Humax Tivo DRT-800 DVD-Recorder

The new television led to a cascade of upgrades as older A/V equipment turned out to be not up to snuff. As noted, the receiver was actually replaced during the summer, before we got the TV, because the older Yamaha RX-V393 wasn’t really built as a modern A/V receiver — it didn’t have S-Video, for example — and I wanted something that could switch progressive component video.

The main replacement, however, has been this new Humax DRT-800 Tivo DVD-Recorder. In one box, we replaced the older Philips 12-hour Tivo, the old 2nd-generation Panasonic A110 DVD player, and, effectively, the VCR. We’ve had it for a bit over a week now, and it’s a nice box.

This is an 80-hour Tivo, which is a bit of an improvement over the hacked 60-hour Series 1 we were using. Since we’re now recording everything in High quality because of the larger TV screen, the extra space is appreciated. This is a Series 2, so the Home Media option is available, but I haven’t set it up properly yet: the Netgear MA111 is in place and recogized, but it hasn’t been able to pull an IP address. I haven’t done the troubleshooting yet — I suspect it’s poor reception from the other side of the apartment, and I’m waiting for a longer cable, so as to better position the directional antenna. But once it’s done, I should have a way to play MP3s from the computer to the stereo.

The progressive-scan DVD player works very well with the TV. The old DVD player was hooked up by S-Video and could not be properly configured to display anamorphic DVDs, but video from the new one is a sight to behold. I’ve mainly looked at various Star Wars DVDs and parts of Fellowship of the Ring. Best of all, the DVD player is controlled through the Tivo user interface, so that DVDs appear as just another available media type. This cuts down on the number of remote controls — and moving everything into the relatively ergonomic Tivo remote cannot be a negative compared to clunky universal remotes. The interconnects with the receiver are also drastically reduced, as only one box is connected to the receiver now, through the component video cables and the digital audio cable. No more switching the input source on the receiver when changing from Tivo to DVD and back again. The DVD player is also supposed to be able to read CD-Rs and CD-RWs, and play pictures and MP3s off these, but I haven’t tested this yet.

The DVD recorder capability itself has been finicky. (Note that you can watch Tivo while DVDs are being burnt) I’ve been able to record single shows to the supplied DVD-RW without issue — the DVD menu in fact replicates the Tivo interface — but have had problems recording multiple shows. On the first two attempts, I got an “internal error” at the start of recording. This post on the Tivo community forum suggested rebooting the box, and I was able to get to the point of the DVD being finalized before it apparently hung, requiring a reboot. The DVD seemed to be fine, and was able to play content after restarting. I was also able to finalize a DVD after this reboot (thank goodness for DVD-RWs). Of course, I’m not sure if it’s the case that consumer DVD recorders suck in general, or if it’s just this Humax unit.

Overall, this is a large improvement over the previous setup. The only hitch has been the somewhat touchy DVD recorder, though that seems to clear up after restarts. I shouldn’t have to restart, though.

Update: I’m an idiot. I had forgotten that I have MAC filtering set up the router. After I found the configuration page (and remember the password) on the router, the Tivo established the wireless connection without any problems. After installing Tivo desktop on the main PC, I was able to see pictures and hear music. With the exception of video (from the Internet), this is basically what I had been looking for, in terms of playing media from the PC to the stereo. There doesn’t seem to be a mechanism for playlists, but I generally set up shuffle play and skip to the next track if I don’t like what comes up, anyway. The photos look good, despite being only 1280×720 (HDTV resolution). We have basically 30″x20″ photos being displayed, and viewed at about 9′ away. The shots off the D70 actually look pretty good, and encourages me to try printing large poster sizes.

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