Who needs TiVo?
Digital recording with portable media player
By John “jaQ” Andrews firstname.lastname@example.org
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?
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.