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SnapStream Beyond TV 4.3 review: SnapStream Beyond TV 4.3

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Using the program's ShowSqueeze option (for backing up old shows to save disk space), you can now convert recordings to Windows Media and DivX formats. We took a 45-minute recording, made at the best quality setting, and squeezed it. The clip went from a 2.5GB MPEG to a 900MB WMV file. The compressed files are easy to back up to DVD via a DVD-authoring program, such as Nero.

Beyond TV 4.3
A live DirecTV signal, viewed through Beyond TV.
While recorded and live TV signals looked identical when recorded at the highest quality setting, much of your DVR experience will be dictated by the TV tuner hardware in your PC. ATI's new Theater 650 Pro chip gave us the best image quality we've seen from a TV tuner, so we expect it to be popular among DVR fans. Beyond TV 4.3 is the first DVR app to announce support for the new chip. The previous generation, last year's Theater 550 Pro, is our second choice; it's easily found on cards such as the TV Wonder Elite.

One of the more interesting new features of Beyond TV 4.3 is called Beyond TV Buzz. While it won't improve your image quality or save hard drive space, this community service lets you see what shows are popular with other Beyond TV users. It'll show you the top 100 recorded shows from the previous week and the most popular upcoming recordings, and it will factor your choices into the stats, if you choose to participate. Currently topping the list is Comedy Central's The Daily Show, and several of the new Doctor Who episodes on the Sci-Fi Channel.

A returning feature, and one not available in Media Center, is remote recording. If you sign up for a SnapStream.net account, you can log in to your account from a remote computer, or mobile device with Web access, and schedule recording times.

Before contemplating a switch, note that unlike MCE, Beyond TV handles only TV recordings, not your entire catalog of photos, videos, and music. You have to add the sister program, called Beyond Media, to get an all-inclusive package.

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