You know how at school, you always hated that one kid? Maybe they were more popular than you or retold your jokes to get a bigger laugh? Did you just wish they'd move so they didn't have to go to the same school anymore?
Well, we think that this is how Olin feels about TiVo. You see, though Olin was once one of the cheapest PVRs on the market, its rival has announced it's dropping its price by AU$200. As a result, the TiVo sits at AU$499 while the Olin is at AU$449.
Olin to TiVo: "See you at 3.35 behind the bike sheds. Come alone."
Most PVRs are ugly. FACT. The TiVo 320 Media looks like a black box recorder and the Olin is even more old school with its mirrored front and green LED readout. It's not going to win any beauty pagaents, but then again neither is Robert De Niro.
The front panel is at least functional, as it comes with a large power button at the left and across the bottom you get the usual Menu, Channel and Volume controls.
The bundled remote is fairly innocuous. It's chunky and some of the buttons are small, but at least it's well-labelled.
The Olin OPVR-1000 is a dual-HD-tuner PVR that features a capacious 500GB hard drive. As this is a budget PVR there is not much in the way of extraneous features. You get the usual PVR tricks such as live TV pausing, recording one channel and watching another and a 7 day Electronic Guide. While there's no "series link", users can choose to record programs once, daily or weekly from within the EPG. Additionally, there's no search or more advanced functions that the now-similarly-priced TiVo offers. And remote scheduling? Forget it!
Continuing with the scholastic theme, the Olin is a little "old-school" as it features two discrete tuners that need to be connected by a physical cable — just like connecting two VCRs. Users might be used to newer machines that integrate two tuners into one board, so if you find that recordings are going missing, it's because you need to connect the "loop-back" cable.
The Olin also includes a USB port which lets you archive your recordings and depending on who you believe, you may either be able to update the firmware with a USB key or have to leave it to a technician to do.
Apart from USB, connections include a component output, S-Video, composite, HDMI, and optical and coaxial digital.
If you're looking for a bare-bones PVR, the Olin will definitely fit the bill. As with too many PVRs, iIt may not be the easiest to use, but once you learn its quirks you'll be recording in no time.
Recordings are of a decent quality and in most cases indistinguishable from off-air content plus we like its ability to archive recordings to an external drive. We did find there was some aliasing on straight lines and ghosting on moving images when the Olin's output was set to 720p. Best then to let the content sit at its natural resolution and let your TV do the scaling.
Unlike the LG HR559D, there is no performance "penalty" when activating timeshift and you can either use the tiny Timeshift or the Pause button. To restart, you simply press Play again.
The device offers a number of different ways to setup recordings. Pressing record immediately records the channel you're on for 30 mins, though you can change the amount up to "Infinite" if you like. If you press "Stop" while recording the Olin lets you choose which recording to stop (if there's more than one) and gives you the option to stop all.
Where the Olin comes a little unstuck is in its lack of flexibility. For instance, you can only browse the electronic guide on the channel the tuner is currently set to. To browse the EPG for more than one channel you need to exit, press CH +/-, then reenter the guide to see the listings for another channel.
However, you can watch watch programming from the same stream as you're recording — ie if you're recording Channel Nine you can also see Go and Gem. But this only works for the last channel you chose to record.
The Olin OPVR-1000 isn't a bad device. It's serviceable and will make great recordings. But if we were to use a well-worn phrase or three, TiVo has [upended/stolen/rewritten] the [applecart/thunder/rulebook] with its latest price drop. If you have the choice between the two, go for the TiVo instead.