By Terry Currier
The Plextor ConvertX PVR model PX-TV402U is a external Personal Video Recorder (PVR.) There are connectors for cable, S-Video, and RCA jacks. The S-Video, and analog audio/video (RCA jacks) let you hook up your video camera, DVD, or VCR to it. Connection to the computer is through the USB 2.0 port. Digital Video Recorders are very popular now, but cost a lot of money. PVRs for the computer cost half as much as the units you hook up to the TV, and you don’t have to pay a monthly fee.
I put this unit to the test by hooking it up to my computer that already had the AVerMedia 1500 MCE card in it. This is where I love the USB connectivity. I did not have to open the computer, and it just blends in with the other peripherals. Each had a separate TV cable connection and each worked perfectly.
I try not to watch TV on the TV much anymore. The beauty of using a PVR is I can quickly fast forward through commercials. I find I can save 15 minutes from a normal 60 minute show by skipping commercials. Watching live TV the time shifting lets you go back to see something you missed and speed through to catch back up to the live part. This is ideal for those times when you’re watching TV and some guy on the TV says something, but you could not understand what. Just go back to that part and replay it, then catch up to the live part.
The ConvertX is a slim (7.24 in x 1.28 in x 6.10 in) plastic encased unit which comes with a high quality TV tuner. It also is DivX certified so if you happen to choose that for recording quality it won’t take much space up. I’ve recorded a two hour show onto a ordinary CD with space to spare.
Plextor includes InterVideo’s WinDVR 5.0 and WinDVD Creator 2.0 software. With that combination I can record in DivX®, MPEG-4, MPEG-2 and MPEG-1. I can also choose the level of quality for them. Choosing a lower quality will save disk space. It can also really make the picture look terrible if you make it too low, while still trying for a large window. The WinDVD Creator software allows me to go through and take out parts (commercials) I don’t want before burning to a disc. Plextor’s website says for a limited time Plextor is including Ulead’s VideoStudio 8 SE DVD video editing and DVD creation software. Additionally I just want to note that I have tried putting InterVideo’s WinDVR 7.0 on, but it will not pick up the TV signal. The 5.0 in this case is made for TV hook-up.
The WinDVR worked well for watching TV and scheduling what I wanted to record. I did find it odd though, once it was done recording the scheduled entries for recording it did not do a self delete. I had to delete them myself. Running it took 120Kb of RAM. It also can link to TitanTV.com, a free internet-based program guide which allows convenient scheduling of unattended recording. TitanTV also gives good TV Guide like descriptions of each show. If you just want to see what is on TV, use the surf function and it shows you 12 screens rotating through available channels.
I hooked up my VCR through the analog audio/video RCA jacks and imported a VHS tape for my daughter’s work and convert it to DVD. I used the WinDVD Creator software to import and edit the recording. Editing with it is okay, but I did find it easier to do with CyberLink PowerDirector. On the other hand with the Creator software I was able to make a DVD that went right into the movie without stopping for a menu. I could not do that with PowerDirector. For the Mac and Linux users they have separate software for them. One other thing to mention with the recording, and then deleting the viewed shows, it fragments the hard drive quite a lot. So be sure to defrag your drive regularly. Diskeeper Software’s helps me save time with this function.
Great unit, easy to install, and half the cost of the bigger digital video recorders. Cost is $150-$209 on PriceGrabber.com. It comes with a One-year full warranty (parts, labor or replacement). http://www.plextor.com/english/products/TV402U.htm
Minimum System Requirements
CPU: Pentium® 4 1.8 GHz (Recommended)
Pentium® 4 2.4 GHz (Using WinDVR 5 in MPEG-4 mode)
HDD: 10GB of free space recommended
Monitor Resolution: 1024 x 768, 24-bit color
Graphics Card: Video card with 24-bit resolution capability and DirectX® support
Sound card that supports 48KHz playback
DVD+/- RW: To burn DVDs and CDs
OS Support: Windows® 2000/XP™
Winners is a member of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG) is an international, platform-independent, nonprofit corporation (incorporated in Washington, DC) devoted to helping user groups throughout the world. Almost 400 user groups are members of APCUG. http://www.apcug.net/