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If you are like us, you probably have one or two recordings on your DVR that you simply won't delete. But what if you want to archive the recording or watch it on your computer? Your choices in the past have been to down-convert the program to 480i and record it on a DVD recorder or a computer with a capture card. The people at Gefen have come up with a new PVR that will record from your DVR or Set Top Box via the HDMI connection in HD! The only caveat is that the content encoded with HDCP can not be moved off of the internal hard drive. The Gefen EXT-HD-PVR is available at the HT Guys Store and sells for $825.


Features

  • Video recording and playback at resolutions of 480i to 1080i
  • Single-Button Instant Recording to SD Flash Media or Internal Hard Disk Drive
  • Pause, Mute, Fast Forward & Fast Backwards playback controls
  • Programmable unattended recording

Set up took us two minutes. Connect the HDMI cable from your source (the PVR accepts two HDMI, one Component, and one composite input) and one to your TV and your set. We were recording to the internal hard drive in a matter of seconds. You have the option of recording to the internal drive or a Secure Digital Flash drive. You can also copy a recording from the internal drive to the SD flash drive as long as the recording is not HD or copy protected. If you want to get an unprotected HD recording off the DVR it must be recorded directly to the SD drive.

You can set the player to record programs in a way that is reminiscent of VCRs. You set a date and a time for the PVR to turn on for how long to record. There is an IR Blaster that can be used to turn on and set a set top box to the correct channel for recording. You can also take a SD card from your digital camera and insert it into the SD card slot and look at pictures via the HD-PVR.

The following table outlines what you can record on the internal 80GB hard drive:

QualityHD Bit RateHD Record TimeSD Bit RateSD Record Time
Extra Fine (EX)10 Mb17 Hours4 Mb44 Hours
Normal (NOR)7.5 Mb23 Hours3 Mb59 Hours
Economic (ECO)5 Mb35 Hours2 Mb88 Hours
SuperEco (S.E.)3.5 Mb50 Hours1 Mb133 Hours

Recordings made on EX mode looked very good when watched back on the 65 in Mitsubishi DLP. Normal quality was about equivalent to the HD Apple TV downloads and Economic was similar to DVD. SuperEco was almost DVD quality

The Gefen HD-PVR includes decoder software which allows you to play your recorded movies on your Windows computer. You will still need Windows Media Player to watch the movies. The files are recorded as .mp4 files which should play just fine on the Macintosh but we couldn't get our Mac to read the SD card. The Mac reported that it was an unreadable format.

Here are a few things to consider. The PVR does not support Dolby Digital 5.1 audio so your recordings will only be in Stereo. The GUI is a bit rough but functional. The remote is a bit complicated and button layout is not intuitive.


Conclusion

The Gefen PVR does what Gefen says it will with good results. We would have liked to see Dolby Digital audio and the ability to take a SD card and plug it directly into the Mac. The price is a little steep for what you get but if you want to record HD via HDMI, this is the way to go. If you want to move the content to your PC make sure what you are recording is not copy protected. Another plus is that the unit is small enough to take with you to a friend's house. It is roughly the size of a Mac Mini, so if you want to watch a copy protected recording on the internal drive you can easily take the PVR with you.

Posted by The HT Guys, March 7, 2008 10:38 AM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.