I last mentioned Gefen’s HD DVR during CES. Well, Dave Zatz at Zatz Not Funny got some hands-on time with one. Frankly, it sounds like a lot of money for very little functionality. It carries a hefty $999 MSRP, yet it has only an 80GB drive and lacks any USB or Network connections. It also lacks an EPG – recordings are scheduled by time, or manually initiated. It isn’t even time & channel – it doesn’t control an external source, it just records whatever you feed it. It has four inputs – composite, S-Video, Component, or HDMI, and it has an HDMI output. It does have an SD Card slot, so you can record directly to SD Card to take recordings on the go with an H.264-enabled PMP.
It does appear to record from HDMI, despite of HDCP. But it looks like the loophole is that it takes the digital HDMI signal, decodes it to analog, then encodes the analog signal on the fly as H.264. So there is no true digital copy being made. It looks like a very narrow range of features and capabilities. To me the most interesting thing is, as I said before, the first availability of consumer level chips capable of encoding HD on the fly, albeit high-end consumer level. As the pricing on these chips comes down we’ll likely see them used in more gear, and it’ll really be interesting when a real, full-featured product like TiVo makes use of them.