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|06-23-2012, 10:43 PM||#1|
EpVision PHD-VRX is the best subscription free ATSC/QAM tuner box that I have used
EpVision PHD-VRX is the best subscription free ATSC/QAM tuner box that I have every used so far
This review does not cover the recording feature since I have not tested that feature out yet (requires external USB drive to record)
Also this PHD-VRX product is not perfect and needs a firmware update to better handle video and audio signals (see part 2 review comments under video and audio)
The following are brief comparisons between the TIVO Premiere XL and EpVision PHD-VRX
For almost a decade I have had experience using several different ATSC tuners that are subscription free. External standalone ATSC tuners with and without QAM, ATSC tuners built into D-VHS, and ATSC/QAM TV tuners built into a TV. I am also very familiar with Digital HD DVR cable boxes like Motorola and others. Plus I have used Direct TV HD DVR’s before like the HR-21 PRO.
High-end products like the Tivo Premiere and Tivo Premiere XL will allow recording of both over the air ATSC channels and encrypted cable channels with a CableCard. I have heard many times that TIVO is very easy product to use that automatically maps channels into the program guide. I have no doubt that the TIVO box is the best way to go for quality, and possible in the future I might purchase a TIVO box.
The reason I purchased the EpVision PHD-VRX dual tuner box instead of a TIVO is because a minimum of 99% of my TV watching is Blu-ray discs since Blu-ray offers the best picture and sound quality for the consumer. My other family members in the house rent Version FIOS HD DVR’s with a subscription to many 1080i premium channels like HBO and Showtime. For me purchasing a TIVO would be a waste of money since I would not use or watch all the channels on it. Instead, when I want to watch a movie I can go rent a Blu-ray at Red box for $1.50 that will offer me 1080P quality video with 5.1-7.1 lossless audio that is bit for bit the same as the audio studio master.
Also looking at the TIVO it costs $249.99 for a new Premiere XL + $499.99 for a lifetime subscription + for the QAM tuner program guide to work another $47.88 a year needs to be paid to Verizon for the CableCard rental. So I am looking at a minimum of $797.86 for my first year with the TIVO Premiere XL. If I am going to pay around $800 for the TIVO then I would also want to get a high-end 7,200 RPM 2TB hard drive with an external hard drive case for around $200. So the real cost after the first year of the TIVO Premiere XL is around $1,000. Plus another $47.88 every single year needs to be paid for the CableCard rental from Verizon FIOS (The CableCards are nice since they unencrypt the cable channels one is paying for and they automatically setup a channel map with electronic program guide). The real negative thing about the TIVO is that after I pay $1,000 for it I still will not be able to access all the channels and features that the Verizon Motorola HD DVR offers. The TIVO does not work with Verizon FIOS video on demand, on screen Caller ID, and GUI. If TIVO would come out with a new TIVO that is 100% compatible with Verizon FIOS and other cable companies video on demand and GUI’s then I would most likely purchase a TIVO. I also refuse to rent a HD DVR cable box from Verizon FIOS and prefer to own my own equipment.
So since 99% of my TV watching is Blu-ray disc the EpVision PHD-VRX will meet my needs. At a costs of $229.95 it is ideal to use with a high-end monitor like the Pioneer PRO-101FD. If I decide to record I can get a top of the line 2TB 7,200 RPM hard drive with external hard drive enclosure for around $200. So my final cost will be $429.95 maximum for the PHD-VRX (there are cheaper 2TB USB hard drive options and $150 or lower is also possible for the hard drive).
Hands on review of the EpVision PHD-VRX starts here
On June 11th 2012 I received the EpVision PHD-VRX. List price was $229.95 plus I had a $20 coupon which brought the unit down to $209.95 + $18.68 for shipping. I missed out on the $30 coupon code. The $229.95 EpVision PHD-VRX is now available for $199.95 + shipping for those that have a $30 off coupon code from their email newsletter (coupon expires on June 30th 2012).
Firmware used for this review: When I received my PHD-VRX it came with firmware version VRX.242.18.10 already installed. That is the latest firmware available. One disappointment with this product is that a firmware update cannot be installed over the Internet using the onscreen menus. Current firmware updates require a USB flash drive. The EpVision programmers should write a firmware update that allows consumers to automatically or manually get firmware updates over the Internet just like a Blu-ray player does.
Packing comments: The unit was packed well and double boxed. The colorfully retail display box was very attractive. The retail box says it’s a “Full HD 1080p Dual Tuner Digital HDTV Recorder Receiver and Media Center Box”. At this time there is no native 1080P content available. The 480i ATSC/QAM SD and 720P-1080i HD channels are upconverted to 1080P. The YouTube SD and HD videos have no option in the menu to play at 1080P. As far as I can tell this PHD-VRX does not play native 1080P YouTube videos since there is no 1080P selection when playing a HD YouTube video. Perhaps in the future 1080P VUDU or 1080P Netflix might become available. It also says on the front and rear of the retail box in big bold letters “Watch and Record Free HDTV!!” If this product becomes available in retail stores then there should be small print that says that a USB hard drive or high-end USB flash drive is required to activate the record feature.
When I opened the retail box the PHD-VRX came with a HDMI cable, remote control, batteries, and a Quick Start Guide. The full product manual will be offered free on line in a PDF version once the company finishes creating it. In the mean time consumers can download 5 different manuals on the product so far:
PHD-VRX Quick Start Guide
PHD-VRX Recording Features Guide
PHD-VRX Timeshifting Features Guide
PHD-VRX Remote Control IR Codes
PHD-VRX Firmware instructions
Direct website for ordering
I was disappointed with the plastic protective wrap that covered the entire black case of the PHD-VRX unit. It took me like 5 to 10 minutes to remove it. I almost did not see the thin plastic that covers the black case including the vents on the unit. When peeling off the plastic the plastic did not come off in one piece but 20 or 30 little pieces. Some of the plastic got stock in the vents and I used a special technique and soft plastic tool to get the plastic residue and small pieces of plastic out of the vents. I am surprised they shipped the unit with a thin piece of plastic that covers the vents. Hopefully future units will not have that plastic coating on the entire top cover and sides. I know the reason for the plastic is to protect the case from being scratched but there are other shipping materials one can use instead of a big sheet of plastic that is hard to peel off.
Rear panel comments: (click here for rear panel picture): My EpVision PHD-VRX that I purchased has all the exact same inputs and outputs that are found in the companies rear panel stock picture but my unit looked slightly different in the rear (My unit had an area that component video outputs were designed to be installed but for cost cutting reasons no component video outputs were installed) . The EpVision PHD-VRX was designed for consumers that have modern HD displays with a HDMI or DVI input. If one owns a display with a HDMI or DVI input then the EpVision PHD-VRX is an ideal product. An older DVI display requires a HDMI to DVI adapter. There is no component video output or S-Video output for legacy analog displays. In addition the 480i composite output is simultaneously active with the 1080P HDMI output. The 480i output does not show any onscreen graphics which makes it ideal for someone to connect an old legacy VHS recorder to record onto a video tape without having to worry about any onscreen menus showing up on the recording. Since the 480i composite output shows no menus or onscreen graphics at all it also makes this unit not usable for someone that only owns a legacy 480i TV set. This product is only recommended for those consumers that have a display with a HDMI or DVI input since a display with 480i composite video inputs will not be able to display the onscreen menus under the current firmware version.
So the only outputs of the PHD-VRX is the HDMI, 480i composite video, 5.1 Dolby Digital optical output, and left and right analog stereo. The inputs on the unit are HDMI, component video input, 480i composite input, left and right analog stereo input, VGA video input with VGA audio input, 2 RF inputs, 2 USB, and 1 100Mbps Ethernet jack(also support legacy 10Mbps). The only inputs that can be used for recording are the 2 RF inputs. The HDMI input and all the other analog inputs are not recordable inputs. The purpose of the video inputs is to use the PHD-VRX as a upscaling video source switcher for those consumers that do not own an A/V receiver with HDMI video upscaling.
I was slightly disappointed that the power cord is not detachable on the PHD-VRX. Most modern electronics like Blu-ray players, A/V receivers, and TV’s use a detachable power cord that can be replaced if damaged. If the power cord in the future becomes damaged on the PHD-VRX then the box needs to be sent back to the factory to be repaired or if the unit is out of warranty consumers that are experienced with soldering irons and electronics can open the unit up and install a new power cord.
Outstanding tuner quality and easy to use menus: When I plugged in the PHD-VRX I discovered it had very easy to use menus. The PHD-VRX automatically set the time to the exact time soon after I gave it my time zone information. The first tuner is the best quality since it offers NTSC/ATSC/QAM. The second tuner is a lower cost tuner that only offers ATSC/QAM. This PHD-VRX also has 4 channel map memories. Tuner 1 has one over the air channel map memory that will scan between channels 2-69 looking for both analog NTSC and ATSC digital channels. Tuner number 1 can also be setup to scan cable channels 1-135 looking for both analog NTSC and QAM digital channels (Two channel maps for tuner 1). Tuner 2 has one over the air channel map memory that will scan between channels 2-69 looking for only digital ATSC channels. Tuner 2 can also be setup to scan for cable channels 1-135 looking for only digital QAM channels (Two channel map memories for tuner 2). Where I live in the United States I was unable to use or test the NTSC section of tuner 1 since 100% of my local over the air broadcasts are ATSC digital. In fact 100% of all full power TV stations in the United States use ATSC digital now. Only in some areas of the USA one might be able to find a low power NTSC TV channel. Also when scanning for ATSC channels in the USA channels 2-69 do not need to be scanned since spectrum frequencies were taken away from the broadcasters. Now only ATSC channels 7-51 is used in the USA for over the air broadcasts. The PHD-VRX might be used in Canada or Mexico where analog and digital channels between 2-69 might be available (Canada is mostly ATSC now but might use the full channel spectrum of 2-69). Also since I subscribe to Verizon FIOS they use 100% digital QAM which makes it impossible for me to test the NTSC tuner unless I subscribe to my second cable provider in the city I live in which is Comcast. Comcast and a few other cable companies still have some analog NTSC cable Channels. In the future cable companies will be switching to 100% QAM like Verizon. Also more and more cable companies in the years to come will start switching from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 to increase virtual channel bandwidth. Verizon FIOS does not use MPEG-4 yet. The PHD-VRX like all other subscription free boxes on the market only supports MPEG-2 channels. ATSC over the air channels are 100% MPEG-2 with up to 5.1 Dolby Digital. If one lives in an area that has a cable company that uses in the clear MPEG-4 channels then they will not be able to use the PHD-VRX to watch those in the clear MPEG-4 QAM channels. I know of no consumer tuners on the market that support MPEG-4 QAM channels yet.
The unique exclusive features of the PHD-VRX: The PHD-VRX has two RF inputs that allow consumers to switch back and forth between over the air broadcasts and cable TV programs. It should be noted that this PHD-VRX does not support a CableCard option like the TIVO models. What this means is that digital QAM cable channels received by this unit are limited to in the in the clear unencrypted channels. You will not be able to watch premium movie channels like HBO and Showtime and on most cable systems, you will be limited to the same channels that an outdoor antenna receives like NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, etc. In the earlier years back around 2005 most consumers did not have QAM tuners and cable companies transmitted many in the clear channels including some premium channels. Times have changed and cable companies are encrypting almost all MPEG-2 QAM channels except for local SD and HD channels. In the future possible cable companies in the years to come could start encrypting 100% of all channels including local SD and HD channels. If that day comes then the value of this PHD-VRX product will be cut in half since it would no longer be able to be used on a cable system (That day might never happen but it is a possibility depending on the plans of the cable companies nationwide).
How to use the two RF inputs: These two RF inputs do not have any built in A/B switch so one cannot assign both over the air broadcasts signals and cable signals to the exact same tuner at once.
1. For consumers that want to connect the PHD-VRX to both a TV antenna and cable TV: If you have Verizon FIOS which uses 100% digital QAM and 100% of all your over the air channels are digital ATSC then it will not matter what RF input you use. On the other hand if you live in an area that has a low power NTSC channel then you should connect your TV antenna to RF input 1 and Verizon FIOS should be connected to RF input number 2. If your cable company is not 100% digital QAM (offers some analog NTSC channels) then you should connect the cable signal to RF input number 1 and the outdoor antenna to RF input number 2. In most dual signal setups the cable signal being connected to RF input 1 is ideal and the antenna should be connected to RF input number 2.
2. For consumers that only have cable TV or only have a TV antenna (one signal source): There is no built in signal splitter for the PHD-VRX so an external splitter needs to be used if one wants to use both tuners. Connecting an external 75 ohm TV splitter will allow one to use both tuners.
3. Using two cable systems with the PHD-VRX: Some consumers and businesses subscribe to two separate cable companies for Internet and TV as a backup in case one provider has an outage. If one has Verizon FIOS then the PHD-VRX should be connected to RF input 2 since Verizon FIOS is 100% digital QAM. If your second Cable provider offers some NTSC channels like Comcast then RF input 1 should be used so one can receive both the NTSC and QAM channels.
4. Using two separate TV antennas pointed in different directions with the PHD-VRX. All my TV antenna setups I have used have a rotor that allows the outdoor or indoor attic antenna to be turned 360 degrees. Some consumers might prefer using a combination of antenna configurations like outdoor antennas or indoor antennas pointed in different directions. Sometimes the way signals travel there are special needs some people have. If one lives in an area that is 100% digital ATSC for broadcasts then it should not matter which RF input one uses unless tuner number 1 is better quality then tuner number 2 when it comes to weak ATSC channels. The only listed advantage of tuner number 1 is that it supports NTSC. If one receives a low power NTSC channel then RF input number 1 should be used for the antenna pointed toward that station.
