You know, that’s a mouthful. From now on I’m calling it ReplayPC.
So ReplayPC was unveiled today and the website has been updated and a press release, well, released. Right off the bat it seems pricey. $99.95 for the software – you supply your own tuner card. One year of guide data is included, then $19.95/year for additional years. If you want to access it from other PCs, then it is $49.95 for ReplayTV PC Edition Companion. Considering an increasing number of PCs are being shipped with Windows XP Media Center Edition as standard, and all Windows Vista PCs will have media center features, that seems like a lot to be asking people to pay for the additional features. And there is competition from products like Yahoo! Go for TV, which is free, or SnapStream Beyond TV which is $69.99 (and currently includes a free Firefly remote), and Beyond TV Link, for additional PCs, is $29.99 ($79.99 for a three pack). SageTV is $79.95, or $29.95 for the companion software. There is even a hardware extender to easily watch the recordings on your TV without a PC there. And no guide fees for these.
Cut for length…
Beyond TV and SageTV are proven products with an established track record, and a developer community producing add-ons, hacks, etc. ReplayPC is a new product with no market presence, no track record (this is really all new code), and a higher price. PC-based DVR software is a niche, one increasingly dominated by the 800-pound gorilla that is Microsoft, as well as a handful of established players. It will be a nearly impossible market when all PCs are media centers out of the box, with Vista, so this seems late in the game to try to carve out a niche in the niche. Especially when you’re the high-priced option.
On the plus side they have made ReplayPC an improvement over ReplayTV – by which I generally mean they seem to have made it more TiVo-like. They now have a feature called “Surprise Me” which sounds like TiVo Suggestions. Except there doesn’t seem to be a way to rate shows, so I’m not sure how it learns. “Find More” sounds like TiVo’s “Similar Programs” list on the extended info screen for any given show, except with the useful addition that the list links to those shows. (C’mon TiVo, why not add that to your list?) “Useful Searches” sounds, in part, like TiVo Wish Lists –“Try searching by genre, movie title, by actors, or even directors!” (Though, I admit, the built in ability to search for “Primetime Shows”, “Series Premieres”, or “Series Finales” sounds interesting.) “Overlap manager” sounds an awful lot like TiVo’s “Overlap protection”. The new “Show Search” function works exactly like TiVo’s ‘Browse By Title’. “Episode By Show” looks just like turning on groups in TiVo’s Now Playing.
One thing that jumps out. “No Priorities To Manage” Uh-oh.“Thereâ€™s never complicated priorities to manipulate for shows that conflict. ReplayTV PC Edition is set and forget ““Using a DVR should be easy and setting priorities is too complicated. ReplayTVâ€™s proven recording technology makes sure you get the shows you want.” Setting priorities is too complicated? Sorting a list where you like 1 more than 2 is too complicated? What kind of Samsonite do they expect to be using this? This was always an issue with ReplayTV. And while it is nice to see they have updated their scheduling with Show-Based Recordings (aka TiVo Season Passes), I see a problem.“Sometimes shows are rescheduled or have a special episode on a different day. Show-Based Recording with Schedule Guard checks all Show Names to be recorded with the ReplayTV EPG Service and the recording time is automatically adjusted if the show shifts or there is a special episode.” OK, so the schedule changes and now there is a conflict that didn’t’ exist before. Which show is recorded? There are no priorities, so how can I tell it ahead of time which one to pick? If I can do that, then I’m setting priorities, QED. If I can’t do that, then this is unpredictable and that’s bad.
The software records in the Microsoft DVR-MS format, the same as Media Center, not a standard format like MPEG-2 or -4. So most of your video tools won’t work with the recordings. The system requirements page lists supported formats – which is a sad list. Video is WMV, AVI, MPEG-1, and MPEG-2. No MPEG-4/H.264, no DivX, etc. Audio formats (for music) are WMA, MP2, MP3, and WAV – no AAC, no FLAC, etc. Photo support is only JPEG, PNG, and Bitmap – not even GIF. Only two compatible capture cards are listed:Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-150 (model 1045) or Hauppauge WinTV-PVR USB2 (model 941) Doesn’t look like there is any multi-tuner support, or support for any HDTV tuners. No indication of web-based scheduling, which TiVo, and even old ReplayTV, has. Compared to other PC-based DVR software, this is weak. It also will not interoperate with old ReplayTV boxes – sorry existing owners. (And is it just me, or is their “Who is it for?” page just chock full of stereotypes?)
So this costs more, and does less, than other packages. It has a few features that look decent, but other packages have most, if not all, of them, and others this lacks. I can’t see this being a real player in the DVR market. They say it will be out in September, but they just solicited for beta testers and a new post on AVSForums says testers haven’t been notified yet. So that’s less than three months to test and release. Good luck. I really don’t see how this product will have any success without major changes – and a lower price.