorder as a direct competitor to Sky+ or TiVo you will be disappointed, as it isn't as intuitive. On the other hand, if you view this as a sophisticated video designed for time shifting digital TV, this is an outstanding product. So let us go back to the beginning.

When you get the Pace Twin Digital TV Recorder, the first thing you notice is how small it is (in comparison to both PVRs and VCRs). When you plug it in for the first time it asks you about initialising the hard disk and scans for channels automatically. The whole process takes just a few minutes and worked flawlessly.

The interface is very similar to the Pace DTVA, which for all the many complaints from its critics, seems to be an excellent DTT implementation. The Pace Twin seems to be missing a few functions (some of which are promised for download at the end of May) but more of that later.

Once you have set up the box and configured it to work with your TV, you can get down to recording programmes. If you want to record something that is on at the moment or on next you can use the guide (now and next) or just push the record button. Unfortunately currently there is only simple now and next info sent – hopefully when Freeview's seven-day EPG goes live my perceptions of the product will change. So if you want to record future programmes you have to use the old fashioned method (that is, old fashioned if you have been using TiVo and Sky+ for 2+ years) - the listings magazine or newspaper. Setting recordings up in this way seem simple enough once you have worked your way round the system. It is a shame that as there is no 7 day EPG that a VideoPlus-like system wasn't implemented.

Once a programme has been recorded, the library menu shows you a little picture of the programme and details of the recording. This all works fine and selecting a show and playing it back is simple enough – my only gripe was that I couldn’t get to the end of a programme without scanning through it at 64x – but there may be a way I haven’t yet found.

The good thing is that even if you set the programme with the timer it picks up programme info when you record it so the library lists the name of the programme you recorded. Additionally, if it got it wrong, you can edit it so you can remember what the programme was.

As a time shifting device this is therefore an excellent tool – but with only 10 hrs of record time some people might find it a little limiting. Personally knowing my viewing habits I would view this as not fatal but 2 or 3 times the disk would make this a far more exciting product.

The product also has some other interesting features but I’m not sure how useful they are. The unit has two DTT receivers and two decoders so that the outputs from the two SCART sockets can be different. This means that you can be watching one thing while archiving a programme to tape or DVD or if you have connected your second SCART to a second TV watch two things at once (not sure about that one). But you can only do this when you are not recording a programme as the second DTT receiver seems to be connected to the hard disk. This is a curious approach and one that I do not think deters from the product but it does mean that you can’t record a programme and do live pause (for example).

The other thing that is off-putting to someone used to Sky+ or TiVo, but closer to VCR functionality, is that the box can be put into standby and it will shut it self off, along with the hard disk and subsequently wake itself up when it is time to record a programme.

Other issues are that the software for the DTT receiver does not include Digital Text at the moment – although this is apparently coming late in May and the general performance of the DTT tuner is not up to the level of the Pace DTVA which comes from the same development team in France. I’m sure this will be improved and when it does, that will overcome many of these minor issues.

Overall the Pace Twin PVR is an excellent product and when the DTT software is as robust as the basic Pace DTVA, the PVR software has been through a few more refinements, and Freeview starts providing a 7 day EPG service this will be an unbeatable product in the market. Unfortunately by then there will be competition.

At £350 this is not that expensive a product when you think that two Pace DTVA would cost you £200. And for anyone who is currently thinking about a way to record widescreen digital pictures this is one of the few solutions that you can actually buy – the other option is Sky+ which is £200, plus £10 a month, plus installation.

I’m going to be very interested to see the update at the end of May and see how many of the issues it fixes. However, the lack of a 7 day EPG is not something Pace have any control over - unfortunate because that is the bit that turns this from an interesting product into a fantastic one.
 
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