PHD-VRX tuner quality and channel mapping qualities are excellent: The PHD-VRX channel scanning speed for ATSC and QAM is very fast and accurate. It found several ATSC channels and several Verizon FIOS QAM channels in my area. With tuner 1 connected to my TV antenna it pulled in a few more channels compared to any other tuner I have owned before. Weak ATSC channels that use to have digital artifacts, had a perfect digital picture and one could not tell the signal was weak since the picture and sound was rock solid. Of course extremely weak fringe channels became unwatchable when the signal dropped to low. Tuner number two connected to Verizon FIOS 100% QAM network detected all the digital QAM channels plus the QAM tuner was the best I have seen since it mapped the channels better than any other subscription free QAM tuner yet. 99% of the QAM channels I am able to view are all local HD and SD. Around 1% are a few channels that are unique basic cable channels. With a push of the “TV” button on the remote I am able to toggle back and forth between tuner 1 and tuner 2 within 1-2 seconds. The channel changing for both ATSC and QAM is one of the fastest tuners I have used (Perhaps if I was recording a HD program on one tuner it might slow things down a little, but I have not connected an external USB 2TB hard drive yet for recording). A bar graph with signal strength can be seen for the channel that one is currently watching by pushing the “INFO” button on the remote. In the main menu under “Settings” then “System info” A “Signal Quality” number can be seen for the channel one is on. Two negatives about this screen is that it does not auto refresh and the signal meter number is in increments of 5. My favorite signal meters are the ATSC tuners that show a signal number between 0-100 that auto refreshes which makes it much easier to adjust a TV antenna. I hope that a firmware update will improve the signal meter on the PHD-VRX.
ATSC channel data inside the program guide: Using tuner 1 for the TV antenna I am pulling in many TV stations. All stations in my area are 100% ATSC digital. Every channel was assigned a virtual channel number and also the channel name appears in the program guide. Also every channel has a program title information and almost all channels have detailed descriptions of the programs that are coming soon. Some channels only list 12 hours or less of detailed program descriptions while other channels I am getting up to 3 days worth of detailed program data. This process is all automatic and nothing needs to be done to receive this data. This includes ION channel detailed program descriptions showing up that some people have trouble with.
QAM channel data inside the program guide while using Verizon FIOS: Since the PHD-VRX does not use a CableCard (which requires a subscription), the channel mapping like all free subscription tuners will map the channels differently than a digital cable box like TIVO or Motorola. The channel numbers will be different on the PHD-VRX when compared to the digital cable box one rents from their cable company. A channel scan on the tuner 2 connected to Verizon FIOS produced results very similar to the ATSC program guide on tuner 1. Around 80% of the local QAM in the clear channels have the exact same channel number assigned to them as the ATSC tuner (Many are local 720P and 1080i HD channels). Also the channels are automatically labeled in the program guide with program title information and detailed program descriptions for those channels. This includes ION channel detailed program descriptions showing up that some people have trouble with. Verizon FIOS MPEG-2 local channels are bit for bit the same as the local ATSC master broadcast (some cable companies over compress channels since they are low on bandwidth). There were around 20% of the SD channels that the PHD-VRX could not find a channel name, program title, or detailed description. The channel name issue is no big deal since the PHD-VRX will allow one to manually label the channel numbers. My Pioneer A/V receiver allows me use a USB keyboard to name inputs so I decided to try a USB keyboard on the PHD-VRX. The PHD-VRX saw the USB keyboard when I plugged it in but the mapping for the keyboard buttons did not match up with the letters on the keyboard. So I unplugged the USB keyboard and used the wireless remote control to name the QAM channels. The QAM tuner scan is not perfect. There were some QAM channels I needed to delete since they were encrypted since the channel would show a 100% black screen. No QAM tuner is perfect and they all normally add a few extra channels that need to be deleted. I noticed under the master channel list it also lists several hundreds of channels that it has deleted from the channel lineup and program guide because the channel is encrypted. This PHD-VRX does not support encrypted programs since it has no Cable Card capability. Adding and deleting channels from the “Master List” is very easy, pressing the red “Skip” button the channel can be toggled on and off within the “Master List”. Also the “Master list” allows the in the clear channels to be viewed so that one does not have to toggle back and forth between the TV program and menu while manually adjusting which channels to delete or add. Another nice feature is the “Find Chanel” option that allows one to manually scan a RF channel and then the system software within a few seconds will add the new set of virtual digital channels if the channels exist. Find a channel is useful since one does not have to do a completley new channel scan. Video inputs and tuners can also be deleted and disabled from the main menu.
Close Captioning feature: The close captioning feature built into this PHD-VRX box worked for all ATSC and QAM channels that were close captioning encoded. With a simple double click of the “CC” button on the remote the close captioning feature will be activated. If one goes in to the main menu there is almost endless options for close captioning. From making the text super large, background color, font style, text color, and many more close captioning features that I have never seen before in a tuner box.
AUDIO button on remote: Pressing the “AUDIO” button on the remote will bring up the digital audio selection for the channel one is on. The audio button on the remote when pressed will display the Dolby Digital audio information available for the channel. If the audio information is unavailable from the channel provider then “Unknown AC3” will be displayed on the screen. If the audio information is only English then “eng” or some other similar name will be displayed. If the channel offers Spanish or French then pressing the “AUDIO” button on the remote will allow one to toggle to the second audio channel. For example when the audio was outputting English 5.1 Dolby Digital or English 2.0 Dolby Digital, toggling the “AUDIO” button to the Spanish mode offered a Spanish track in 2.0 Dolby Digital or Spanish 1.0 Dolby Digital depending on what is being sent by the broadcaster. It all depends on the channel one is watching. Both ATSC and Verizon FIOS QAM channels had Spanish audio available on some channels.
LOCKS feature: The “Locks” feature in the main menu allowed me to set a PIN lock that prevents one from doing a master factory reset of the entire PHD-VRX, lock out channels, and the option to disable all the buttons on the PHD-VRX accept for the master power switch on the far left. Locking out all the buttons on the front would be ideal for some one that wants to record. Once a PIN is setup that PIN can be changed to another PIN but in order to disable the PIN feature completely, a complete factory reset on the PHD-VRX is needed. To do a factory reset one has to remember there PIN number. If one sets the PIN number, one does not want to forget it since they cannot do a factory reset without the PIN number. After a factory reset the buttons on the PHD-VRX were still disabled and I had to setup a new PIN number in order to get into the “Locks” menu to enable the buttons on the PHD-VRX. A factory reset should return the “Front Panel Lock” option back to “off” instead of “on” but it does not. What is interesting is when the “Front Panel Lock” option is turned on if one power cycles the PHX-VRX using the master power switch on the far left it will reset the “Front Panel lock” option to off without the need for a PIN number.
VUDU Button: Currently the VUDU feature is not available yet. A future firmware update might offer 1080P VUDU. Then true native 1080P material will be able to be played threw the PHD-VRX.
NET Button: If the PHD-VRX is connected to your Internet service then YouTube videos can be played by pressing the “NET” button on the remote. The “NET” button will allow SD and HD YouTube videos to be played and the interface is very fast. There is no menu option to select 1080P YouTube resolution so the YouTube videos might just be native 480i/p upconverts or native 720P quality. Hopefully a future firmware update will offer a 1080P native YouTube resolution menu selection like one finds on Internet Explorer.
Ethernet port: The Sony PS3 supports 1Gbps networking speed but according to the PHD-VRX documentation it only handles up to 100Mbps networking speed. Verizon FIOS now offers internet speeds up to 300Mbps. It’s too bad the Ethernet jack is not 1Gbps on the PHD-VRX. This is a hardware limitation that cannot be improved with a software update.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 06-24-2012 at 05:15 AM.
|06-23-2012, 10:44 PM||#2|
Part two review on the PHD-VRX
Major issues that need to be fixed with a firmware update
1. Video quality issues: The PHD-VRX can only output 720P and 1080P with the HDMI output. If one owns an older EDTV with a 480i/p DVI input they would not be able to use this PHD-VRX product at all. The PHD-VRX should offer a firmware update to offer native source direct resolution, 480i, 480p, and 1080i over HDMI. Some consumers own A/V receivers and projectors with 4K scaling capability and a native source direct option on the PHD-VRX would be ideal for videophiles. Also the 1080P output should support 1080P at both 24fps and 60fps with a menu option. Right now there is no menu selection to select 24fps or 60fps on the PHD-VRX. For older 1080P displays 60Hz needs to be supported by having the box add 3:2 pulldown. For newer displays the PHD-VRX should have a 1080p/24 output mode. I verified that the PHD-VRX supports 1080p/24 inputs over HDMI using a Blu-ray player on the HDMI input. The 1080p/24 output from the OPPO BDP-93 was in 24fps force mode while playing a native 1080p/24 Blu-ray movie. System information on the PHD-VRX reported that 1080P/24 was received. The native feature should bypass the video processor completely and delivery the source direct pure bitstream. I did not like the picture control adjustments and wish I could feed a native channel directly to my Pioneer PRO-101FD monitor. I could not get the “Direct” picture menu option to work at all. That menu option needs to be fixed.
2. Major audio problem with HDMI (This is a big issue): The PHD-VRX converts all audio streams to 2.0 PCM over HDMI. When a channel contains 5.1 Dolby Digital the PHD-VRX will send 2.0 PCM instead. There absolutely needs to be a menu audio option that allows 5.1 Dolby Digital audio from ATSC and QAM channels to be streamed over the HDMI output so that consumers can use this product with a modern A/V receiver that allows HDMI switching. On a Digital HD cable box and Digital HD satellite receiver 5.1 Dolby Digital is always sent over HDMI when connected to a A/V receiver. Also the old brite-View BV-980H ATSC/QAM tuner passed 5.1 Dolby Digital over HDMI. The way the PHD-VRX firmware is setup now the HDMI output is designed for consumers that plan on plugging the box directly into their HDTV using a HDMI connection. Also the volume control was designed to only work for HDMI and not optical. The optical audio output is fixed volume level when turned on, and offers AC3 bitstream or 2.0 PCM. It is very ridiculous that there is not a menu option to allow the HDMI output to pass 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital (bitstream AC3). I even plugged my OPPO BDP-93 into the PHD-VRX HDMI input just too see what it would do. The HDMI input is an active input and not passive. The 5.1 PCM and the 7.1 DTS HD-Master audio tracks from the Blu-ray player were converted to 2.0 PCM by the PHD-VRX. I almost returned this product when I found out the PHD-VRX does not pass native 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital over the HDMI output. The work around was to run optical into the Pioneer Elite VSX-33 A/V receiver. Then I had to program the Pioneer to take the video from the HDMI output and the audio from the optical output. The optical output will pass 2.0 PCM or native AC3 (1.0-5.1 Dolby Digital) depending on the menu settings in the PHD-VRX. Some A/V receivers on the market might not be able to combine HDMI video with optical audio. I am lucky my Pioneer A/V receiver had the feature or I would have returned the PHD-VRX. This is a major issue for consumers with A/V receivers with HDMI inputs, the box needs to be able to pass AC3 over HDMI. Also the volume level is a lot lower over 2.0 PCM HDMI when compare to 2.0 PCM optical (The HDMI volume on the PHD-VRX was turned all the way up).
Minor firmware updates that EpVision programmers might want to consider working on
1. Electronic program guide: It would be nice to have one program guide that integrates the cable channels from one tuner and the over the air broadcasts channels from the other tuner into one program guide. Instead the PHD-VRX has two program guides. In some ways, I like having two separate program guides since most the channels coming in from the TV antenna are exactly the same as the ones coming in from the cable TV system. If a future firmware update would every combine the two program guides into one then they need to make sure the program guide clearly marks what channels are from which signal source. For example Direct TV owners can purchase an external dual tuner ATSC tuner that connects to a dual satellite tuner HD DVR. Sometimes the same exact station can be received by satellite, so the Direct TV program guide will clearly mark which channels are from the ATSC tuner and which channels are from the satellite tuners. TIVO also has a program guide that integrates cable and ATSC channels. If one started to record programs, the ideal setup would be to have one program guide for both tuners instead of two separate program guides. For example tuner 1 could have a different color for the channel numbers then tuner 2 if the PHD-VRX is pulling in two separate signal sources. Of course if tuner 1 and 2 are receiving the same signal source then they would need to be the same color and label in the program guide. If Direct TV and TIVO can integrate ATSC channels into one program guide so could EpVision with a software update.
2. Automatic firmware update option: The ability of the PHD-VRX to be able to automatically and manually install firmware updates over the Internet would be ideal. Right now USB flash drives is the only method for firmware updates.
3. Offer manual channel map creation: One can now name the names of the channels manually. It would be neat if there were an option to manually configure the virtual channel number. If I could assign any virtual channel number to a RF channel I could create my own channel mapping system that would allow the channels to match up with a Digital cable box one rents from the cable company.
4. Open source Linux firmware update: It would be awesome if consumers could write their own Linux code so the operating system and overall product could be customized by those consumers that have programming knowledge and experience. This might also be a bad ideal since poorly written code could crash the unit and turn it into a paper weight.
5. Add USB keyboard mapping firmware update: Currently while using a USB keyboard the keyboard buttons did not match up with the letters on the keyboard. Using a keyboard for channel labeling and for YouTube would be a nice feature.
6. Onscreen graphics option update for 480i composite video: In option in the menu to turn on the on screen menu graphics for 480i composite output might generate more product sells for those consumers with old CRT TV’s and displays that only have a composite input.
7. Make an improved signal meter screen: My favorite signal meters are the ATSC tuners that show a signal number between 0-100 that auto refreshes which makes it much easier to adjust a TV antenna with rotor. I hope that a firmware update will improve the signal meter on the PHD-VRX.
8. Under the Master Channel list mark the ones that are encrypted: I have seen some QAM tuners have the ability to label with the word “Encrypted” in their master channel list for the QAM channels that are encrypted. This would be a nice feature to add so that consumer when editing the channel list can ignore the encrypted channels that this PHD-VRX is not capable to receive.
9. The Locks feature needs a software improvement: After a factory reset the buttons on the PHD-VRX were still disabled and I had to setup a new PIN number in order to get into the “Locks” menu to enable the buttons on the PHD-VRX. A factory reset should return the “Front Panel Lock” option back to “off” instead of “on”, but it does not. What is interesting is when the “Front Panel Lock” option is turned “on” if one power cycles the PHX-VRX using the master power switch on the far left it will reset the “Front Panel lock” option to “off” without the need for a PIN number.
10. Offer a firmware update that supports 3TB and larger USB drives: According to the documentation up to 2TB USB drives are supported. Maybe a future firmware update will allow larger external hard drives.
