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DViCO TViX S1 Duo Review

Offering both a media centre and a Freeview-compatible PVR, the DViCO TViX S1 Duo is pitched as a more affordable version of the very popular TViX 6632N.

You still get two TV tuners and an external display, and it runs exactly the same software as its big brother.  So what’s different?  Well, WiFi no longer comes as standard (but can be added as an option), there isn’t an SDHC card reader and the power transformer is now a separate external unit.  On the other hand, the newcomer has an extra component video output and an eSATA connection.  Is that enough to make it a name to beat in the world of entry-level media centres?

Two TV tuners

Logically enough, the TViX S1 Duo is a version of the TViX S1 with two TV tuners instead of one.  Because all of the current range (including the 6000 series, the N1 and the S1) all use the same software, we’re not going to repeat ourselves by telling you what we said about the TViX S1.  Instead, we’re going to take a detailed look at the TV tuner module, which, incidentally, is exactly the same as the one found on the TViX 6632N.  Our opinions here are valid for both products.
First of all, as the name suggests, you get not one, but two TV tuners.  That means you can receive two channels at once, meaning you can watch BBC1 while recording ITV, for example.  You can also record two channels at the same time.  A not-insignificant addition compared to both the 6632N and the 6631N is the arrival of an antenna output alongside the input.  That’s useful for anybody who wants to keep on using the tuner from their TV without using an adaptor.

Three ways to record

There are three different ways of recording your programmes.  First of all, when you’re watching TV and press the REC button on the remote, you can choose to record to the end of the current programme (based on its end time in the EPG), record it for a certain amount of time (30 minutes, say, or two hours) or keep going until you run out of disk space.
Secondly, you can manually programme a recording via a dedicated interface.  You can choose the time, date and channel to record, and you can also set up a recurring recording according to some fairly sophisticated criteria: every week from Monday to Friday, for instance.

The third solution is to go via the electronic programme guide (EPG).  Usefully, you can add a ‘padding time’ which gives you a little room for manoeuvre before and after each recording.  If, for example, a show is listed as starting at 3 pm and finishing at 3:30 in the EPG, and you choose a padding time of 10 minutes, recording will actually run from 2:50 to 3:40, giving you room for spillover and making sure you don’t miss a programme which has been moved around a little in the schedules.

 
 

Another handy feature is that the software organises the files it records and gives them sensible names.   Every channel gets its own older and each file is namexd as follows: [date] [day] [programme name from the EPG].

While we’re still singing its praises, it’s also worth pointing out that you can start playing a recording a programme while it’s going on.  That might seem simple enough, but it wasn’t possible on the TViX 6632N when it launched.  Time-shifting is on the cards, of course, so you can pause live TV whenever you like, whether it’s because your phone’s ringing or your kids are crying.

Recording to one disk only

However, it’s not all perfect.  First of all, you can only record video to the S1 Duo’s internal hard drive.  So while you can use it without a hard drive installed, you won’t get that control over live TV or recording.  That’s frustrating, as we would have liked to have been able to record over the network to a NAS or to a USB device.

Our next problem is that you can’t renumber the channels yourself, which can be tricky when HD versions are found a long way from their SD equivalents.

The only solution is to add the HD channels to your list of favourites, making sure you get them in exactly the right order.  It’s a bit of a complicated workaround and far from the ideal solution.  We really hope DViCO manages to come up with something more sophisticated soon.

 

 

Smartphone Remote: Show Off Your Album Art

 

You can control DViCO’s media centres using any smartphone with WiFi and a browser. Rather than a dedicated app, it’s a web-based interface created by the device itself.

It’s nicely done, and you browse content via a gallery of cover-art. Seeing your music collection displayed as a mosaic of album art is particularly fun, and then one click and it starts playing. You don’t need to be close to the device or even switch on your TV. The same interface is also used for films.

Channels with more than one audio track: the real weakness

Let’s finish by taking a look at channels which carry several audio tracks, which is something DViCO really struggles with.  The device can recognise the presence of two audio channels, and there’s nothing to stop you from switching from to the other.  You can’t, though, set up one channel by default, and the software doesn’t remember which one you last used for a particular channel
 

Things are even worse if you want to record a channel with multiple audio signals: you can only use the first one.  The second appears to be there, but when you play it back, it turns out to be silent.  Once again, there’s a workaround.  If you go to the channel you want to record, start recording manually and then toggle between the audio tracks, you’ll be able to record them both.  But we’re again left hoping that the manufacturer will come up with something better.

Apart from the TV tuners, DViCO’s media centres still have a number of problems:

  • users still have to rely on a community-developed solution, Tvixie, if they want to video jukebox.
  • Tvixie still only handles movies, but not TV series
  • album artwork for CDs is only visible if there’s a ‘folder.jpg’ file; cover art included as metadata in MP3 or M4A files isn’t supported.
 

A number of strengths still remain:

  • an external display allowing you to play music without turning on your TV
  • an easy screw-free method of mounting hard drives
  • a very attractive interface that DViCO has entirely redesigned
  • video jukeboxes
  • thumbnail previews of photos
  • widespread multimedia support with no real gaps

 

Pros

Excellent support for multimedia formats

Advanced features: video jukebox and album artwork

External display

Bitstream for Dolby TrueHD

Two TV tuners

 

Cons

No SDHC card reader

No bitstream for DTS HD MA

Display is VFD not LCD

Still need to fix TV channels with several audio signals and recording to external hard drives

Video jukebox not available for TV series

 

Conclusion

This media centre is the proof that an affordable price tag doesn’t necessarily mean a drop in quality. Quite the opposite, in fact: this is an excellent product with two TV tuners. Even if it’s not quite perfect, it’s head and shoulders above the competition.
 

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