This time, the Playon! DVR HD didn't need to format the hard drive, as it seemed to be already preformatted from the factory. There were no updates online for the firmware, and as you can see, the user interface has been massively overhauled thanks to a recent update from the A.C. Ryan team.
The first course of action is to set the unit to auto scan for DVB-T broadcasts in your region. This takes about 2 minutes and depending on your location, you may need to move the aerial around in the room for best pickup.
We have a relatively weak signal in our region but we still managed to pick up 14 channels.
Initially, our signal was breaking up a little, so we had to move locations a little to maximise our weak signal strength.
The quality of the image surprised us, as our previous experiences with a similar unit were less than impressive. Even on a 42 inch plasma the quality of image was very impressive. If you don't initially get a perfect image, it is worth spending some time moving the aerial until the optimum image is displayed. It took us around 15 minutes in total from initial setup to get this all configured perfectly. The front of the device details the current mode via a lovely blue LED readout.
Obviously one of the main selling points of this device is the ability to record live TV and the options presented are very comprehensive – a wide range of quality settings are available and depending on your hard drive size, you will be able to record over 2000 hours of footage. LP is actually quite a good setting if you aren't recording HD footage. EP and SLP tend to suffer from quality degradation, especially on larger TV's. That said, if you are only recording an old SD show of Top Gear on DAVE then its acceptable.
You can also watch a different channel to the one you are currently recording which is a fantastic feature also available in certain Sky and Virgin Media HD receivers. There is an Electronic Program Guide (EPG) to program recordings. Time shifting is a feature also available to the end user.
Now that Digital Television is configured we can look at the other options, many of which are similar to the Playon! HD unit we reviewed several weeks ago. Video and media is catered for by menu sections which allow for media to be viewed and shared across the network – either wired or wireless (see below).
The optional Wireless unit supports 802.11 B/N/G and can receive 300Mbit while sending 150mbit. This is a great option to ensure total compatibility and it supports WEP, WPA/2 TKIP and AES. We tested it on our Windows 7 computers and it also worked great there. A.C. Ryan do not include wireless internally as they say that the signal can be much weaker. This little extra costs £20.