11. Will not pass lossless audio from the HDMI output when Blu-ray player connected: This is a minor issue since most people that own a Blu-ray player will run it directly into a A/V receiver and not the PHD-VRX HDMI input. It would be ideal if the PHD-VRX would have a passive/active output mode that would pass lossless audio bitstream formats like 5.1-7.1 PCM, DTS-HD Master audio, Dolby True HD. Right now the PHD-VRX converts 5.1-7.1 PCM and DTS Master audio to 2.0 PCM over HDMI.
In conclusion this EpVision PHD-VRX tuner overall quality setup and selection is the best subscription free ATSC/QAM tuner box that I have every used. I have seen ATSC/QAM boxes from electronic companies with many more serious problems when it comes to tuner quality and performance. The dual RF input option for the TV antenna and cable TV option is only available for older TIVO boxes and the new PHD-VRX. The 2 RF inputs with 4 channel map memories is the biggest advantage of this product over the competition. Using the EpVision PHD-VRX as a tuner I found the product to be extremely stable with no lock ups. The wireless remote needs to be pointed directly at the PHD-VRX and I wish it had better range. One of the major weakness is that the PHD-VRX does not offer a CablecCard slot for the encrypted programs one might want to subscribe too in the future. That’s one area the TIVO boxes are more attractive. If EpVision fixes the two major video and audio issues with a firmware update that I mentioned in the review then this will be an excellent product for around $199.95 ($229.95 list price). Plus the ability to play YouTube videos is a bonus feature with the possibility for VUDU in the future (All modern Blu-ray players for around $75 and under also offer streaming services). This product is not for everyone. A TIVO box is the ultimate for ease of use and support. The PHD-VRX is for someone that only watches local in the clear ATSC and/or QAM channels and wants no monthly subscription fee. It should be noted that I have not plugged in a 2TB external hard drive to test how the product performs as a 2 tuner HD-DVR. There might be all kinds of issues recording on this unit.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 06-24-2012 at 01:34 AM.
|06-24-2012, 12:30 AM||#3|
I was on the pre-order list for this product, but after 3 years of waiting, I gave up & grabbed another CM 7000PAL DVR. If my CM 7000PALs ever crap out, I'll try the EpVision product or Tivo.
LIVING ROOM: Panasonic TC-P65V10, SONY BDP-S5000ES, SONY STR-DA5300ES, Emotiva XPA-5, Def Tech(BP2006 x 2, C/L/R2300, BP2X x 2, BP1.2X x 2)
BEDROOM: SONY KDL-52XBR5, OPPO BDP-103, Pioneer Elite SC-63, Energy(RC-LCR x 3), Paradigm(ADP-190 x 2), SVS PC12-PLUS
"What is dead may never die..."
|06-27-2012, 07:36 AM||#4|
EpVision PHD-VRX brief NTSC tuner review and other comments
It turns out that there are some low power analog NTSC stations still in the United States between channels 2-6 (just recently after the review I found out I live in a city that has one low power NTSC station after turning the antenna with the rotor and doing a channel scan). These low power analog stations in the United States sometimes apply for permission from the FCC to convert their station to a low, medium, or full power ATSC digital channel. When the FCC gives them permission to convert to digital the new station is assigned a channel on VHF 7-13 or UHF 14-51. There are several antenna manufactories now making TV antennas that are only designed to pick up channels 7-51. Many years ago TV antennas were designed for channels 2-83 then when bandwidth was taken away from TV stations, TV antennas started being designed for channels 2-69. The newer antenna designs are only designed to pick up channels 7-69 with the very latest TV antenna designs only made for channels 7-51 since the TV spectrum keeps shrinking in the United States. The new VHF only antennas are being made to pick up only channels 7-13. The FM radio band is between channels 6 and 7 at 88 to 108 Mhz. One looking to receive both TV signals,digital FM, and analog FM radio stations will need an outdoor TV antenna with channels 2-51 capability. Also there is dedicated FM only antennas designed for outdoor installation.
Solid Signal is a good source for antenna supplies
One thing I like about the PHD-VRX is that under the “Find Channel” option one can view the literal RF channel number and the virtual digital channel number. Many times the RF digital channel number is different when compared to the main virtual digital channel number. When TV stations converted from analog NTSC to digital ATSC some TV stations decided to keep their old TV station number so that is why many virtual digital channel numbers do not match up with the literal RF channel number. So on the “Find Channel” menu screen one can see all the virtual digital channels that are assigned to that RF channel. One negative is that when one adds a RF channel manually in the “Find Channel” menu screen they cannot delete the channel at all which is a bad feature. To delete the channel one has to do another auto channel scan. So you can add channels with “Find Channel” but you cannot delete them. Of course one can go to the “Master List” and disable the visibility of the channels in the guide and channel database. A firmware update to allow one to delete a channel from the “Find Channel” menu feature would be ideal. If I can manually add a RF channel then I also should be allowed to manually delete at least the channels that I manually created. When one selects a RF channel to be added if no digital channels are found an RF NTSC channel is automatically added to the PHD-VRX database by default even if no NTSC signal exists on that channel you wanted to be added. If one does the manual channel creation 10 or 20 times for different channels then when channel surfing one well have many blank channels in between active channels.
The EpVision PHD-VRX has a very strong high quality NTSC tuner
To my surprise I found one low power analog NTSC channel to briefly test the analog tuner in the PHD-VRX. I moved the TV antenna with the rotor and did a channel scan. I picked up a low power, low band VHF TV station. The station was so weak that I could not get any audio accept a low level crackling sound. The picture quality even though snowy was fairly good since I could make out the small words on the screen. With another NTSC tuner in the house I also could not get any audio for that NTSC station, so not getting any audio was not a problem with the PHD-VRX but instead a signal quality issue or station problem. On the other brand of NTSC tuner the picture I could just barely see. So this PHD-VRX has an extremely sensitive NTSC tuner that pulled in the video so good that the snowy picture was at least watchable. I tried the close captioning feature and it does work for NTSC channels but the problem was the text when it did pop up on the screen had jumbled letters since the signal quality of the low power station was very weak. The Close Caption also turns on when mute is pressed on the remote for both analog and digital channels. Even when one presses the “FREEZE” picture button the Close Caption along with audio continues to work. “FREEZE” button is ideal to press when one wants to write down an address or phone number. The "FREEZE" button works for all analog and digital signals.
This PHD-VRX has an MTS decoder built in with SAP audio option for use only with the NTSC section in tuner one (menu options are Mono, Stereo, and SAP). The PHD-VRX converts that analog NTSC audio like MTS stereo to 2.0 PCM stereo when one uses the HDMI and optical connections. Even if the optical audio menu setting is set to “AC3” the PHD-VRX firmware is smart enough to convert the MTS stereo sound to 2.0 PCM stereo. Also in the main menu is the option to make SAP the default setting instead of Stereo or Mono. Someone that speaks mostly Spanish that is on a cable system with NTSC channels will be able to setup the PHD-VRX to automatically switch to the Spanish language track for each NTSC channel that offers it (Since I have only one low power NTSC over the air TV station that is so weak that audio cannot be received I was not able to test audio or this feature to verify that it works, also Verizon FIOS is 100% digital QAM). Under the audio menu “Digital Preferences”, is an audio option for English, Spanish, and French (The problem is the Digital Preferences does not work), When I select Spanish audio I hear English instead of Spanish. One has to manual toggle the “AUDIO” button on the remote each time they want to listen to an ATSC/QAM digital channel in Spanish.
Major firmware updates needed
1. As mentioned before HDMI output on the PHD-VRX needs to be able to pass 5.1 Dolby Digital and also when pressing the “V-MODE” button on the remote it should toggle between 6 different settings: “native”, “480i”,”480P”, “720P”, “1080i”, and “1080P”. Right now consumers are only able to toggle between “720P” and 1080P”.
2. A firmware update to correct the cold reboot time loss bug: The PHD-VRX does an excellent job at keeping the exact time from the Network Time Protocol under normal conditions. This is one reason why an Internet connection is ideal for PHD-VRX especially if one plans on recording. Pressing the power button on the remote control to turn the unit off and back on is like giving the PHD-VRX a warm reboot (button is called “POWER” on the remote but button is labeled as “STANDBY” on front of PHD-VRX). Doing a warm reboot will still maintain the time. Pressing the master power button on the far left of the unit is like doing a cold reboot since it will reset the clock to 12:00 am and also menu options like “Front Panel Lock” will be set to off without the need to enter a pin number. The problem is when there is a power outage or when the master power button on the front of the unit is pushed the clock will be reset to 12:00 am. This is very bad since if the power goes out for only a second the clock and all future recordings will not be recorded. Sure one can purchase a UPS power backup device to fix the power outage issue but that well not fix the problem with the power button on the front of the unit resetting the clock to 12:00 am. Now I realize that after the time is lost, that the time can instantly be restored within 1 minute by pressing the “STANDBYE” button on the front of the PHD-VRX or if one presses the power button on the remote control. Under most conditions, the time will be placed back to normal when the unit is booted backup by pressing the power button on the remote. As long as someone is on a digital QAM or ATSC channel the PHD-VRX after reboot is finished will go grab the exact time within about 10 seconds after the picture appears on the screen. The problem is if one leaves the PHD-VRX on an analog channel and then one boots up the PHD-VRX, it will never reset the time to the exact time until someone changes the channel to a digital channel. The time setting feature, program guide, and recording features do not work while one is watching an analog channel. At the very minimum the time setting and program guide should work while watching an analog channel.
The ideal fix for the time loss bug is the following: As soon as the power is back. The PHD-VRX firmware should automatically go to the Network Time Protocol internet connection and set the clock to the exact time without the need for the consumer to have to do anything. I am very surprised that a battery backup feature for the clock was not made in the event of a 1 second or longer power outage. The PHD-VRX since it has no battery backup feature for the clock needs to be able to automatically set to the exact time as soon as power is restored. Also the PHD-VRX needs to be able to check and see if a program was in the process of recording during a power outage. Not everyone is going to have a UPS power backup device in their home or apartment. Also someone might toggle that power button on the front of the unit on and off and then all future recordings will be messed up since the PHD-VRX was reset back to 12:00am.
Minor firmware update recommendations
1. A firmware update to allow one to delete a channel from the “Find Channel” menu feature. If I can manually add a RF channel then I also should be allowed to manually delete at least the channels that I manually created.
2. The “Direct” viewing mode does not work at all for analog and digital channels. Also the “Normal” viewing mode does not work on an analog NTSC channels. Another issue is that while watching a native 4:3 NTSC channel the PHD-VRX firmware for some reason will stretch the native 4:3 program to 16:9 then a few minutes later it will go back to 4:3. This happens even when “Auto Aspect” is set to off and “View Mode” is set to “4:3”.
3. Digital Preferences in the audio menu does not work. A firmware update should be able to fix this issue so that if someone wants Spanish audio they do not have to manually turn it on every time they switch a channel.
4. The 6–Digit display currently only shows the number of the channel one is on after the channel is switched. A firmware update could be created that would show the channel number on the 6-Digit display that someone is typing in on the remote in real time. Currently one has to look on the screen to see the numbers that are being pressed on the remote in real time.
5. A new “Front Display Menu” option in the main menu should be created: Front panel display should have 3 different options:
a. Leave the default setting the same: The current default option would be the option that the PHD-VRX does now. The time in the 6-Digit LED display is only shown when the PHD-VRX is tuned off into standby mode. The channel number in the 6-Digit display is displayed when the PHD-VRX is turned on. The green and red status LED should remain on 24 X 7 in this mode.
b. The option to turn off the 6-Digit LED display completely for those that want dark movie watching. This includes the green and red status LED being turned off completely.
c. The option to have the 6-Digit display, display only the clock 24 X 7. When the channel is changed the new channel would display for 1 minute and then return to the clock being displayed on the 6-Digit display. Some people would like to use the PHD-VRX as a clock to see what time it is. The green and red status LED should remain on 24 X 7 in this mode.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 06-27-2012 at 08:35 AM.
|06-27-2012, 11:20 AM||#5|
If one has like 50 or more digital channels the ability of the PHD-VRX to rapidly get to another channel in a few seconds with the channel up and down button is possible by holding down the channel up or down button. The PHD-VRX will move extremely fast to the channel number and when one releases the button on the channel it will tune the channel.
My other tuners I have tried in the past have taken minutes sometimes to go through all the channels hitting the up and down button. This was a nice feature.
|06-27-2012, 07:05 PM||#6|
Brief NTSC analog audio comments with the PHD VRX
In the old NTSC analog days if a broadcaster was broadcasting on channel 7 then within 50 miles or so one would not see a TV station broadcasting on channel 6 or 8 to avoid interference from channel 7. That has totally changed in the digital world. The virtual digital channels can be deceiving, I checked the literal RF channels where I live and there is a total of 6 channels within the UHF TV spectrum that are right next to each other. Where I live none of the VHF channels are next to each other in terms of channel assignment but of course other bigger cities sometimes will have VHF digital channels right on top of each other with no interference issues.
I am now getting audio on the weak low power analog NTSC channel in my area. The problem appears to have been the TV station having technical problems. The signal is even weaker today but the snowy picture is visible with audio.
The main purpose of this post is to comment on the way the PHD-VRX should handle NTSC audio like MTS, SAP and Mono. I am guessing that the station I am receiving is mono audio only. The info button is not telling me the type of audio being received. Toggling the Mono, Stereo, and SAP button produces the same effect. The ideal box should only allow the toggling to Stereo or SAP when the station is broadcasting in MTS and SAP. Again all NTSC audio is converted to 2.0 PCM over HDMI and optical which is a good design.
I do not receive enough analog channels to give an accurate review on how the PHD-VRX box handles MTS and SAP signals (only one low power mono NTSC station and a cable system that is 100% digital QAM is preventing a more accurate review of the NTSC audio section). Hopefully consumers that have several NTSC channels on their cable system will be able to tell if a station is broadcasting Stereo and SAP. The PHD-VRX in theory should say the words Stereo when a consumer changes to a channel that is MTS encoded. Also the SAP feature should show up on the info screen when a SAP signal is present. If it turns out that for some reason there is no way to tell if the cable NTSC station is in encoded with MTS or SAP then a firmware update should be done to correct the issue.
