Beyond TV 4

Review

posted 1/30/2006 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
One Page Platforms: PC

A major problem I had with the previous version was that the LiveTV buffer would be completely erased once it hit the limit. I can't tell you how frustrated I was when I would have my LiveTV paused for a good length of time to go do something, come back to continue where I left off, only to have everything erased. Media Center 2005 helps alleviate this situation by having the LiveTV buffer recorded in sections. Once the limit was hit, only the oldest section would be erased so it lessened the chances of you missing a buffered part of the show. Thankfully,  Beyond TV 4 now lets you set slices of time so that the handling of the buffer is a lot better. An improvement over Media Center's handling of the buffer is that you can increase or decrease Beyond TV's buffer time. Media Center is limited to an hour but Beyond TV's can be stretched to more.

The improvements to the buffer are also migrated to recording shows after you hit the record button. One of things I hate about Media Center 2005 is that I can’t record what I am watching from the buffer. Let’s say there’s this documentary that I found pretty interesting and halfway through watching it, I decide I want to keep the entire show. Microsoft’s program won’t let you specify recording from the start of the buffer of the show. Beyond TV 4’s backcapture feature lets you do this and it’s something that’s very convenient. Now, I don’t have to worry about not recording the entire program if I decide to save the current program I am watching for future viewing.

Most of what you will need to do to configure your system will be in the main GUI but a lot of the more advanced features are in the web admin. I still wish they didn’t hide the ability to right click on the icon to access the web front end until after you change in the options though.

The web scheduler is still a big seller for me for Beyond TV 4. With any web browser, I can schedule recordings from www.snapstream.net . There’s even a mobile version so if I am out on the town and I forgot to set the PVR, I can use my phone to access the mobile website and program it on the road. This feature alone has saved me a few times and it’s one of the things I always talk about when speaking of this program.

Upgrades, as usual, will be free until Snapstream decides to release a new version. From my past experiences, the upgrades that Snapstream puts out does improve the program immensely but there have been a few times where new bugs where introduced that had me downgrading to a previous version. For the most part, the upgrades are pretty good and will improve the program with many requested features. The Snapstream community is pretty active I found them to be pretty helpful when I had problems with my setup.

Is it worth the upgrade from Beyond TV 3 to Beyond TV 4? Well, if you plan on getting an OTA HD card it’s a no brainer. There are a few updates that I really like about the latest version and for the price of $30 to upgrade, it’s definitely worth it in my opinion. Just the list of improvements over the original program should entice you to upgrade. You don’t get as many overall media features as say Media Center 2005 if you are a new purchaser but it’s also a lot less expensive. For a setup that’s close to the Windows OS, you’ll need to combine the product with Beyond Media. Beyond TV 4’s level of customization from the buffer amount to the display of the grid as well as other aspects not mentioned does go far beyond what Microsoft’s product can do. The new version has improved upon an already good product and I can’t wait to see the new features this program will add as it continues to evolve.




B
The improvements the Snapstream team has made has really strengthened an already strong PVR product.


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