The LPVR160 is an ordinary looking set top box unit that won't detract much from any living room design -- which is really a nice editorial way of saying that while it's not ugly, pointy or on fire or anything like that, it lacks any cool design edges that'll make it stand out. From the front, buttons control power, menu selection and quick access to the EPG function, along with menu control and selection buttons. The selection buttons will also flick up and down through volume and channel selections outside the onscreen menu displays. Those buttons bookeend the four character LED display, which gives details of your current channel, as well as simple indicators if you're recording the current program.
The rear of the LPVR160 houses two antennae connections, two SCART sockets and connectivity options for component, composite and S-Video connectivity, as well as composite and digital audio. There's also a USB socket for connecting to a PC for file downloads and uploads and a serial port for updating the unit's firmware.
The LPVR160's remote intially seems a little on the busy side, but to its credit it's actually quite intelligently laid out, and it won't take most users too long at all to be able to use it instinctively. On the minus side, it's quite large and a bit on the garish side.
The two tuners on the LPVR160 are standard definition digital tuners which can be connected via a loopback in order to give you simultaneous playback and recording on two digital channels. Recording is performed on the unit's 160GB hard drive -- Legend also offer other capacity units (namely 80GB, 250GB or 400GB) with the same underlying firmware if your funds are more limited or your recording needs are greater. The 160GB drive in the LPVR160 is rated as being capable of up to 80 hours of recording time. Like many hard disk equipped PVRs, it'll also perform time shifting functions, allowing you to "pause" live TV.
Setup of the LPVR160, as with any digital STB involves scanning for relevant channels in your program area. The unit's hard drive may be formatted from within the OSD, but our test unit came ready to go out of the box. One interesting note from the manual is that it's theoretically possible to upgrade the hard drive (with a note expressing that Hitachi hard drives may be best for this purpose) -- this could be an interesting hacking challenge for those who are thus inclined.
As a digital set top box, the LPVR160 performed adequately, with decent signal reception from both tuners. The onscreen display is easy enough to get to grips with, although we did find that the delay it places on channel hopping and displaying channel information was perhaps a little too long. It is possible to kill channel displays with a hefty stab at the exit button.
Recording on the LPVR160 has its upsides and its downsides. On the upside, each recording is marked with the digital channel information that the STB has at the time, meaning that it's easy to see what you've recorded when searching back through your archives. On the downside, despite having twin tuners, there's no real capability to record using both at the same time. It is possible to use the time shifting functionality to partially do this, but there are time limitations on recording this way, and it's a needlessly fiddly operation. Depending on how much of a hardcore TV junkie you are, that may or may not be a problem, of course.
While it's possible to transfer files from the LPVR160, there are a few catches. Connection is via USB cable, but the USB port on the LPVR160 lies at the back of the unit, where it's not terribly accessible. Get past that minor point, and you'll have to install Legend's USB Downloading utility and hook it up to your PC. The utility is very barebones, and transfers are only at USB 1.1 speeds. As you can imagine, this leads to very long download times. It's also rather baffling as to why you can't perform firmware upgrades via USB; these must be done via the LPVR160's serial port. The same utility can be used to transfer pictures or MP3 files to the LPVR160, although only 3GB of space can be used for MP3 files.
The Legend LPVR160 typifies an entry-level PVR/STB combo device. It's not the prettiest on the market, and neither is it the most feature-rich -- but it's also not the most complicated or most expensive PVR/STB combo, either. If you're a beginner in either the digital STB or PVR spaces and want a reasonable device, the LPVR160 should suffice for your needs; those looking for a bigger, better and shinier device can do better elsewhere.