The ideal tuner box should be able to tell the consumer if the channel is Mono, Stereo, and SAP encoded. Also when on a Mono station one should not be able to toggle the “AUDIO” button to Stereo and SAP if those signals are not present.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 06-27-2012 at 07:09 PM.
|06-29-2012, 04:06 AM||#7|
More PHD-VRX and TV station comments
Around the year 2009 100% of all full power TV stations in the United States finished converting to ATSC digital because of the FCC law. Low power analog NTSC stations in the United States were allowed to continue broadcasting. I emailed my local low power analog NTSC station in my area to see if they have any plans to switch to digital. The engineering department for the local low power TV station in my area told me that sometime in the future they plan on switching to ATSC digital as soon as funding becomes available. So most likely most of the low power NTSC stations in the United States one day will switch to a minimum of 480i ATSC digital once funding becomes available. Also some analog NTSC stations that do not switch to ATSC digital might go out of business and shut down due to lack of funding.
The way the formatted hard drives and flash drives work off the PHD-VRX is complicated. There are some recording bugs I have run into. I have almost the entire few days spent messing around with the USB interface and plan on posting my brief results on the recording capability once I do some more extensive volunteer beta testing (I would rather be watching my Blu-ray movie collection but got side tracked in June when the PHD-VRX arrived).
Under the latest firmware version the Find Channel feature starts running when the consumer enters a wrong channel while channel surfing
This needs to be fixed with a future firmware update
For example when I am channel surfing if I type in the wrong channel by mistake the PHD-VRX firmware will automatically activate the “Find Channel” feature for that channel. Even if no digital or analog channel is located, a snowy analog channel will be added to the channel database and the only way to get rid of it is to do a new channel scan which erases the channel database. I realize the visibility of the channels can be disabled in the guide and channel database under the “Master List” menu option but one cannot delete a channel with “Find Channel” menu feature.
It is a bad feature for the PHD-VRX to automatically add channels to the channel database when the consumer accidently types in the wrong channel when channel surfing. After a few days I have 5 to 10 blank snowy analog NTSC channels that were added since many times I type in the wrong channel numbers. It is ridiculous that the channel database that one setups can be messed up with blank channels since the “Find Channel” feature runs every time a wrong channel is entered.
The following is an example of what the PHD-VRX should do when a consumer is channel surfing and types in a channel that is not in the database: The PHD-VRX should not change the channel at all when the consumer types in a channel that does not exist in the database. Also a message on the screen that says something like “No such channel number exists in the database” or “No such channel”, etc.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 06-29-2012 at 04:14 AM.
|06-29-2012, 12:15 PM||#8|
EpVision support told me how to get to the buried menu that allows the PHD-VRX to get the time from either a digital channel or when on an analog channel by having the PHD-VRX check the Internet for the exact time. So correction to a prior post if a power outage occurs and the user powers up the box from standbye mode the box will set to the exact time on both a digital and even an analog channel as long as both boxes are checked in the Manual Time Settings. The problem is the user still has to turn the PHD-VRX back on to have the PHD-VRX get the time from the digital channel or Internet. I replied to the email and recommended that after a power outage that the PHD-VRX should automatically turn itself back on for 1 minute and then turn itself off so that the clock can be restored.
Under "Date & Time" then "Manual Time Setting" both "Auto-Update Time Channel" and "Auto-Update Time NTP(Network)" should be checked. Time from the channel only works on a digital ATSC/QAM channel. When on a analog channel the PHD-VRX will set the exact time from the NTP over a Internet connection. For consumers that have no Internet the auto Time channel will only be used. Also if only the NTP box is checked and consumers have a working Internet connection then one will not be getting the time from the channel at all. Its better to have both boxes checked since the PHD-VRX will have a backup way to set the time in case one method fails.
So to make a long story short if the consumer has both boxes checked under the Manual time setting then the PHD-VRX will first try and get the time code from the digital channel. If the consumer is on a analog channel the time information will come from the Internet connection. So one does not need a Internet connection to restore the time just a digital ATSC/QAM channel.
The following is an email quote or paraphrase that I sent to EpVision
“Yes when the PHD-VRX is turned back on after the power outage or “master power switch” is pressed the PHD-VRX will regain time if both those check boxes you mentioned is checked. When the clock is reset to 12:00 am the PHD-VRX should be smart enough to turn itself back on for 1 minute and then shut itself off so the time can be restored. The PHD-VRX should be smart enough to turn itself back on after a power outage and restore the time from either a digital channel or Interent connection without the user needing to power up the box after a power outage.”
Also it sounds like the EpVision designers have no plans on offering 5.1 Dolby Digital over HDMI. Their other older models also do not offer 5.1 Dolby Digital over HDMI. Only 2 out of the 3 detailed emails I sent to them were replied too. I sent them another email to explain to them that sending 5.1 Dolby Digital over HDMI is a common feature offered by the competition and this should be changed.
The following is a couple email’s I received from EPVision support within the last few hours:
“Thanks again for your email!
PHD-VRX channel scan method is more superior and complex, which is based on originally developed by Broadcom/ATI for many high-end TVs. The way is like:
For an example, physical channel number is 50. Under this physical channel, if there are 4x virtual channels as 20-1, 20-2, 20-3, 20-4.
So if user randomly enter “20”, PHD-VRX will look up the master list first to see if there is a virtual channel number called 20-1. If yes, it will tune and lock to ch 20-1.
If user randomly enter “50”, PHD-VRX will look up the master list to search 50-1. If none, it will try to scan physical channel# 50 and finally find ch 20-1 is the first virtual channel number and then lock to that channel.
If this channel “50” has no virtual channels, in Tuner 1, which has NTSC decoding, it will finally think it is analog channel and tune to channel 50 or 50-0 as an analog channel. Of course, this channel is snowing. In Tuner 2, which has no NTSC decoding, it will keep scanning. Front panel will show “SCAN” and screen is blank. Soon, user will find out and re-enter the correct channel number.
In tuner 1, since it has NTSC, it tunes to analog channel. As you mentioned, it adds this channel. In the master list, you can press “Red” key to skip this channel. And this channel will never show again unless re-selected. You don’t really need to re-scan all the channels. However, we will discuss this internally to see if we can improve in the future. Thanks again for the valuable comments.
The following is the start of email two:
“Thanks again for your email!
Most of PHD-VRX HDMI output connection is directly connected to TV sets, which requires audio re-decoded to stereo. If HDMI output is sending raw S/PDIF data to TV, then most TVs won’t have audio from PHD-VRX. In order to enjoy 5.1 Dolby digital, you can connect optical audio port (Toslink) to your A/V receiver so it can re-encode from raw data back to Dolby surround sound if available.
The power outage situation is the same as the old day VCR recording. Once of a while maybe in a whole year, at least not too often, there is a power outage, we will need to reset every machines like VCR, TV, cable box, etc. to the right time again. No any major TV/VCR manufacturers adding a backup battery for this situation just because the chance for power outage won’t happen that often. The good thing for PHD-VRX as you also mentioned, if user selects both options of (1) Auto Update Time Channel and (2) Auto Update Time NTP (Network) under menu Settings -> Date & Time -> Manual Time Settings. Then after power outage and back on, user press standby key or remote POWER key, PHD-VRX will update and correct date/time immediately no matter is in analog channel or not.
1. “Final Channel” is that PHD-VRX will find these virtual channels from the physical channel you entered. By easily delete “physical” channel, will create more confusions after whole bunch of virtual channels all of sudden disappeared. General consumers will be confused. But we will discuss internally about this.
2. We will study this. Thanks.
3. We will study this. Thanks.
4. It is the limitation, but we will study that.
5. It is a good suggestion. But based on current 6-digit LED we use, it won’t be that user-friendly for (b) and (c) options. However, we will discuss that.
Thanks again for your valuable comments.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 06-29-2012 at 12:23 PM.
|07-02-2012, 12:22 PM||#9|
The EpVision PHD-VRX final review (at least I hope it is my final review) Part 1 of 3
I have spent many days and hours running tests on this EpVision PHD-VRX under the latest firmware VRX-242.18.10 which currently is shipping with all orders. I could create a third party user’s manual but that would be a waste of time since EpVision is suppose to be releasing one sometime in the future. Before I get in to the recording feature I will mention a few items that should be fixed in the future.
On tuner number 1 if one has a virtual digital channel like 65.1 then if one types in 65 on the remote control without typing 65.1 the PHD-VRX is smart enough to go directly to 65.1 if the channel is in the database (which is a nice feature). The problem is tuner number 2 software works different since typing in channel number 65 will cause the box to be locked in a scan mode and the only way to get it out of that mode is to push the channel up or down button. On tuner 2 if there is a virtual digital station on 65.1 one has to type 65.1 on the remote in order for the PHD-VRX to tune directly to that station. I realize to keep the cost of the PHD-VRX lower that tuner number 2 does not have an analog NTSC section but still the firmware should be designed so while channel surfing one can enter the same channel number regardless of which tuner one is using. Consumers will get confused if on one tuner they can type 65 to get to 65.1 and on the other tuner they need to type 65.1. A software update would be able to fix this issue.
Digital Preferences update: For some reason the Digital Preferences feature started to work(My last review mentioned I could not get it to work at all). When Spanish is selected under Digital Preferences the PHD-VRX on some channels that were broadcasting in 2.0 or 1.0 Spanish Dolby Digital automatically switched to Spanish (This feature is only for QAM/ATSC channels). The problem is on some channels the PHD-VRX does not automatically switch to Spanish when the channel is broadcasting in Spanish and one has to manually toggle the “AUDIO” button on the remote for the Spanish audio to be received. A firmware update hopefully will correct this. Also once and a awhile the PHD-VRX would have a glitch and not automatically flip to the Spanish audio track even for channels it worked for a few minutes before while channel surfing.
On Direct TV HD DVR’s and on Digital Cable boxes when one changes the channel they are able to see the channel number with program title and program description briefly appearing on the screen for a few seconds. Currently the PHD-VRX only shows the channel number data when flipping the channel. Adding the ability to see the program title and description along with the channel number would be a nice feature.
Selecting the storage drive to use with the PHD-VRX
The PHD-VRX does not offer a high speed e-SATA III interface which is capable of transfer speeds of up to 6Gbps. Also the PHD-VRX lacks a USB 3.0 interface that is capable of transfer speeds up to 5Gbps. Those feature of course would have increased the cost of the product. Most HD DVR cable boxes and HD DVR satellite boxes will offer a high speed e-SATA jack for consumers to plug in a hard drive using the e-SATA interface. So instead of the PHD-VRX using a e-SATA interface it has two slower USB 2.0 interfaces. The USB 2.0 interface has a maximum speed of 480Mbps (0.48Gps). Even the old e-SATA 1 interface is over 3 times faster compared to USB 2.0. The latest eSATAp interface is a powered interface that allows consumers to plug in a hard drive without any external power needed. The one positive feature regarding the USB interface is that it is hot swappable. e-SATA devices are much faster but they are not hot swappable.
So consumers can plug in their flash drives and hard drives that contain USB interfaces without the need to power down the USB drive and the PHD-VRX. I would have still preferred to also have both a USB and e-SATA interface. e-SATA would have been ideal for a 2TB hard drive for long term recordings. The two USB interface on the PHD-VRX are ideal for quickly connecting a USB drive that contains family videos, music, and pictures.
The fastest USB flash drives on the market with read and write speeds of 35Mbps or higher can be used on the PHD-VRX. The problem is high-end flash drives do not have the storage capacity of hard drives and also they are higher in cost. Also extremely fast solid state drives with a USB interface in theory will also work with the PHD-VRX but again like flash drives they lack the storage capacity of hard drives and they are much more expensive.
3TB hard drives will not work correctly with the PHD-VRX under the current firmware
EpVision clearly mentions in their documentation that 2TB is the maximum size USB drive that can be used. I decided to try a 3TB drive anyways to see if that was correct information. The EpVision would not record at all when the hard drive was setup as a 3TB partition. When I set the 3TB hard drive up as a 2TB partition I was able to record but there was still problems like NTFS was not useable at all and the format utility built in the PHD-VRX would format the drive as a 750GB hard drive. So do not use 3TB hard drives since they do not work on the PHD-VRX under the current firmware.
The following top of the line external 2TB hard drive was connected to the PHD-VRX and it is 100% compatible
I decided to use a Seagate SV35 series hard drive. The 2TB model is the ST2000VX000 which has a SATA III 6Gbps interface with a maximum sustained data rate of 210MB/s and an average data rate of 156MB/s. Plus the Seagate SV35 series is used by corporations as a 24 x 7 video surveillance drive since mean time between failure is rated at 1 million hours. Also a Thermaltake ST0020U was used as the enclosure for the Seagate SV35 hard drive. The Thermaltake ST0020U allows SATA III 6Gbps hard drives to be enclosed in an external hard drive case that offers USB 3.0 5Gbps transfer speeds (Of course the hard drive is limited to a maximum of 210MB/s transfer speed). Also the Thermaltake USB 3.0 enclosure has two low noise fans to keep the hard drive cool along with a blue light that can be switched on or off. A cheaper USB 3.0 enclosures can also be purchased that does not have any fans. Note: There are also cheaper hard drives and enclosures that will also work on the PHD-VRX. This setup is ideal for someone looking for a high-end hard drive that can also be used with a desktop computer with USB 3.0 interface.
2TB hard drive spec sheet plus enclosure and ordering links (Total cost $177.98)
1. Seagate ST2000VX000 spec sheet ( Around $132.99 at Amazon with free shipping.)
2. Thermaltake ST0020U USB 3.0 SATA III hard drive enclosure ( $44.99 with free shipping.)
So the EpVision PHD-VRX normal price is $229.95 ($199.95 was lowest sale price so far). For those that want a top of the line 2TB hard drive add $177.98. So the total cost of the PHD-VRX after hard drive is connect is around $407.93.
