October 5, 2006

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Who needs TiVo?
Digital recording with portable media player
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

I admit it: I am prejudiced against TiVo. It’s unreasonable of me, I know; everyone I’ve talked to with a TiVo loves it, and who am I to judge?

It’s the monthly fee, I think. I spent a long time philosophically opposed to cable television for the same reason; why should I pay for television when there’s free stuff coming in over the air?

Truth is, TiVo does provide a service above and beyond having a hard drive connected to your TV. It automatically finds your shows, it suggests new ones, all that goodness. But what if you’re not into that whole monthly fee thing? What if you just want the hard drive? And wouldn’t it be cool if that hard drive were more portable, so you could take your recordings anywhere?

Hee hee.

I’ve been hoping for a product like this for a while. There’ve been a few, but Archos just released a new line of personal media players that hook up to TV for recording and viewing that aren’t horridly expensive. That means they’re about the same price as comparable iPods, but with more functionality.

The “Generation 4” series from Archos consists of the compact 404 model at $300 with a 3.5” screen and 30GB capacity; the larger 504, with a 4.3” screen and two capacities: 40GB for $350 and 80GB for $400; and the 604, also with a 4.3” screen, but slimmer and 30GB for $350. You don’t get the fancy program guide of TiVo, but you can record TV.

That is, if you also get the $100 DVR station. Yeah, sorry if I got you over-excited there. But get this: an infrared emitter controls your other electronics, so you can schedule recordings even through your cable box or the tuner on your DVD player. There’s also a camcorder attachment for $180 that’s basically a lens and a wire. It comes with a strap for your head, so you can walk around recording everything you do. If you want to spend a little less, Archos’s slightly older AV line might do you.

The SmartDisk FlashTrax XT bundles the media player/recorder and TV connection ports into one big, ugly unit. You will never be mistaken for a fashionable Apple diva with this thing and its hideous, hideous trapezoidal flip-up screen, but at $400 for 40GB or around $260 for 20GB, it ain’t bad.

If you really want to play with fire, the Maxian T600 looks pretty sweet. 30GB for about $370, direct timed recording from TV, camcorder, whatever. Problem is, I’m not sure how sweet it is, exactly, because the only place I can find it for sale is on clearance at CompUSA’s Web site. It’s distributed by Daewoo International, not exactly a top-tier vendor, but possibly worth a look.

Alas, if you live in Korea, your options for portable video recording are much wider. The tech blog Engadget.com has been tracking these things for months now, hoping they’ll eventually make their way to our side of the pond.

Really, all that’s needed is a dock for the iPod that does it and some company will be rich.


09/28/2006 Disk drives without disks
09/21/2006 Movies, just click your mouse!
09/14/2006 Laptops for less
09/07/2006 GPS everywhere
08/31/2006 The printer dilemma
08/24/2006 A series of tubes
08/17/2006 More music, more places
08/10/2006 How big is your drive?
08/03/2006 It's a WiFi world
07/27/2006 Fancy a spot of memory?
07/20/2006 Under the sea
07/06/2006 eBaysic training
06/29/2006 You paid money for that?
06/22/2006 Processing ... processing ...
06/15/2006 C:\Run for the border
06/01/2006 The keyboard is mightier
05/25/2006 Geek phone home
05/18/2006 Super highway information
05/11/2006 How to host a site
05/04/2006 If they mated
04/27/2006 Apples to apples
04/20/2006 Flash uber-drives
04/13/2006 Web site, by you
04/06/2006 Ayyy, jaQ's right!
03/30/2006 Choose wirelessly
03/23/2006 Tax programs cometh
03/16/2006 And the Spammie goes to...
03/09/2006 Take in the Vista
03/02/2006 Cheap moviemaking
02/23/2006 Go directly to iJail
02/16/2006 Will you stamp your e-mail?
02/09/2006 War of the machines
02/02/2006 Faster than a speeding packet

01/26/2006 Free software made simple
01/19/2006 The Worst of CES
01/12/2006 Radio you
01/05/2006 Making Movies
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