The great thing about SnapStream's Beyond TV 3 was that it enabled the creation of a HTPC without the need to purchase an entire system to get some of the functionality of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 OS. Its limitation was that the program only provided the TV experience and left out things like a music/media/photo library, playing DVDs, FM tuning, and everything else that Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 brought to the table along with the TV experience.

We have seen and tried lots of MCE imitation software (i.e. InterVideo's Home Theater), but nothing so far has come even close enough to making a great impression on us. Since the last time we checked, Microsoft is maintaining that they will not release MCE 2004 as a direct-to-end user product, which means until they do, there will need to be someone to fill the gap. And with the dropping costs of computer components, people are finding new ways to use their old/spare computer parts, and a HTPC for the home entertainment system answers that need well; either that or spending at least $800+ on a MCE 2004 system. While the hardware requirements needed for HTPCs aren't the same as the latest and the greatest, software continues to be an issue. After all, your HTPC needs to be just as good as TiVo and with more features, if it is going to be worth sinking some of your hard earned money into one.

Aside from SnapStream, the other name popping up in HTPC talks is Frey Technologies' SageTV 2.0. After we finished taking a look at SnapStream's Beyond TV 3, several of you asked for a SageTV 2.0 review, and we are here to deliver.

The Test
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  • Lawranch - Monday, July 26, 2004 - link

    FYI Microsoft announced it will release MCE 2004 into the system builders channel later this year. It requires a hardware MPEG2 encoder so you won't be able to use the All-in Wonders. Reply
  • MlbDude - Monday, July 26, 2004 - link

    Other items that become apparent when you spend more time with it:

    If you change channels while watching a show then come back, you can time-shift back to the part of the show you watched before.

    If you are watching a show and decide you want to keep it, just select record and you got it.

    Intelligent Recording is a major feature, and should not be overlooked.

    Setting a show as watched not only affects IR, but that episode will not be recorded again.

    How about something about the different grouping options in Sage Recordings? It is great to view my recordings by category.

    Just a few things that every PVR should have that you don't notice at first.
    Reply
  • Yelapaboy - Monday, July 26, 2004 - link

    I bought the Sage TV Blackbird bundle + one client (not the 2 tuner bundle) to replace my AIW 7500 as I upgraded my bedroom box with old components from main PC which included 9700 Pro, P4T-E, 512MB RDRAM, and 2.4 Northwood @2.64. I could not be more pleased. What I wanted was something for my bedroom TV that would work perfectly with a remote, something MMC rarely gave me, mainly because of on and off Guide Plus bugs that often rendered the MMC front-end all but useless.

    Sage TV was IMO a no-brainer install and was completely functional in just 5-10 minutes. I was rather impressed by the client install, click the .exe, enter name of computer on network with Sage TV installed and that was it, it automatically chose the previously installed Sonic Cineplayer as the video decoder. I am also extremely pleased with the quality of the recordings.

    I have only lived with it for a week but has been so far flawless, one of the things I love is I absolutely don't have to think about or fiddle with it, unlike my quite extensive experience with MMC and Guide+.

    Sage TV I realize has a number of great customizations and tweaks but for my basic use with TV in bedroom and with the client on main PC, I just don't need them so far.

    I do have a HTPC in my living-room connected to an HDTV and I can see how Sage has some compelling reasons for use with a HTPC/HDTV setup but as I use a wireless keyboard and mouse for the many different programs I use for Music TV and DVD and get great results with the AIW 9700 in that system (don't use the MMC front end at all in HTPC) I really have no compelling reason to go to Sage there, also I plan on keeping the AIW 9700 used in HTPC for quite some time.
    Reply
  • Opus4 - Monday, July 26, 2004 - link

    <<#10 - We went over part of that in the guide and schedule recording sections. It is kind of scattered a bit between the two, since we went over the software in more of a sequential manner.>>

    If you are referring to Intelligent Recording (IR, for short), I don't see it there. I do see comments regarding shows being marked as Watched or Don't Like, but nothing relating how that affects the IR option seen in the 2nd image on Page 15 "Detailed Setup". In my opinion, that is another one of the big advantages of SageTV at the moment -- while other software may have such a feature at some point in the future, I don't think there is any other Windows PVR software that does it currently. With IR turned on, SageTV will automatically schedule recordings it thinks will fit your viewing preferences. I won't claim that it is perfect, but it does a pretty good job for me now.
    Reply
  • AndrewKu - Monday, July 26, 2004 - link

    #9 - I will have to go back and double check on that.

    #10 - We went over part of that in the guide and schedule recording sections. It is kind of scattered a bit between the two, since we went over the software in more of a sequential manner.
    Reply
  • Opus4 - Sunday, July 25, 2004 - link

    Maybe I didn't spend enough time with the review to see this, but I don't recall seeing anything about SageTV's Intelligent Recording feature either, where it will record shows that it thinks you would like to see, based on what you've watched and what you've said you don't like. I thought this was pointless at first, but I find that between it and my favorites, I hardly ever even bother to look at any sort of TV guide any more.

    Also, one advantage of making full use of hardware encoders and decoders is that I am able to use something as old & slow as a P2-400 to record with 2 tuners and playback via an Xcard (for decoding) with cpu use remaining extremely low -- and this is with 2 shows recording at the same time, a different show playing on the old server, and yet another show being streamed to my client. Quite nice. :)
    Reply
  • MlbDude - Sunday, July 25, 2004 - link

    Then bring up the options menu and select Schedule Display: Parallel.

    Lots of little things like that hidden throughout. But I guess that is the problem is that they are kind of "hidden".

    Just another quick tip, in detailed setup you can store the IP or machine name of the server if you are using the client.
    Reply
  • AndrewKu - Sunday, July 25, 2004 - link

    #6 - Whew... we spent a ton of time with this thing; I hope we didn't miss anything :). I think the second view you are talking about is the "view upcoming recording schedule" which should be under the "schedule" section.

    In one form or another, we pretty much have gone through and taken a snapshot of every single visible page in SageTV 2.0, minus the sub pages in the detailed setup section of the software title.
    Reply
  • cosmotic - Sunday, July 25, 2004 - link

    whats wrong with d-link? Reply
  • MlbDude - Sunday, July 25, 2004 - link

    I would liked to have seen you spend a Little more time with the product. I know it may be limited, but most of your dislikes are completely configurable if you tried a little harder. Just one example, complaint about the upcoming recordings display. There are two views! The one you tried and the other list view.

    Also, the mods out for SageTV are very important and should not be discounted. Here is mine, so I may be biased :).

    http://download.sage.tv/~mlbdude/MlbDude2.html

    Even more has been added, but that is something to start with.
    Reply

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