Test results of the 2TB hard drive connected to both a USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 interface
USB 3.0 is also backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and USB 1.1. The first thing I did was connect the USB 3.0 2TB hard drive to my computers USB 3.0 hub to test real world conditions. With a speed test program I was able to measure an average of 144.23 MB/Sec write speed and 140.63 MB/Sec read speed using the NTFS file system. ExFAT file system produced around the same results. Also there is suppose to be a firmware update available for the Thermaltake ST0020U enclosure that offers UASP. I have not gotten around to installing the latest firmware update so my speed was limited to an average of 144.23 MB/Sec write and 140.63 MB/Sec read for the 7,200RPM SC35 series Seagate hard drive. I was surprised to discover that when I plugged the hard drive into a USB 2.0 port on my computer I was only getting an average of 20.31MB/Sec write and 32.23MB/Sec read. I also tried dedicated USB 2.0 enclosures with the same results or slightly slower speed ratings. When I placed the SV35 series hard drive inside my USB 2.0 hard drive enclosure and plugged it into the USB 3.0 hub, the speed jumped to an average of 31.35 MB/Sec write and 35.83 MB/Sec read. The test results clearly show that under real world conditions that USB 3.0 interface is so much faster. With average writes at around 144.23MB/s and peaks above 151MB/s I was able to get close to what this hard drive specs claim. A 6Gbps SATA III interface would most likely even give me better speed ratings but I did not try connecting the hard drive directly to my computers SATA III interface. I realize these speeds of the 7,200RPM hard drive are slow compared to a solid state drive or 10,000RPM hard drive but when one wants 2TB storage capacity they are limited to 7,200RPM hard drives.
Speed results when connected to the PHD-VRX: The PHD-VRX supports reading and writing of several different file systems. FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, ext2, and ext3 can be used for reading and writing (exFAT is not supported). The PHD-VRX USB speed test program has issues. For one thing the “USB Speed Check” program has a problem of not giving accurate results when one is on a digital channel. Moving the PHD-VRX to tuner number 1 and placing the PHD-VRX on an analog channel or better yet blank analog channel will give one higher test results. Possible the PHD-VRX software and processor is too busy decoding the digital channel and that throws off the speed test by 1-3MB/s sometimes. So placing the PHD-VRX on a blank analog channel with a snowy picture will give the best speed test ratings. Also another issue is that the PHD-VRX for some reason allows one to run a speed test while one or more recordings is going on at the same time. Doing a speed test while a recording is occurring will throw the speed test results off by at least 8MB/s. In addition to the speed test being messed up while recording, the recordings on the hard drive will have digital artifacts until the speed test is finished. There should be a firmware update that fixes these speed test issues. When a consumer tries to run a speed test while recording a TV program there should be a message that pops up on the screen that says something like “USB Speed test is not available, please stop your recordings first”.
Several times, I ran the USB speed test program on the PHD-VRX and I ended up almost always getting an average of 26MB/s for the FAT16, FAT32, and Ext2 file systems. So the PHD-VRX USB ports appear to be limited to a maximum of 26MB/s. Now on the Ext3 file system I was only getting around 25MB/s maximum since the PHD-VRX appears to not handle that file system as well as the others. When it came to the NTFS file system I was in shock that I could only get 6MB/s maximum which would only be ok for recording one SD channel. My 2TB USB 3.0 hard drive formatted with NTFS can easily transfer an average of around 144.23MB/s when connected to a computer, so the problem was not my hard drive. There is a major problem with the way the PHD-VRX handles the NTFS file system. I also tried recording two 1080i channels at once with 5.1 Dolby Digital to make sure the speed test program was working correctly. I had massive digital artifacts trying to record one or two HD channels using the NTFS file system. This NTFS file system quality issue is a clear flaw that needs to be fixed with a firmware update.
The PHD-VRX has a USB Disk Format utility program. This USB Disk format utility will not work with hard drives that are unformatted. So the consumer needs to format the USB flash drive or USB hard drive with either FAT16,FAT32, NTFS,ext2 or the ext3 file system before plugging the drive into the PHD-VRX. I found the “USB Disk Format” utility to work very good for hard drives that already were formatted with FAT16,FAT32, NTFS, ext2, or the ext3 file system.
For example if one has a 2TB hard drive that they want to use with the PHD-VRX, they then should format the hard drive using the NTFS file system. Then since the PHD-VRX cannot properly handle the NTFS file system the consumer will need to re-format the hard drive once they plug it into the USB 2.0 port on the PHD-VRX. Selecting the “USB Disk Format” menu option will properly format a 2TB hard drive and other hard drives to the ext2 file system.
I also found that the ext2 file system is the best file system to use with the PHD-VRX under the latest firmware version.
Under the current PHD-VRX firmware version the NTFS file system is not reliable and should never be used for HD channels. I was able to use the FAT16 and FAT32 file system for recording but not without some issues. FAT16 is only good for small hard drives that are 4GB or smaller. Also Windows operating system will not allow hard drives bigger then 32GB to be formatted as FAT32 with the built in Windows format utility. With a third party format utility it is possible to format a 2TB hard drive using the FAT32 file system. I found the PHD-VRX did an excellent job of recording under both the ext3 and ext2 file system (ext2 is the best to use). I tried the FAT32 file system which also works fine for HD programs that are 30 minutes or less. The problem with using the FAT32 file system is that the recordings will completely stop at 4GB (3.99GB) since that is the maximum file size allowed. Also one channel I was recording reached the 4GB limit at 35 minutes into the program and the other channel the 4GB limit was reached at around 53 minutes. The hard drive literally stopped recording but the PHD-VRX firmware kept saying the programs were still recording when in reality they really were not. So it’s a bad ideal to use the FAT32 file system due to the 4GB file size limit. It is too bad the PHD-VRX does not support the exFat file system since that would be an excellent alternative to the NTFS file system.
While the ext3 file system was a reliable way to record long programs, the PHD-VRX handled the ext2 file system the best. So the best thing to do is too just use the “USB Disk Format” utility that will only format all drives to the ext2 file system. I used the Record now feature to record two 1080i 5.1 Dolby Digital programs at the exact same time. I let the recording run for over 11 hours and 15 minutes before stopping it. Each file size was over 68.5GB so under the ext2 or ext3 file system there is no problem with big file sizes. Only when it comes to FAT16 and FAT32 is when the file size is limited to 4GB.
The advantage of the PHD-VRX when connected to a external USB drive is that the recordings are not encrypted
With Digital cable boxes and satellite systems that allow an external e-SATA hard drive to be connected, those recordings are all encrypted. For example a family member I know has a 2TB e-SATA hard drive plugged into a Verizon FIOS Motorola 7,000 series HD DVR. The Motorola digital cable box encrypts the hard drive so that it cannot be copied. Also one cannot read the files on the encrypted hard drive even when connected to another cable box in the same house, and also the encrypted hard drive is not readable at all with Windows. So one time the Motorola digital cable box broke and had to be exchanged. All the programs that were recorded on the 2TB hard drive had an encrypted key that only the old digital cable box could read. As soon as the 2TB hard drive with all the programs recorded on it was plugged into the exchanged Motorola digital cable box all the programs were erased and a new encrypted key placed on the e-SATA hard drive. When one owns or rents a Digital cable box HD DVR with a CableCard or satellite receiver with HD DVR those external recordings belong to the program providers and when the subscription is canceled the external 2TB e-SATA hard drive will no longer be able to playback the recordings.
The PHD-VRX does not encrypt the recordings onto the 2TB hard drive at all. So when one is recording ATSC broadcast channels or in the clear QAM channels 100% of all channels and programs can be copied and watched on other devices under the fair use laws. Also the MPEG-2 video and audio are bit for bit the same quality as the master ATSC broadcast and master QAM signal (More about that videophile feature is mentioned later in this review). I do wish the PHD-VRX would have had an IEEE-1394 interface to make a bit for bit recording to a D-VHS or future standalone Blu-ray recorder but it does not.
So with the external USB drive one is able to unplug the hard drive from the PHD-VRX and connect it directly to a Windows PC. Once on a Windows PC I was able to copy and paste the recording of the local 1080i HD news broadcast with 5.1 Dolby Digital onto my internal computer hard drive. With PowerDVD Ultra 12 or other free 3rd party software one is able to watch programs in true 1080i quality on their HD computer monitor. Also if one owns a Blu-ray computer recorder (optical burner) drive with special Blu-ray software they can place the HDTV programs onto a Blu-ray disc for personal use under the fair use law. Of course owning a HD tuner card built into the desktop or Notebook computer would make it easier to burn the local news and other HDTV programs to a blank 128GB, 100GB, 50GB, or 25GB Blu-ray disc. The new BDXL drives support 128GB and 100GB capacity blank Blu-ray discs. Around 8 hours of HD quality programming will fit on one 50GB Blu-ray disc using the MPEG-2 transport stream as a source. With special software the MPEG-2 source files can be convert to MPEG-4/AVC or VC-1 to place many more hours onto a Blu-ray disc.
The current firmware makes it difficult to connect an external hard drive to a Windows PC
Windows PC’s read FAT16, FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS file systems without any special software or drivers required. FAT16 and FAT32 are only good for 1080i recordings that are around 30 minutes in length since the 4GB file size limit. It would be ideal if the PHD-VRX would support exFAT file system but it does not. Then when it comes to the NTFS file system the PHD-VRX cannot properly handle that file system do to the 6MB/s restriction under the current firmware. NTFS is currently not useable on the PHD-VRX for HD recording do to digital artifacts.
That leaves only the ext2 and ext3 file systems that are ideal for recording on the PHD-VRX. Ext2 file system works the best on the PHD-VRX. So consumers if they want to make backup copies of their recordings onto the PC hard drive or computer Blu-ray drive will need to install special Windows software and or drivers that will read the Ex2 and/or Ex3 file system.
The PHD-VRX recording feature is bit for bit the same quality as the master ATSC broadcast and QAM signal
I recorded several hours of programs from many different SD and HD ATSC/QAM channels. I even messed around with the PHD-VRX audio settings and turned the contrast and brightness all the way down to make sure the audio and picture controls had no effect on the recordings. Then I took the USB 3.0 hard drive and within a few seconds copied and pasted the files to an internal 3TB hard drive inside my desktop computer. Larger files that were several GB’s long take a few minutes to copy depending on the file size. Transfer rate was around 150MB/s over USB 3.0.
Once the files were transfer to my desktop computer I was able to see that the PHD-VRX makes a perfect digital bit for bit recording of any digital channel. Which is an ideal Videophile feature. Also with the PHD-VRX I was able to record 1080i ATSC programs from the antenna and record the exact same 1080i programs on the Verizon FIOS cable system. The Verizon FIOS MPEG-2 QAM channels are bit for bit the same as the ATSC master broadcast. Being able to record a NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, PBS, and other networks from dual signal sources at the same time allows one to compare the files once they are imported into the computer. Some cable systems that are lacking in bandwidth add addition video compression to their QAM channels, but not Verizon FIOS.
The picture control settings and the audio settings like AC3 and PCM only affect the playback of files when using the PHD-VRX and have no effect on the recording process. On my desktop PC the native MPEG-2 transport files looked even better then what I saw on the PHD-VRX. I wish there was a way to disable the picture control settings on the PHD-VRX so consumers could just view the native MPEG-2 signal. Audio was also nice and loud on the PC compared to the low volume HDMI 2.0 PCM that the PHD-VRX offers.
Here are some of the bit rates I measured from the recorded files that the PHD-VRX produced.
480i SD channels had bit rates of around 3.96Mbps at 29.970fps.
720P channels had bit rates of around 14.8Mbps at 59.940fps.
1080i channels had bit rates of around 18.2Mbps at 29.970fps.
English 5.1 Dolby Digital programs had a bit rate of 384kbps.
English 2.0 Dolby Digital programs had bit rates of 256Kbps or 192kbps (depending on the channel).
Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital programs and Spanish 1.0 Dolby Digital programs both had bit rates of 192kbps.
The PHD-VRX was able to record the English or Spanish audio track but it appears that both audio streams are not recorded at the same time. If one toggles the “AUDIO” button on the remote to Spanish and then does a record now option in the menu then the Spanish audio track will be heard in the recording. Now after the recording of the Spanish audio track starts it is possible to toggle the “AUDIO” button to English and listen to the program in English while the PHD-VRX is still recording the program in Spanish. The PHD-VRX will continue to record the audio track that was selected when the recording started and even if someone changes the audio track to another language after the recording starts the original audio track selected at the start of the recording will end up being the one that is recorded. Also for scheduled recordings if someone has the Digital Preferences set for Spanish then if that channel contains an active Spanish audio track the PHD-VRX is suppose to record the Spanish audio but on some channels it has trouble detecting the Spanish audio track and instead records the English track.
The Close Captioning feature currently only works for live broadcasts when the “MUTE” button is pushed or when the “CC” button on the remote is toggle to the close caption on mode. The Closed Captioning menu feature and audio language menu feature does not work when playing back a recording. There is a possibility that the MPEG-2 transport file system might be leaving the Close Captioning data intact instead of stripping the data. The problem is one cannot turn on the Close Captioning option while a recording is playing back. This should be fixed hopefully with a firmware update. It would also be ideal if up to 3 audio tracks could be recorded at the same time (being able to record all the audio tracks offered on that channel would be ideal).
Part two continues in next post.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 07-02-2012 at 04:30 PM.
|07-02-2012, 12:23 PM||#10|
The EpVision PHD-VRX final review (at least I hope it is my final review) Part 2 of 3
The PHD-VRX when set to 1080P will upconvert everything to 1080P. A 24fps and 60fps menu option would be ideal feature to have on the PHD-VRX when 1080P output mode is active. Those with older 1080P displays that do not support 24Hz would then be able to allow the PHD-VRX to do a 3:2 pulldown for native 1080p/24 VUDU programs (VUDU is planned in the future). Also it would be a nice feature to have the PHD-VRX be able to do a reverse 3:2 pulldown for film based programs and upconvert SD and HD film based programs to 1080p/24 instead of 1080p/60. Video based programs would be outputted at 1080p/60Hz. The current system information screen does not mention if the 1080P signal being output is 60HZ or 24HZ. That information added to the System information screen would be ideal.
