Once you’ve finished getting a list of the available channels, you are ready to watch any digital TV that you want, or indeed any of the digital radio channels (not DVB).
The tuner itself is pretty standard, and does everything that a standard set-top box would be able to do. The genius is in the supplied program that any TV tuner owner can use.
As your PC contains a hard disc, the ability to time-shift and record live broadcasts is possible. The timeshift option requires you to delve into the settings and enable it. It says that you require a ‘high-end’ machine to be able to use it; however a 3800+ AM2, 2GB DDR2800 with a 6600GT managed the task fine. Timeshifting simply records the TV channel onto disc, and then replays it while it’s still recording the live broadcast. The file is constantly trimmed so you only use a small amount of space (i.e. played material is deleted). To use the feature, you just hit pause, run off to the toilet, and then come back and click play. Everything is seemless and done in the background without you knowing that your hard disc is being used. There is no pausing or stuttering when you click pause, or while it’s recording which is nice to see.
Recording a live broadcast is equally simple, and you just click record and you get an on-screen timers showing that a) you are recording, and b) how long it’s been going. The recorded videos don’t use standard codecs and wouldn’t play with WinAmp with a whole bunch of codecs installed. Instead, you’ll have to use the included player in Total Media which plays them flawlessly. When you click record, you get a slight stutter but nothing serious.
You can also schedule for regular recording of programs or just to record something later in the day. As the Total Media program sits in your startbar while it’s not in use, it’ll pop up and let you know that it’s going to start recording your program.
As the Digi Vox only has one tuner, you can’t watch one channel while recording another which is annoying, but you wouldn’t be able to do this with a similarly priced set-top box. Interestingly, this tuner can receive and record HDTV (1080i) broadcasts, although none exist in the UK as of yet. This little feature is a great selling point as it makes it more or less future proof when England finally rolls out higher quality digital broadcasting.
You can also capture single frames as you see fit and they are instantly saved to My Pictures with the date and time that they were taken at.
The included EPG is easy to use, albeit a little slow to scroll through all of the channel to get to the one you want, but it works well and is nice and quick.
Unlike other TV tuners that I’ve tested there were no crashes, no rebooting and no messing around with complicated drivers. Instead it was a simple case of plug it in, grab the driver CD and you are away.
Resources wise, on a 3800+ AM2, the Total Media application used around 10-20% CPU full screen and sucked 180MB out of the 2GB total RAM available. Considering as you are unlikely to be doing anything else while watching TV, the rather high usage of resources shouldn’t be an issue and will easily run on a relatively recent laptop.