Ever tried making home brew beer? That might seem like a rather incongruous statement to start a PVR review with, but bear with us here. If you have -- or even if all you've done is spotted the home brew kits that lurk in most supermarkets these days -- then you're probably familiar with the circular tins that house most home brew supplies. The reason we reference them (apart from, we'll admit, liking beer), is that the DViCO TViX 5130SH HD-PVR most closely resembles a home brew beer tin, albeit one painted black. It's a very unique design for a PVR, and it certainly stands out. In fact, it pretty much has to stand out; we can't think of a single entertainment cabinet design ever that would easily accommodate this unit.
Like many PVRs before it -- we're thinking of units like the Beyonwiz DP-S1 -- the DViCO TViX 5130SH HD-PVR pitches itself as an all-in home entertainment hub. At the same time it pitches for easy home entertainment, our previous allusion to home brew still applies; this is a machine that's much better suited to the enterprising tinkerer than those who get flustered by HDMI cables.
It ships with a 320GB SATA hard drive -- you can save yourself AU$100 and buy a bare bones version if you prefer -- and can support drives of any capacity. Replacing the drive is relatively simple -- although it will void your warranty doing so. The DViCO TViX 5130SH HD-PVR only comes with a single HD tuner, so it's not possible to watch and record TV simultaneously. It has limited EPG support -- it'll pick up the next/now information broadcast by Australian TV channels, but lacks support for ICEGuide. Given the ease with which the DViCO TViX 5130SH HD-PVR will send downloaded files around, we can't see it being compatible with the upcoming promised FreeTV EPG either.
The DViCO TViX 5130SH HD-PVR supports HDMI, DVI, Component, S-Video and Composite video output. It comes with a 10/100 network port, and wireless networking is supported, albeit in a rather limited fashion. The DViCO TViX 5130SH HD-PVR has two USB ports, and it's theoretically possible to use one of these with a USB Wi-Fi adaptor. Having said that, at the time of writing, only three different models were supported according to DViCO's Web Site, and the manual has a rather dire warning about using unsupported adaptors. The USB ports can be used for any external USB storage device for the playback of files.
File support is quite extensive. The DViCO TViX 5130SH HD-PVR can play back AVI, WMV, MPG, ISO, VOB, IFO, MP4, ASF, TP, TRP, TS, M2TS and MOV files, although only H.264 MOV files are supported.
Setting up the DViCO TViX 5130SH HD-PVR proved to be something of a chore. That's partly because the product manual isn't the most clearly translated we've ever come across. It's also because there's a lot of functionality that must be individually enabled. Scanning for TV channels and getting basic PVR functionality wasn't too tough, but the same can't be said of getting network shares working properly. NFS and SAMBA shares are supported, and DViCO does offer a simple NFS sharing application for Windows PCs, although it took us some digging through their site to actually find it to download.
There's no support for UPnP NAS drives -- this is a unit that relies on a host PC having compatible shares set up. SAMBA shares are possible, but you're limited to a single shared folder with a very specific name. It took us a couple of reboots and fiddling with firewall settings to get the DViCO TViX 5130SH HD-PVR talking to a Windows Vista Ultimate PC.
Once we'd overcome our set-up hurdles, we were mostly happy with the DViCO TViX 5130SH HD-PVR's performance. It was rather slow switching between applications; if you wanted to flick between video playback and live TV, you've generally got to give it around 30 seconds to do so.
At AU$799, the DViCO TViX 5130SH HD-PVR isn't poorly priced, but it's also a little expensive for a unit that's best suited to those who are willing to tinker and modify a little -- and that crowd's more likely to use AU$799 to build themselves a media centre style PC instead.