Do you demand an over-the-air DVR with a wealthy program information, automated series-based recordings, a silky-smooth interface, and whole-home streaming options? If not, the Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB is likely to be the DVR for you.
This $35 field—billed primarily as an analog-to-digital converter—has not one of the subtle options you’d discover in different options, such because the Tablo and TiVo Roamio OTA. The menu system is clunky and sometimes complicated, there’s no simple solution to resolve scheduling conflicts, and even some widespread duties like weekday-only repeat recordings are a chore.
However at $35 with no subscription charges, it’s among the many least expensive options you’ll discover for recording free broadcast TV channels. And since the Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB shops its recordings to exterior arduous drives in a format that Home windows acknowledges, PC house owners can seize their recordings to observe on-the-go. Simply be ready to wince by means of each a part of the method.
Maintaining it guide
The Homeworx is bigger than most streaming TV bins, however smaller than a TiVo or a typical cable field. Plug any antenna into it, then plug it right into a tv through HDMI or composite video output, and you can begin watching dwell broadcast channels. Connecting an exterior USB arduous drive allows the recording features.
An included infrared distant management requires line-of-sight to the field, and is loaded with buttons for issues just like the channel checklist, programming information, channel recall, and playback controls. But it may’t study any TV controls similar to quantity or energy, so that you’ll nonetheless have to maintain a second distant useful.
The Homeworx software program itself does little to information you alongside, so it’s your job to both seek the advice of the directions or determine issues out. For the programming information, info comes straight from the airwaves, which usually means the information will be sluggish to load and you may’t see greater than a day’s value of programming at a time. (Extra superior DVRs are inclined to pay for information knowledge from on-line suppliers similar to Rovi, passing the price onto customers although subscription charges.)
From the information, you may choose any program for recording, mentioning a menu for tweaking begin and finish occasions, and establishing day by day or weekly repeat recordings. You may as well open a separate menu to create new recordings manually. There’s no simple solution to set weekday-only recordings for information and discuss exhibits, although, so the one workaround is to schedule 5 separate weekly recordings for every day. In any other case, you would possibly run into scheduling conflicts with weekend programming. Talking of which, the Homeworx affords no conflict-management options in any respect, so that you’re by yourself to maintain monitor of overlapping recording classes.
Time-shifting for dwell TV is equally clunky, however useful. Urgent pause or the file button on the distant enters time-shift mode, which takes about 10 seconds to initialize. The gadget doesn’t file video for time-shifting mechanically, so until you keep in mind to set it up, you may’t rewind to observe one thing you missed. You can also’t entry this system information or channel checklist whereas time-shifting or recording is in progress.
When it’s time to truly watch your recordings, it’s essential to leap by means of a number of menu layers to the “PVR” part of the “Multimedia” menu. From right here you may cycle by means of an alphabetical checklist of packages, with file names based mostly on the channel and date of the recording. Sorting by present isn’t doable until you rename every recording—a painstaking course of given the sluggishness of the gadget and the mushiness of the distant.
The one function of Mediasonic’s Homeworx HW180STB that qualifies as superior is the flexibility to drag out the arduous drive, join it to a pc, and seize the video recordsdata which are saved in .MTS format. Each Home windows Media Participant and Home windows 10’s Films & TV participant help this format, so you may take the recordsdata with you on any laptop computer. You may as well switch the recordsdata to any cell app that performs .MTS recordsdata, similar to VLC for iOS and Android.
Extra elegant instruments do exist for accessing DVR recordings on a number of gadgets, similar to Tablo’s networked DVR, and media server-based DVR merchandise such Plex and Emby. Nonetheless, all of these options require at the very least $200 value of to file and serve up the video, whereas Plex and Emby require subscriptions for even essentially the most primary DVR options.
By advantage of being a lot cheaper than different options, the Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB has one thing distinctive to supply. Nevertheless it additionally has a frustratingly excessive variety of self-inflicted wounds. At occasions, it seems like working a VCR field from the 1980s, solely with a tough drive as an alternative of tapes to retailer the recordings.
It’s good to know that such a low-cost DVR answer exists for cord-cutters. Simply don’t say you haven’t been warned about this one’s shortcomings.