PHD-VRX recording features and a few bugs under the current firmware
The PHD-VRX has two USB ports. Both USB ports can be used to play video, audio, and photo’s from two attached USB drives. Up to two USB drives as large as 2TB can be connected. File systems supported for media reading is FAT16,FAT32, NTFS, ext2, and ext3. When only one USB drive is connected the PHD-VRX Media Center menu will automatically pull up the directory of the connected drive once the user selects “Video”, “Music”, or “Photo” option regardless of what USB port the drive is connected too. Now if one has two USB drives connected then when the user selects “Video”, “Music”, or “Photo” option under the Media Player menu the PHD-VRX will give the user an option to choose which USB port the user wants to use. The problem with this “Select Device” menu selection screen is that the USB ports are labeled as “USB:usba” and “USB:usbb”. The big question is which USB port is number 1 and which is number 2 (On the back panel the ports are labeled as “USB1” and “USB2”.) So a software update to change the USB port labeling to match the back panel labeling would be a simple firmware fix.
The hard drive size and file format used does not matter when it comes to the PHD-VRX assigning which hard drive will be used to record. When it comes to recording the PHD-VRX will only record from the first USB device that was connected. The second USB device connected will be used for Media Playback. For example lets say I have two 2TB hard drives and I connect the first 2TB hard drive to USB port 2, and then I connect the second 2TB hard drive to USB port 1. Then the hard drive that was plugged into USB port 2 would become the hard drive that the PHD-VRX would use for recording since it was the first one plugged in. Now if I unplug the hard drive from USB port 2 then the PHD-VRX would select the hard drive connected to USB port 1 for recording. Now if I plug the 2TB hard drive back into USB port 2 the PHD-VRX will still consider that hard drive the recording hard drive since it use to be the first hard drive used (USB port 1 is no longer the recording hard drive since USB port 2 hard drive is reconnected and use to be the recording hard drive according to the database). Now if the user unplugs both USB port 1 and USB port 2 hard drives then the database memory will be reset and the PHD-VRX once again will select the first USB hard drive that is plugged in first. Now if the user power cycles the PHD-VRX while two USB drives are connected then everything gets reset in regards to which hard drive is the recording hard drive. Doing a warm reboot (remote power button standby mode) or cold reboot (Master power switch on front of PHD-VRX) will cause the USB drive connected to USB port 1 to always be the recording hard drive and USB 2 to always be the media playback drive until the user removes the USB port 1 hard drive. So for those consumers that plan on having two hard drives connected all the time then USB port1 should always be setup for recording. If the user has two USB hard drives and sets up USB port 2 to record then when the PHD-VRX is warm or cold rebooted by default the USB port 1 connected drive will be made the new recording hard drive.
I decided to stress test this PHD-VRX to see how will it would record since the current firmware is limited to 26MB/s using either USB port 1 or USB port 2. I wanted to see how well the PHD-VRX would handle recording two 1080i 5.1 Dolby Digital channels at once while playing back a previously recorded 1080i 5.1 Dolby Digital program that was recorded from before. As a stress test I recorded two 1080i 5.1 Dolby Digital channels using the record now feature for over 11 hours and 15 minutes. The file sizes ended up being over 68.5GB for each program. The “Record now” menu option is easily activated when the user hits the red record button on the remote control. Then one has a choice of selecting either “Record now” or “Create a manual recording”. I let the unit run for over 11 hours and 15 minutes recording the two different 1080i 5.1 Dolby Digital channels.
99% of the time the PHD-VRX had no problems recoding two 1080i 5.1 Dolby Digital channels at once while playing back a previously recorded 1080i 5.1 Dolby Digital program. Even the scanning fast forward features worked ok on the playback program while two 1080i channels were recording. I was worried that the 26MB/s USB 2.0 transfer speed would not be able to handle 3 1080i programs with 5.1 Dolby Digital at once, but it ended up not being a problem. There is a possibility that the USB Speed test program built into the PHD-VRX is not accurate and maybe I was getting even faster transfer speeds with the high-end 2TB hard drive setup. Now around 1% of the time when recording only one 1080i station and two 1080i stations the PHD-VRX would cause a little digital artifact glitches that would happen during the program or toward the end or beginning of the program. The digital artifact glitch happen sometimes when I was only recording one program. Recording two 1080i programs at once while watching a previous recorded 1080i program at the same time did not appear to make a difference in terms of picture and sound quality. It would most likely take several hours and days to isolate the glitch but my guess is that once and a while when a recording is stopped or started that a brief second of digital artifacts occurs in the recordings since the PHD-VRX sometimes cannot handle multi-tasking. If one just records one or two programs at once most the time the PHD-VRX will not insert digital artifacts in the recordings. Its when those programs start and stop recording when the problems might more likely occur. In addition, some times when channel surfing on one tuner and recording on another tuner the PHD-VRX once a while might insert digital artifacts. Also it would appear that when one toggles back and forth between tuner 1 and tuner 2 while using the “TV” button on the remote the PHD-VRX will sometimes insert digital artifacts for a second or so on the recording. Again these observations would need to be verified again over several days and hours since it is a minor glitch that happens maybe like 1% of the time. It might increase to 40% of the time if I could isolate the exact cause. Maybe turning the display off or on while the HDMI handshaking is occurring might once and awhile cause digital artifacts in the recording . The good thing is that most of the time if the user has a fast USB hard drive or fast USB flash drive connected they will be able to record two 1080i 5.1 Dolby Digital channels at the same time while watching a previously recorded 1080i 5.1 Dolby Digital channel. The same can be said for 480i and 720P channels. Since 1080i channels take the most bandwidth and are data hogs I mainly used those for most the stress testing situations.
When playing back a recording the PHD-VRX will display the words “PLAy” on the front LED display as long as nothing is being recorded. The “PLAy” words on the LED are disabled when recordings are occurring. Now if one is recording one channel then the PHD-VRX LED display will display either “rEC-1” or “rEC-2” depending on which tuner the user activated the record feature on. If two programs are being recorded then the PHD-VRX LED display will display “rEC 1-2”. The record button and the stop button are very easy to use to start or stop recordings. The “Record now” menu option is easily activated soon after the user hits the red record button on the remote control. When pressing the stop button on the remote a yes and no message box will pop up on the TV screen saying “Are you sure you want to stop recording?” Some of the message boxes are very well designed. The following easy to understand message box occurs when a consumer presses the record button on a NTSC analog channel: “This channel is not RF digital, record function is not available.” Another example of a good message box is if I am recording a channel on tuner 1 and I want to change channels, if I hit the channel up or down button the following message will pop up on ones TV screen: “The current channel is in recording. If you want to change channel, please stop recording first.” Of course if tuner 1 and tuner 2 would have been integrated into one channel database with program guide then the PHD-VRX would change to another channel. In a prior review I already mentioned how two channel databases could be integrated in one electronic program guide. If the signal source for both tuners is exactly the same then one channel database and only one electronic program guide is all that is needed (This mode would be for cable only customers or ATSC broadcast only customers). The dual signal source is where the consumer has one tuner setup for cable TV channels and one for ATSC broadcast channels. The dual signal source situation is when the programming would become more complicated. The cable TV QAM channels could be integrated with the ATSC broadcast channels by creating a channel database and electronic program guide that combines the two tuners. The ATSC channels would have one color in the electronic program guide while the QAM cable channels another color in the electronic program guide. Then the consumer could flip channels from both the cable system and ATSC antenna system without having to toggle back and forth between the two tuners. Right now since both tuners have a separate program guide it makes it possible for the consumer to by mistake record the exact same channel twice. If the channel databases were combined for a single signal source then this would prevent the consumer from recording the same channel twice since the PHD-VRX would be able to notify the consumer that the channel is already being recorded on the other tuner.
I now notice that the program guide has up to 4 days worth of program titles and detailed descriptions which is a nice feature (The electronic program guide detailed listings varies per channel depending on the amount of data the station is sending). The problem is as soon as one starts recording two channels at once the program guides cannot be used at all to view upcoming programs on other channels (only the channels that are being recorded will show program titles and descriptions). The ability to view and schedule future recordings on other channels when using the electronic program guide should be possible when recording two programs at once but instead the PHD-VRX is unable retrieve that program data from other channels. The recordings needs to be stopped in order for the electronic program guide to be fully functional again. Then for the tuner that does not have a recording occurring one can look at the program guide with program titles and descriptions.
To make things simple for the consumer the PHD-VRX should pop up with a message that says “This program is already being recorded”, when the consumer hits the record button for a channel that they are already recording. Currently when hitting the record button the message box says “NOT AVAILABLE” if the channel is already being recorded as long as one is on the same tuner.
One negative thing that the PHD-VRX allows to happen is that when one is recording one or two programs at once the PHD-VRX will allow the user to hit the power button on the remote. If the user by mistake or on purpose presses the power button on the remote or standby button on the front of the PHD-VRX, then both recordings will suddenly be stopped as the PHD-VRX enters the standby mode. This also occurs when one hits the master power switch on the front of the PHD-VRX, but of course the master power switch is a physical mechanical switch that cannot be controlled or disabled. Pushing the master power switch on the front is like pulling the power cord. Also when recording two programs at once and someone does a warm or cold reboot of the PHD-VRX, then when the PHD-VRX boots back up it will sometimes get locked up. When pressing the power button on the remote while I was recording sometimes caused my PHD-VRX to get locked up and not finish the boot process. I even tried the master power switch several times within a 10 minute period and the PHD-VRX would get stuck in the “boot” mode with no picture appearing. The only way to get out of the “boot” mode was to toggle the “TV” input to the other tuner or push other random keys on the remote. After doing that the PHD-VRX would finish rebooting and a picture would appear on the screen. The Master power switch does not clear enough of the memory since one should never have major problems rebooting the PHD-VRX.
Consumers that hit the power button on the remote by mistake while recording would like the following firmware update. There needs to be a firmware update that pops up with a message that says “You cannot place the PHD-VRX in standby mode while you are recording”. The PHD-VRX firmware needs to be changed so that the PHD-VRX properly shuts down the recording before entering the standby mode. This would greatly prevent the PHD-VRX from locking up and getting stuck in the booting mode.
The YouTube is a nice streaming feature offered on the PHD-VRX and “VUDU” is planned for in the future. The limitation of the PHD-VRX prevents the YouTube feature from being used while one is recording a channel. To use YouTube all recordings need to be stopped. Another interesting limitation in the PHD-VRX is that when using the upscaling video switching feature one can only record on tuner number 2. When one starts recording on tuner number 1 the video upscaling input selector cannot be used at all.
The favorite list is a very detailed nice feature. Again like the program guide there are a set of favorite lists for both tuner 1 and tuner 2. It would have been ideal to have the favorite lists be able to share bookmarks between tuners. A firmware update would be ideal to allow the two favorite lists too be combined so one could have a favorite list that contained channels from both tuner 1 and tuner 2.
One feature that I do not like is that every time I power up the PHD-VRX out of standby it displays the following message “USB device was connected to TV. Do you want to open Media Player?”. That option box should only be designed to pop up when one plugs in a new USB drive and not when one power cycles the PHD-VRX out of the standby mode. Sometimes a message like record function has failed pops up on the screen when trying to record and to fix the bug one needs to power cycle the PHD-VRX. When powering off the PHD-VRX into standby mode it also sent a signal to my USB 3.0 2TB hard drive to power down into a standby mode which is a nice power saving feature. The attached 2TB USB 3.0 hard drive also goes into standby mode when it is not recording any programs.
The scheduled recordings feature in the electronic program guides for the PHD-VRX works very well. The user that schedules a future recording does not even need to leave the PHD-VRX tuned on, instead if one wants to press the power button on the remote control the PHD-VRX will go into the standby mode. The only problem with placing the PHD-VRX in standby mode is that around 35 seconds of the beginning of the program will be missed since that is how long the PHD-VRX takes to boot up out of standby mode. There needs to be a firmware update that would automatically power up the PHD-VRX 1 minute before the scheduled recording is suppose to start so that 35 seconds of the beginning of the program is not missed. Once the recording has finished the PHD-VRX will not return to standby mode but will leave the box fully powered up (I have no issue with that but some people might).
One can schedule a recording from the electronic program guide and then go back in and modify the start and end time if they want but there is no option in the program guide to cancel a scheduled recording. To cancel a scheduled recording one needs to go to the “Upcoming Recordings” menu option screen and select the scheduled recording or recordings that they want to delete.
One negative feature of the PHD-VRX is that it requires the user to go to the media player to play all TV programs that were recorded. Also a firmware update should be issued to fix the file size information for recorded shows in the PHD-VRX media player. There have been many times the Media Player lists the incorrect size of a file when comparing the exact same file on a Windows PC. Also it would be nice to be able to rename the file name of the recordings on the PHD-VRX, currently one needs to plug the USB drive into a Windows PC in order to rename the file name.
The “Recorded Shows” menu option in the PHD-VRX is currently not able to playback previous recordings. There should be a firmware update that allows the “Recorded Shows” menu option to play TV programs that were recorded. Another real negative is that the “Recorded Shows” menu screen is just like the Internet history feature but instead of showing the websites one has visited it shows a history of every TV program that has every been recorded on the PHD-VRX. The problem is it even shows a history of programs that were recorded on USB drives that are no longer connected. Deleting the “Recorded Shows” history only deletes the history and will not delete the TV programs on the USB hard drive. To delete the TV programs on the USB hard drive the user has to go to the Video option under the Media Player.
The “Recorded Shows” menu feature is currently a useless feature that should be completely re-written by the EpVision programmers. When a user selects the “Recorded Shows” option it should only show the TV programs that are available for the USB hard drive that is currently connected and not a complete history of programs that exist on USB drives that are not even connected. Also the “Recorded Shows” menu feature should be interfaced in with the Video Media Player so that a button can be pressed to watch the TV program from the “Recorded Shows” menu option. Also when one deletes a TV program from the “Recorded Shows” menu it should delete the program from the USB hard drive and not just the history.
The PHD-VRX when playing back previous recorded TV programs will work fine with HDMI and optical when the audio is set to PCM (HDMI is variable PCM only and the optical is fixed PCM). The problem occurs when the optical output is set for “AC3” while watching a recording. When the pause button is pushed on the remote the picture will instantly pause but the problem is the audio will take another 5 seconds before it pauses. Then when one pushes the pause button again the picture will instantly start moving again but the audio will take around 5 seconds before it starts up again.
