This is the review of the Mediasonic HW-150PVR OTA DVR, a companion post to our text and pictures unboxing. This is not a “how to”, but if you have this device, and you would find step by step how-to posts useful, then please let me know and I can post those.
TL;DR: To cut a long story short, this is a useful device if you only watch a few hours of Over the Air TV every week, and you don’t need to record more than one show in the same time slot. If you are fan of a lot of Prime Time shows, one tuner is not enough. The other potential deal killer is that its user interface reminds of VCRs. It has a learning curve, it is clumsy and not well thought-out, especially if you are used to the workflow of iOS and Android apps or TiVos. The remote control (needs direct line of sight) is about the same level as cable company DVRs considering that it is smaller and with fewer buttons.
After using it for hundreds of hours (from January to October 2016), I only had a couple of times where things did not get recorded. Just like the cable company DVRs, there are occasionally quirks, but considering the price difference, it’s a plus in Mediasonic’s favor 🙂
Video is recorded as it comes out of the air, so what video quality you get depends on how it is broadcast, eg 720 or 1080. The files are big, for example 1 hour of ABC at 720p is over 3.5GB long. Recordings are split in parts, how many parts depends on how long/big the program is. You can play them on your PC using typical video software (eg VLC). All you have to do is eject the USB or Hard Drive and connect it to your PC. There are software out there (free and premium) that can help you convert the files to more modern file formats and/or stitch them together.
There is no commercial skip option, you have to fast forward manually, so you will get to see flashing glimpses of the various TV ads. Fast-forwarding (and fast-backwarding) has a few options that go up to 32X speed.
I was worried that I would need to hook up an external hard drive to get it to work, but it turns out I didn’t have to: I have been running with just a 128GB small USB 3.0 Flash Drive. I got one of those really tiny ones (this 128GB Sandisk Ultra Fit 3.0), so it doesn’t stick out, and it saves space. I haven’t noticed any issues with it (eg overheating and such). It worked so well I haven’t tried anything else with the Mediasonic. When it gets close to filling up, you can always copy the files to your computer or external hard drive (using a computer, you can’t do that from the Mediasonic).
I can’t stress enough the clumsiness of the user interface and workflow. It comes into play in various functions. If you are easily irritated, or don’t have the time or patience to get to know it and its quirks, you may get very frustrated and toss it out the window. Having said that, once you accept that this is the user interface and learn how to use it, it is quite serviceable. Sometimes patience is literally needed, for example, it takes quite a few seconds to delete a previously recorded program.
- storage flexibility (flash drive or external HDD)
- RF passthrough so you can watch another show using your TV’s (or other device’s) tuner
- has a very basic Live-TV DVR buffer, around 25 minutes long on the same channel
- you can watch a show that is being recorded, but you get kicked out of playback when the recording ends. You have to manually fast-forward to your previous spot to continue watching
- no monthly fee (hello TiVo users!), no logins, no internet connection, you just use it
- low price (I bought it in low $30s at amazon)
- plenty of ports (HDMI, component, RCA, RF, coaxial, etc)
- records one show at a time
- does not work with Cable, only OTA (Over the Air) signal
- no commercial skip option
- you only watch the recorded shows on the device, no streaming to iOS/Android
- User Interface not intuitive or user friendly
- you have to provide your own storage
- does not have internal timer, depends on the time from the OTA channels
- does not remember where you left off in a particular program in previous TV watching sessions
- Chase-Playback kicks you out when recording ends (you have to fast-forward to find your spot)