When the time shift feature is activated on the PHD-VRX and the consumer has the “AC3” option turned on for the optical output the audio will be completely lost in the live viewing mode but not in the time shift recordings. Consumers are forced to use HDMI which is only PCM or to change the optical audio option from “AC3” to “PCM” in order for the time shift feature to work properly. This needs to be fixed in a firmware update.
The time shift feature needs a firmware update: There should be an option in the menu to turn the time shift feature on 24 X 7 instead of having to manually activate it. On HD DVR satellite boxes and HD DVR cable boxes the time shift feature is automatically activated as soon as one flips to a new channel and runs 24 x 7. It would be ideal if the PHD-VRX would automatically have the option to do the same and have the time shift run 24 x 7 like other HD DVR’s do. At the very minimum the time shift feature if not running 24 x 7 should start running as soon as the consumer presses the pause button on the remote.
There are several slow motion backwards and forward features on the PHD-VRX when time shift is running. Also the fast forward and backward scan has a 64X, 128X, and 256X times speed options that are nice. As soon as the consumer switches to another tuner, the time shift feature is automatically turned off.
Watching a previous recorded program on the PHD-VRX requires the use of the Media Player menu option. The problem I ran into with the PHD-VRX is its ability to fast forward up to 32 times speed is not working correctly when the “AC3” audio option is turned on in the menu. It did not matter if I was recording two 1080i programs at once or just plain old recording nothing. The previous recorded program feature had some major issues with scanning while the “AC3” option is turned on. I tested the feature on a 1080i recoding that was over 11 hours and 15 minutes long. Now the backward scanning appeared to work just fine most of the time with 2X, 4X, 8X, 16X and 32X scanning. The backward scan offers no audio scanning but it was so much more smoother and faster compared to the forward scanning when the “AC3” audio option was tuned on. Now the fast forward scanning was slower and most likely the reason is that it appears to pause and to try and capture the AC3 audio stream once and awhile when in 2X, 4X, 8X, 16X, and 32X speed. The 2X speed forward offered the best audio option with AC3 but the faster one goes with the scanning forward the audio is captured less, and the 32X speed offers no hearable audio. Also once and awhile the graphics menu would get messed up for the direction of the arrow for a few seconds when switching from forward to backward scan while the “AC3” option was turned on. Now if the consumer turns off the “AC3” option in the menu to “PCM” the scanning forward up to 32X speed is nice and smooth but with no audio at all. The rewind and fast forward feature was very fast way to jump through a program that is several hours long with brief screen freezes in that mode to give some an ideal where they are. Pushing the fast forward or rewind button briefly jumps the program 20 seconds forward or backward. This issue needs fixed with the “AC3” audio causing the fast scan forward to be choppy.
In conclusion the EpVision PHD-VRX has many positives and negatives. It is the only subscription free NTSC/ATSC/QAM product on the market that has a dual RF input mode with 4 channel database. The only other brand on the market that offers a dual RF input is the TIVO models that can run $800-1,000+ after a lifetime subscription and 2TB external hard drive is purchased. The EpVision PHD-VRX starts at $229.95 for those consumers that only want a tuner and later on if they want to upgrade it to a HD DVR they can. Once a high-end external 2TB hard drive is added the PHD-VRX total price is around $407.93.
The big negative of the PHD-VRX is that it has many major and minor bugs currently that need to be fixed with a firmware update. Most of those bugs come into effect when a consumer attempts to do some recordings. I would definitely recommended the PHD-VRX for someone that is not looking to record but looking to pick up a low cost tuner for $229.95 that wants ATSC broadcast channels and in the clear cable QAM channels along with NTSC cable channels. The PHD-VRX main strength is the ability to accept two signal sources. For those consumers that have both cable TV and an outdoor antenna the PHD-VRX is the ideal product for subscription free in the clear channels. Now for those consumers that are using a single signal source like cable TV only or only one TV antenna then there are other brands and models on the market too choose from. If one does not need a dual RF input with four channel maps then the options for HD DVR’s are many. Other brands on the market have integrated two tuner HD DVR’s with one program guide. Perhaps in the future the PHD-VRX will move from being an ok product to being an excellent product when and if a firmware update occurs.
Personally I plan on keeping my PHD-VRX for the exclusive dual RF input feature. The closes product I have found to the PHD-VRX is a single tuner only model for around $162.95 with only one RF input and dual channel maps. The problem is to use the dual channel map on the older PHD-8VX box the consumer needs to spend around $30-$40 for a wireless remote control RF A/B switch so they can switch between cable TV and a TV antenna. The PHD-8VX ends up costing around the same price as the PHD-VRX once the A/B switch is added, plus the PHD-8VX does not record. If the PHD-VRX would have been released as a single tuner with a built in A/B switch with dual channel maps it would have been a hit for consumers that have both cable TV and a TV antenna . The PHD-VRX with its two tuners ,two RF inputs, and 4 channel maps was designed to be turned into a HD DVR with an optional add on hard drive. The HD DVR feature is the weakest feature on the PHD-VRX because of all the major and minor bugs that hopefully will be fixed with a firmware update.
part 3 continues in next post
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 07-02-2012 at 02:22 PM.
|07-02-2012, 12:23 PM||#11|
The EpVision PHD-VRX final review (at least I hope it is my final review) Part 3 of 3
Major firmware updates needed
1. The PHD-VRX cannot use the NTFS file system to record HD quality channels since the PHD-VRX limits the transfer speed to 6MB/s instead of 26MB/s. This is the most popular file system to use with a Windows PC and this issue should be fixed.
a. If for some reason the NTFS file system cannot be fully supported on the PHD-VRX then the exFAT file system would be a good alternative since all Microsoft operating systems from Windows XP thru Windows 7 supports exFAT file system.
2. Offer a native video option so the picture control settings can be disabled in the PHD-VRX. Satellite receivers and Cable boxes do not require picture adjustment menus.
3. Firmware update needed for the pause feature when AC3 is used: The PHD-VRX when playing back previous recorded TV programs will work fine with HDMI and optical when the audio is set to PCM (HDMI is variable PCM only and the optical is fixed PCM). The problem occurs when the optical output is set for “AC3” while watching a recording. When the pause button is pushed on the remote the picture will instantly pause but the problem is the audio will take another 5 seconds before it pauses. Then when one pushes the pause button again the picture will instantly start moving again but the audio will take around 5 seconds before it starts up again.
4. When the time shift feature is activated on the PHD-VRX and the consumer has the “AC3” option turned on for the optical output the audio will be completely lost in the live viewing mode but not in the time shift recordings. Consumers are forced to use HDMI which is only PCM or to change the optical audio option from “AC3” to “PCM” in order for the time shift feature to work properly. This needs to be fixed in a firmware update.
5. AC3 menu option when turned on messes up the quality and smooth scanning of the fast scan feature: Watching a previous recorded program on the PHD-VRX requires the use of the Media Player menu option. The problem I ran into with the PHD-VRX is its ability to fast forward up to 32 times speed is not working correctly when the “AC3” audio option is turned on in the menu. It did not matter if I was recording two 1080i programs at once or just plain old recording nothing. The previous recorded program feature had some major issues with scanning while the “AC3” option is turned on. I tested the feature on a 1080i recoding that was over 11 hours and 15 minutes long. Now the backward scanning appeared to work just fine most of the time with 2X, 4X, 8X, 16X and 32X scanning. The backward scan offers no audio scanning but it was so much more smoother and faster compared to the forward scanning when the “AC3” audio option was tuned on. Now the fast forward scanning was slower and most likely the reason is that it appears to pause and to try and capture the AC3 audio stream once and awhile when in 2X, 4X, 8X, 16X, and 32X speed. The 2X speed forward offered the best audio option with AC3 but the faster one goes with the scanning forward the audio is captured less, and the 32X speed offers no hearable audio. Also once and awhile the graphics menu would get messed up for the direction of the arrow for a few seconds when switching from forward to backward scan while the “AC3” option was turned on. Now if the consumer turns off the “AC3” option in the menu to “PCM” the scanning forward up to 32X speed is nice and smooth but with no audio at all while scanning forward. The rewind and fast forward feature was very fast way to jump through a program that is several hours long with brief screen freezes in that mode to give some an ideal where they are. Pushing the fast forward or rewind button briefly jumps the program 20 seconds forward or backward. This issue needs fixed with the “AC3” audio causing the fast scan forward to be choppy.
6. The time shift feature needs a firmware update: There should be an option in the menu to turn the time shift feature on 24 X 7 instead of having to manually activate it. On HD DVR satellite boxes and HD DVR cable boxes the time shift feature is automatically activated as soon as one flips to a new channel and runs 24 x 7. It would be ideal if the PHD-VRX would automatically have the option to do the same and have the time shift run 24 x 7 like other HD DVR’s do. At the very minimum the time shift feature if not running 24 x 7 should start running as soon as the consumer presses the pause button on the remote.
7. A 24fps and 60fps menu option would be ideal feature to have on the PHD-VRX. Those with older 1080P displays that do not support 24Hz would then be able to allow the PHD-VRX to do a 3:2 pulldown for native 1080p/24 VUDU programs (VUDU is planned in the future). Also it would be a nice feature to have the PHD-VRX be able to do a reverse 3:2 pulldown for film based programs and upconvert SD and HD film based programs to 1080p/24 instead of 1080p/60. Video based programs would be outputted at 1080p/60Hz. The current system information screen does not mention if the 1080P signal being output is 60HZ or 24HZ. That information added to the System information screen would be ideal.
8. An option in the channel data base menu could be created for customers to disable the second electronic program guide and second channel database for those consumers that only have one signal source (only cable TV or only ATSC broadcast, but not both). This would solve many of the complaints about having two program guides. If the signal source is exactly the same for digital channels then there does not need to be two electronic program guides and two channel databases. This would be an easy fix.
9. The dual signal source is where the consumer has one tuner setup for cable TV channels and one for ATSC broadcast channels. The dual signal source situation is when the programming would become more complicated. The cable TV QAM channels could be integrated with the ATSC broadcast channels by creating a channel database and electronic program guide that combines the two tuners. The ATSC channels would have one color in the electronic program guide while the QAM cable channels another color in the electronic program guide. Then the consumer could flip channels from both the cable system and ATSC antenna system without having to toggle back and forth between the two tuners.
10. Consumers that hit the power button on the remote by mistake while recording would like the following firmware update. There needs to be a firmware update that pops up with a message that says “You cannot place the PHD-VRX in standby mode while you are recording”. The PHD-VRX firmware needs to be changed so that the PHD-VRX properly shuts down the recording before entering the standby mode. This would greatly prevent the PHD-VRX from locking up and getting stuck in the booting mode.
11. The “Recorded Shows” menu feature is currently a useless feature that should be completely re-written by the EpVision programmers. When a user selects the “Recorded Shows” option it should only show the TV programs that are available for the USB hard drive that is currently connected and not a complete history of programs that exist on USB drives that are not even connected. Also the “Recorded Shows” menu feature should be interfaced in with the Video Media Player so that a button can be pressed to watch the TV program from the “Recorded Shows” menu option. Also when one deletes a TV program from the “Recorded Shows” menu it should delete the program from the USB hard drive and not just the history.
Minor firmware updates needed
1. Make tuner 1 and tuner 2 operate exactly the same way while channel surfing:Consumers will get confused if on one tuner they can type 65 on the remote to get to digital channel 65.1 and on the other tuner they need to type 65.1. A software update would be able to fix this issue. The problem is tuner number 2 software works different since typing in channel number 65 will cause the box to get locked in a scan mode and the only way to get it out of that mode is to push the channel up or down button.
2. The Digital Preference feature does not always work for some channels: When Spanish is selected under Digital Preferences the PHD-VRX on some channels that were broadcasting in 2.0 or 1.0 Spanish Dolby Digital automatically switched to Spanish. Also once and a awhile the PHD-VRX would have a glitch and not flip to the Spanish audio track even for channels it worked for a few minutes before while channel surfing. This feature needs to be improved for accuracy with a firmware update.
3. The ability to playback recorded programs that are Close Caption encoded would be ideal. There is no menu option in the PHD-VRX to turn on the Close Captioning feature when a recorded program is played back. So even if the Close Captioning data might be recorded in the MPEG-2 transport file system if there is no menu option to turn it on then that is bad for the consumers that want Close Captioning.
4. The ability to record up to 3 audio tracks at once would be nice for some people (being able to record all the audio tracks offered on that channel would be ideal). The current menu selection does not allow the toggling of the audio track options when playback a recording.
5. Consider offering a firmware update that would add support for 3TB hard drives.
6. There should be a firmware update that fixes these speed test issues. When a consumer tries to run a speed test while recording a TV program there should be a message that pops up on the screen that says something like “USB Speed test is not available, please stop your recordings first”. This will prevent recordings from being messed up. Also the speed test accuracy needs to be improved since running the program on a digital channel can mess up the results by 1-3MB/s.
7. Add program title with channel description information during channel changes: On Direct TV HD DVR’s and on Digital Cable boxes when one changes the channel they are able to see the channel number with program title and program description briefly appearing on the screen for a few seconds. Currently the PHD-VRX only shows the channel number data when flipping the channel. Adding the ability to see the program title and description along with the channel number would be a nice feature.
8. A software update to change the USB port labeling to match the back panel labeling would be a simple firmware fix. The problem with the “Select Device” menu selection screen is that the USB ports are labeled as “USB:usba” and “USB:usbb”. The big question is which USB port is number 1 and which is number 2 (On the back panel the ports are labeled as “USB1” and “USB2”).
9. To make things simple for the consumer the PHD-VRX should pop up with a message that says “This program is already being recorded” when the consumer hits the record button for a channel that they are already recording. Currently when hitting the record button the message box says “NOT AVAILABLE” if the channel is already being recorded.
10. The ability to view and schedule future recordings on other channels when using the electronic program guide should be possible when recording two programs at once but instead the PHD-VRX is unable retrieve that program data from other channels while recording. The recordings needs to be stopped in order for the electronic program guide to be fully functional again. Then for the tuner that does not have a recording occurring one can look at the program guide with program titles and descriptions.
11. A firmware update would be ideal to allow the favorite lists menus too be combined so one could have a favorite list that contained channels from both tuner 1 and tuner 2.
12. One feature that I do not like is that every time I power up the PHD-VRX out of standby it displays the following message “USB device was connected to TV. Do you want to open Media Player?”. That option box should only be designed to pop up when one plugs in a new USB drive and not when one power cycles the PHD-VRX out of the standby mode.
13. There needs to be a firmware update that would automatically power up the PHD-VRX 1 minute before the scheduled recording is suppose to start so that 35 seconds of the beginning of the program is not missed.
14. A firmware update should be issued to fix the file size information for recorded shows in the PHD-VRX media player. There have been many times the Media Player lists the incorrect size of a file when comparing the exact same file on a Windows PC. Also it would be nice to be able to rename the file name of the recordings on the PHD-VRX, currently one needs to plug the USB drive into a Windows PC in order to rename the file name.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 07-02-2012 at 02:38 PM.
|07-04-2012, 04:38 AM||#12|
System Information screen in the PHD-VRX gives incorrect information and needs a firmware update
The “System Info” menu option (System Information) screen only gives accurate information for the incoming Audio/Video Stream but the “Video Output Info” data in the PHD-VRX is not working at all and is stuck at 1920 X 1080P at 60Hz even when the PHD-VRX is outputting a 720P signal. For example when the “V-MODE” on the PHD-VRX remote is toggled to 720P output, my 1080P Pioneer PRO-101FD monitor correctly detects the incoming HDMI signal is 720P but the PHD-VRX System Information screen always says the HDMI output is 1920 X 1080 resolution with a video scan rate of 60HZ.
A firmware update is needed so that the System Information screen displays the HDMI output resolution correctly. Also it appears the PHD-VRX is upconverting everything to 60Hz including native 1080P/24 material with no 24Hz menu option. When VUDU is offered in the future on the PHD-VRX there hopefully will be a menu option to offer 24fps for 720P and 1080P. When I feed a native 1080p/24 signal from an OPPO BDP-93 Blu-ray player into the PHD-VRX HDMI input the PHD-VRX incoming Audio/Video information screen correctly reported the signal was 1920 X 1080 progressive with 23.97fps. But the “Video Output Info” screen claims the output is 1920 X 1080 at 60Hz. There should be an option in the PHD-VRX that allows it to output native 24Hz (23.97fps) on both 720P and 1080P signal sources that are native 24Hz. When VUDU is offered in the future the 24P feature will be important.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 07-04-2012 at 04:42 AM.
|07-04-2012, 05:11 AM||#13|
I received the following email from EpVision just a few minutes ago:
“Thank you for your email today and yesterday. We will internally discuss your suggestions and get back to you shortly for the reply of your emails. Thanks.
The following was one of my emails
Here are some ideas to improve the PHD-VRX clock so that it will always restore the exact time after a power outage:
There is ways to make the PHD-VRX know when it has lost time after the initial setup has occurred by changing the programming code.
The PHD-VRX remembers the channel database settings, time zone settings, and many other features during and after a power outage. Items like the front panel lock settings and time are lost during a power outage or when the “Master power switch” on the front is pushed.
The PHD-VRX firmware already knows if the unit has never been setup before or when a factory reset occurs by bringing up a special menu that asks the consumer to enter language information, time zone info, etc. A programmer could make firmware that tells the PHD-VRX to check to see if the initial setup has been performed when the box is booting up for the first time (or after a factory reset of all menu options). Basically for first time users the PHD-VRX would just do a complete boot up after the master power button is pushed and then disable the auto time set feature when it sees the initial setup screen has not been setup yet.
Also the PHD-VRX with a firmware update would be able to detect when a power outage occurred by having the PHD-VRX create a special internal standby code set to “1” when the clock has been automatically set by a digital channel or Internet. When the PHD-VRX losses power and enters standby mode it would check to see if the “1” code is set to “1”. If it is set to “1” then the PHD-VRX would remain in standby mode. If it was set to “0” then PHD-VRX firmware would just turn itself on and grab the time and then shut itself off. Every time the box loses power the standbye code would be set to "0".
Also after the box turns itself on to grab the time before turning itself off there should be a 30 second delay with a message box that says. "Auto time set has been performed and box will be powered off unless cancel is pressed within 30 seconds."
|07-04-2012, 07:56 PM||#14|
This is a minor issue that should be fixed with a firmware update
After leaving the PHD-VRX on for several hours (around 12 hours or so), the PHD-VRX 6-Digit LED display instead of showing the channel one is on says “no ch” even on a channel that has a strong signal. This has happen to me a few times. The “no ch” on the LED display should only show up when one loses the signal to a channel, etc. Even if I was losing the channel signal sometime during that 12 hour period which I do not believe I am, the PHD-VRX should refresh the “no ch” display to say the real channel number. It’s been happing more and more after 12 hours or so and it keeps saying “no ch” even on channels that are coming in nice and strong. Of course if one flips to a different channel then the PHD-VRX will correct itself and display the channel number that one flips too. This issue is only effecting the LED display and the channel still is on the screen when turning on the display.
|10-19-2012, 01:07 AM||#15|
FCC OKs encryption of cable TV basic tier (Say goodbye to in the clear QAM tuners)
FCC OKs encryption of cable TV basic tier
This might mean that possible in 3+ years from now the Cable companies might convert to 100% QAM and encrypt 100% of all channels including NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, etc. That is if my understanding of the article is correct.
In the future a cablecard rental or digital settop box from the cable company with a cablecard will be required for all channels offered by the cable company.
This would mean that in the clear QAM tuners are useless in 3+ years unless they have a cablecard feature. Of course some cable companies might not encrypt 100% of the channels.
"The cable industry wanted the rule changes. The only real losers in the deal, reports said, are the few subscribers who actually use the Clear-QAM tuner in their TV or use HTPC software that’ll never get an update."
|03-12-2013, 02:23 AM||#16|
EpVision PHD-VRX Clear QAM MPEG-4 firmware update is needed
The EpVision PHD-VRX hardware supports both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 codecs, however the PHD-VRX specs mention that the PHD-VRX only supports MPEG-2 QAM channels. I sent an email to EpVision customer support requesting a firmware update so that the PHD-VRX can be used to view MPEG-4 in the clear unencrypted QAM channels. On or shortly after April 15th 2013 Verizon FIOS is going to add around 20 MPEG-4 QAM channels. In the future all cable companies will be switching most of their QAM channels from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 since MPEG-4 is a more efficient codec that takes up less bandwidth.EpVision would be able to sell a lot more PHD-VRX boxes if it offered clear QAM MPEG-4 support. This MPEG-4 QAM feature would be an excellent exclusive feature that the PHD-VRX could offer. To my knowledge such a feature does not exist or is extremely rare for external QAM tuners that require no subscription. (Yes the TIVO Premiere series of boxes also offers MPEG-4 QAM but requires both a GUI subscription and cablecard subscription).
Since close to 100% of clear QAM tuners built into HDTV’s and external QAM tuners do not support MPEG-4, some cable companies to save money have decided not to encrypt their MPEG-4 channels at this time (that will change as soon as several clear QAM tuners that support MPEG-4 is released on the consumer market).
The EpVision team in an email informed me that they would consider adding MPEG-4 QAM support in the future once they discuss the feature with their programmers.
According to TIVO customer service only the current TIVO Premiere, Premiere 4, and Premiere XL4 boxes will support both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 channels (Older TIVO boxes are only MPEG-2). Also the modern Scientific Atlanta and Motorola 7000 series boxes will also support both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 channels.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 03-12-2013 at 02:34 AM.
|10-26-2013, 01:34 AM||#17|
New EpVision PHD-VRX2 information
This is excellent news that EpVision has came out with the PHD-VRX2 which is a replacement to the original PHD-VRX. This means EpVision is the only company in 2013 that is making an external tuner with 2 RF inputs which is a nice feature for those that have Verizon FIOS clear QAM and ATSC broadcast (4 channel map memories is awesome also).
The only hardware differences between the PHD-VRX2 and PHD-VRX is that the PHD-VRX2 cosmetically looks different and has individual standby, recording, and operation indicators (Which is a minor change). The big advantage of the PHD-VRX2 is that it has updated HDMI hardware that allows it to bitstream 1.0-5.1 Dolby Digital from the HDMI output interface. This is the very first EpVision tuner that allows bitstreaming audio over HDMI. Most likely there will be a menu selection in the PHD-VRX2 to output 2.0 PCM over HDMI and a option to output Dolby Digital native bitstream.
This means consumers who purchase the PHD-VRX2 will no longer have low audio problems since most modern HDTV’s will accept a bitstream Dolby Digital input over HDMI. Consumers will just need to use the volume control on their TV to control the volume when bitstreaming Dolby Digital. This also means consumers no longer need to run both HDMI and optical to their A/V receiver. Many people today use A/V receivers as a HDMI switching device that is connected directly to their display.
The old PHD-VRX must have a hardware limitation that only allows 2.0 PCM over HDMI. Many HDTV chipsets have a 2.0 PCM limitation and since the original PHD-VRX was designed around TV electronics this would explain why it cannot bitstream over HDMI.
So it appears the main reason the PHD-VRX2 was released was to overcome the hardware limitation that prevented it from bitstreaming over HDMI. There must have been many people complaining about low volume over HDMI and no Dolby Digital bitstream option, to justify an entire new model that fixes those issues. That was one of my biggest complaints that I had to run both HDMI and optical to my Pioneer A/V receiver.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 10-26-2013 at 01:36 AM.
|11-13-2013, 08:15 PM||#18|
Important EpVision PHD-VRX2 update
(Firmware update needed for major 1080P video artifact)
The old PHD-VRX firmware updates are not compatible with the new PHD-VRX2. If one installs the PHD-VRX firmware on the PHD-VRX2 the HDMI port will be completely disabled for both video and audio. Re-installing the original PHD-VRX2 firmware will restore the unit to full operation. So one should never install the PHD-VRX firmware onto the new PHD-VRX2 since they are not compatible. EpVision needs to come out with a firmware verification check system so that customers are not able to flash the wrong firmware onto an EpVision product that does not support the firmware.
The current PHD-VRX2 factory shipped firmware VRX220.127.116.11 has a major 1080P artifact bug: On a 50 inch or larger display a half an inch grayish black horizontal line bar is seen at the bottom of the screen while in the 1080P mode. EpVision was able to duplicate the problem on one of their Sony HDTV’s. The work around to the problem is to place the PHD-VRX2 in the 720P mode until EpVision issues a firmware update to fix the issue. 720P of course offers a reduced resolution for 1080i channels.
I liked the orange LED display on the original PHD-VRX. The PHD-VRX2 red LED display is so bright. Motorola cable boxes use an orange color and some cable boxes use a dim green or dim red display for the channel number. I wish there was a movie mode menu option on the PHD-VRX2 to disable the LED display and all lights (and a dim mode would be nice). Its just to bright. EpVision mentioned that they might in the future offer a movie mode feature to disable the bright red LED display (Might see this feature in a future firmware update).
Also the PHD-VRX2 has no master AC power button like the original PHD-VRX. Placing a master power button on the back of the PHD-VRX2 would have been ideal. One needs to pull the power cord from the wall outlet in order to do a power cycling on the PHD-VRX2 if a major glitch needs corrected.
The PHD-VRX2 comes with the exact same remote as the PHD-VRX. The only indicators on the PHD-VRX2 besides the bright red LED display, is the separate green and red lights.
So the major difference between the PHD-VRX2 and PHD-VRX is that the PHD-VRX2 offers 5.1 Dolby Digital bitstreaming over HDMI, the old PHD-VRX required the SPDIF optical connection for 5.1 Dolby Digital bitstreaming.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 11-13-2013 at 08:24 PM.
|12-18-2013, 03:52 AM||#19|
I boxed the PHD-VRX2 up to return it (1080P horizontal bar issue which in theory in the months to come is suppose to be fixed with a firmware update, but I did not want to wait just in case this major picture quality issue cannot be fixed).
It looks like now I might go back to the original PHD-VRX which does not have any gray horizontal bar issue.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 12-30-2013 at 10:35 PM.
|12-30-2013, 10:37 PM||#20|
Brief EpVision PHD-VRX factory B-stock comments
I ended up purchasing a factory refurbished EpVision PHD-VRX unit for $199.88. The item is discontinued so no new units exist anymore. The refurbished unit came with the retail display box, remote, and manuals. Cosmetically the refurbished unit looked like it was brand new. There were only minor scratches on the rear of the PHD-VRX where one connects the cables. In addition, there was a protective plastic coating on the top metal cover that needed to be peeled off (To get all the plastic residue I needed to remove all the screws from the top cover). The PHD-VRX shipped with the latest VRX.243.23.31 firmware update. The PHD-VRX2 firmware is not compatible with the older PHD-VRX since a different HDMI chip is being used. However if one flashes the PHD-VRX2 firmware onto the PHD-VRX by mistake they can re-flash the PHD-VRX with the correct firmware. In the future Epvision should hopefully add software system check code that would make it impossible to flash the PHD-VRX2 firmware onto the PHD-VRX.
Using the latest PHD-VRX firmware and an external 2TB 7,200RPM hard drive with a USB 3.0 interface I was able to record 2 1080i HD programs at the same time while watching a previously recorded 1080i program (There was no video or audio glitches). The PHD-VRX has both a power switch and a standby button. However, the new PHD-VRX2 has no main power switch at all and one needs to unplug the power cord in order to power cycle the unit. Another advantage of the old PHD-VRX unit is that the display is a nice yellowish orange type color. What I did not like about the new PHD-VRX2 is the display is super bright red. I hope that in the future both the PHD-VRX2 and PHD-VRX might receive a firmware update that allows the display to be dimmed and/or completely disabled. Having a menu option to disable the LED display completely for dedicated movie watching would be ideal. The only advantage of the new PHD-VRX2 is that it can bitstream 1.0-5.1 Dolby Digital over HDMI. The PHD-VRX requires a separate optical connection to bitstream 1.0-5.1 Dolby Digital over HDMI.
Last edited by HDTV1080P; 12-30-2013 at 10:50 PM.